Law, politics, new media and beats, rhymes and life.
Barack Obama's Campaign wants to make his Super Tuesday victory official.
Campaign Manager David Plouffe says that Obama won 9 more delegates than Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, based on a pledged delegate estimate conducted overnight by analysts in the campaign's Chicago "boiler room." Obama won 845 delegates to Clinton's 836, according to Obama's data team, which includes Democratic targeting buff Ken Strasma and delegate expert Jeff Berman, who caused the AP to reverse its Nevada delegate estimate a few weeks back.
"By winning a majority of delegates and a majority of the states, Barack Obama won an important Super Tuesday victory over Senator Clinton in the closest thing we have to a national primary," Plouffe told reporters on Wednesday. Senior Clinton strategists depicted Clinton as an energized underdog in a media conference call on Wednesday, contending that voters are rejecting Obama's "establishment" campaign.
The Clinton Campaign has not released its own estimate, so Obama's spreadsheet may be all we have to go on for a while. These numbers refer to Super Tuesday only -- not to the total count of delegates from prior states or the party's mercurial, "elite contingent" of superdelegates.
In one last push to mobilize voters, Michelle Obama is asking her husband's supporters to get viral on Tuesday.
In a final salvo for Super Tuesday, the Obama Campaign blasted an email from Ms. Obama urging supporters to share the new music video "Yes We Can." The video was a smash hit across the web since launching on Friday, bringing direct footage of Obama's stump speech to millions of people. It already netted over 1.8 million views on YouTube, and potentially hundreds of thousands more from another hub, DipDive.com, which drew over 1,000 links from U.S. websites since last week. The Obama Campaign's new viral push should bolster those numbers -- his State of the Union rebuttal recently topped a million views on YouTube. And Obama's YouTube profile has drawn over 11.5 million views, more than ten times Hillary Clinton.
While Obama is tapping energized supporters and intrigued viewers to basically spread his message for free, Clinton invested in an hour of national paid media with a televised town hall on Monday night. The "Voices Across America" event was broadcast on the Hallmark channel, and streamed on HillaryClinton.com. (Neither Hallmark nor the campaign would comment on the cost, according to MediaWeek.)
Of course, all campaigns invest heavily in television, and Obama just bought local Super Bowl ads. But this viral video strategy bolsters and deepens his voter outreach. Obama reaches more people this way, and enables them to share his message with their contacts. He speaks to young voters in their preferred medium. He routes around the traditional media filter -- and its penchant for reactive conflict -- with a proactive message. (It's hard to show leadership while parrying Brian Williams' tactical quizzing, as Obama learned Monday; Video below.)
The key is that Obama also asks supporters to do something. It could be forwarding the video for Michelle, or telling their MySpace friends to vote, or busting out a cell phone to mobilize strangers. Lately the campaign has even empowered supporters to call voters from home, punching in their results online:
This week, the campaign's leading web volunteers made 100 calls per person. The record is 267, held by one Thomas Hargis. National emails about voter contact and polling places are still top priority, an Obama aide told me, and the music video was added for a final punch. Yet this connected activism is not confined to the number of calls made or videos shared. Inviting people to choose their participation in meaningful, interactive ways, from anonymously persuading strangers to shouting opinions across intimate social networks, can tightly bind people to each other and the candidate. That has little to do with Internet technology and, sadly, almost nothing to do with typical campaigns.
"We may finally be coming to understand what De Tocqueville saw – the promise of democratic politics is in people's ability to enter into relationships with one another to articulate common purposes and act on them," wrote Marshall Ganz, the veteran UFW organizer and RFK backer who advised Obama and Howard Dean on movement-building. "Organizing to bring people back into politics is not a cost, but an investment in rebuilding the democratic infrastructure of our public life under assault for far too many years," he added, in a 2006 blog post.
Unlike Dean, the Obama Campaign does not stress its historic Internet success or run early victory laps in the blogosphere. It does not even discuss the web as an obvious metaphor for Obama's candidacy: An open frontier where race and gender recede, new ideas vanquish the old, and citizens converse and connect in ways that the prior generations would never understand, let alone support.
Perhaps that is simply because no presidential candidate wants to sound like the next Howard Dean. Or maybe, the campaign knows that you don't build a movement by talking about it. You do it, person by person, until one day, everyone can see it.
President Bush is now daring Congress to defy his demand for more unchecked power to spy on Americans without warrants, vowing to veto temporary surveillance legislation and politicize his last State of the Union address for an attack on Democrats. Last week, Democratic leaders were considering a bill to grant a one-month extension of the administration's spying powers, a "compromise" tilted in Bush's favor, but Republican tactics have finally tried the patience of Majority Leader Harry Reid. He had been managing floor votes to advance the Republican bill and squash opposition from the majority of Democrats within his caucus, but that may change this week.
"The White House threat to veto a short extension of the Protect America Act is shamefully irresponsible," says Reid, who also derided Bush's new threat as simply "posturing" for the State of the Union. Reid added that if any terror-related problems were caused by legislative delays, "the blame will clearly and unequivocally fall where it belongs: on President Bush and his allies in Congress."
That's tough talk. It has not been matched by action yet, and unfortunately it does not add up anyway. While most Congressional Democrats have begun confronting Bush's unconstitutional demands, a few leaders like Reid and Intelligence Chair Jay Rockefeller are actually the ones pushing the Bush spying bill. That's the problem with Reid's new complaint.
At this point, Bush's "allies in Congress" on surveillance include Reid and Rockefeller. It may be hard to tell -- since Bush is repaying them with "shameful" attacks, as Reid said -- but they sidelined the more responsible spying bill to help Bush last week. (The "Leahy alternative" was backed by most Senate Democrats, and is closer to a Democratic bill that already passed the House.) Even with Reid pulling strings for Bush, Senate Democrats only fell four votes short of keeping the better bill alive. And they were missing two votes from their colleagues on the campaign trail, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Yet even Obama and Clinton are back in town for a night of pomp and rhetoric at the State of the Union. They both talk about "change" and "results" -- and here's a chance to act on it. It will take more than a speech or a vote to stop Bush's bill, though, it will take leadership. That means confronting the people who are wrong in both parties -- an (unpopular) President and the floor manager of an (unpopular) Congress -- to stop amnesty and the blueprint for a surveillance state. It's also what many Democratic voters want to see. The grassroots group Democracy for America (DFA) is running a full page ad in this week's Times pressing Obama and Clinton, while the netroots is pleading with Senators to defend the "rule of law."
And what, exactly, can they do? I see three major options:
1. Use their influence and political capital to recruit two more votes for the Leahy bill. That's all Leahy, Feingold and Dodd need to keep their fight alive under the current rules. Obama and Clinton were endorsed by a total of seven senators who voted the wrong way last week. As DFA explains, "if these presidential hopefuls bring along the support of these senators, they can sustain a planned filibuster [and] defeat any cloture vote."
2. Use their influence and political capital to press Reid to run the floor for the Leahy bill, instead of the Bush-Rockefeller bill. This is is tough for several reasons, but there's an opening now that Bush has essentially slapped Reid around and drawn some rhetorical pushback.
3. Rally the Democratic Congress to confront Bush's veto threat. Send the one-month bill to his desk and let this unpopular president remind the entire country of his irresponsible, cynical approach to governing. Maybe his approval ratings will drop into the teens like his Vice President. (I personally favor this third option the least, since it involves gamesmanship instead of a long-term policy, which Leahy's bill offers.)
Or they could channel Harry Reid, complaining about Bush while essentially allowing him to win again.
Monday Update: DFA advertisement will run this week, but not on Monday as DFA originally told The Nation. Blogger dibgy responds to the options in Stepping Up:
Will it be door number 1,2,3 or 4? The truth is that it's mostly a symbolic thing for the Monday leading up the SOTU, and that's not a bad thing. It's a hell of a lot better that they're taking a public stand on this than if they weren't... on balance, this is better than I expected and maybe they can at least get the news media to pay attention to this issue with a couple of rousing speeches in defense of the rule of law. The gasbags can waste days talking about ephemeral, campaign trail dust-ups so maybe they can find a couple of minutes to talk about the [C]onstitution.
Reader "B_Kool_66" urges people to support DFA's effort here, and to rally for TV coverage to highlight the issue by contacting MSNBC's "Countdown" show at firstname.lastname@example.org. Olberman has definitely championed constitutional battles before.
"METTEYYA," an informed and passionate advocate for Obama here at The Nation site, adds that Obama opposes amnesty for companies that allegedly broke the law by assisting illegal surveillance. That is true for both Clinton and Obama; and they were among the 28 Democratic senators who flatly voted down the spying bill in August. They both have strong voting records and platforms on constitutional rights, and I've credited Clinton in this space for her forceful discussion of habeas corpus. But again, I think the issue this week is principled leadership, not simply saying the right things. Bush says he'll go to the mat to bully Reid into granting him more unchecked power. He even looks ready to tarnish his final State of the Union to do it. And we need leaders who will not only vote against unaccountable spying, but go to the mat with the full power of their office and their bully pulpit to defend the Constitution.
Advertisement courtesy of DFA
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cleared a key hurdle for the FISA Amendments Act on Thursday, advancing President Bush's preferred version of the spying bill, a move opposed by the majority of Reid's Democratic colleagues. The vote, 60-36, sets the Senate on a course to validate more warrantless spying by the Bush administration and provide retroactive amnesty to telephone companies accused of breaking surveillance laws -- an unpopular approach.
The ACLU, which has collaborated with a network of constitutional activists and bloggers to oppose the administration's surveillance policies, condemned the Democratic leadership in unusually tough language after the vote. "Under Democratic leadership, the Senate will now continue its debate on surveillance with a bill that resembles something from the administration's playbook. Six months after being hoodwinked into passing the Protect America Act, Americans are still waiting for Congress to grow a spine," read an official statement released Thursday afternoon.
Glenn Greenwald, an attorney who has written extensively about surveillance issues as an author and blogger, blasted the Democrats' caving on the surveillance bill as part of a broader pattern. "Democrats have failed repeatedly to end or even limit one of the most unpopular wars in American history. They have failed to restore habeas corpus. They have failed to fulfill their promise of 'fixing' the hastily-passed Protect America Act," he wrote at Salon. "They don't feel the slightest bit ashamed or remorseful about any of that," he added.
The Senate floor battle also reflected that Democrats remain divided over whether to confront the Bush administration over constitutional rights. Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy's alternative bill, which would keep telephone companies accountable for potentially illegal or unconstitutional acts, drew the majority of Democratic Senators, including strong backing from Senators Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd. But Reid arranged floor votes to favor the Bush-Cheney version, introduced by Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, and announced that he would force Democratic opponents to openly filibuster it -- a hardball demand he has rarely made against Republican filibusters.
The fight is far from over. The Senate is considering several more amendments to the underlying bill, and it must reconcile the legislation with a House version that does not include retroactive amnesty. But with opponents like these, President Bush may have forgotten that Congress ever changed hands.
Update: The vote tally is here.
Matt Browner-Hamlin, a former blogger for Chris Dodd, works as an organizer for Credo Mobile on the FISA fight, and he emailed The Nation with this observation about the presidential candidates:
Senators Clinton and Obama rushed off the campaign trail to vote on the Farm Bill in November, ahead of the Iowa caucus. But with the Constitution on the line today for the second time in little more than a month, they both did absolutely nothing. No Democrat will mistake their inaction for leadership.
And Digby has more.
So the Clintons like Nevada after all.
Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by about six points in the state's caucus on Saturday, netting 12 of the 25 delegates at stake. But Barack Obama won the number that could matter most, earning 13 of Nevada's national convention delegates, which ultimately determine the Democratic nominee. That made for a "split decision," according to Congressman James Clyburn, an influential member of the House Democratic leadership who is unaffiliated with any candidate. Obama sounded even more confident on Saturday, saying "we came from over twenty-five points behind to win more national convention delegates than Hillary Clinton because we performed well all across the state, including rural areas where Democrats have traditionally struggled." But it's not that simple.
Rural areas did secure Obama's delegate edge. His five-point lead in the rural section of Nevada's Second Congressional District, which stretches across most of the state north of Las Vegas, won him the single delegate at stake there. With one delegate in play, caucus math is winner-take-all. So while Clinton won about 43 percent of the area, she had no delegates to show for it. And the delegates are weighed by past voter registration -- not the actual turnout on Saturday -- which can also widen a gap with the true popular vote. But the popular vote is not actually available.
The Nevada Democratic Party only released a statewide tally of local delegates. There are over 10,000 of them; Clinton has about half (5,335). But local delegates do not reflect a pure popular vote. Just like national delegates, if a local precinct only has one delegate, then it's winner-take-all. Precinct totals can exaggerate the support for the candidate in the lead, and minimize the totals for a trailing candidate. (That's why John Edwards' Nevada turnout appears unusually low.) If you think reading about this system is hard, just imagine caucusing.
Or just try explaining it. The AP and cable networks initially misreported Obama's delegate count. (The Nation first reported Obama's delegate lead.) The AP quickly caught the error, but its new article still incorrectly refers to the precinct totals as a "popular vote." And on caucus night, the pundits were already talking about John Edwards' collapse, as if the statewide tally was a popular vote.
The arcane caucus rules are not only important because they determine -- and potentially distort -- the voters' will. The caucus itself was a controversial issue all week, as the Clinton Campaign said parts of the system were unfair and potentially illegitimate. President Clinton ratcheted up the rhetoric on Friday, saying he personally witnessed voter suppression by members of a union backing Obama, an explosive charge that senior Clinton aides could not substantiate. (NBC's Chuck Todd pressed the issue on a Saturday conference call for reporters.) But in another curveball for this primary season, Hillary Clinton actually benefited from the caucus arrangements her campaign assailed, especially on the Las Vegas Strip. She dominated turnout at the 9 major casinos, which made an arrangement with the state party so that employees could caucus away from home. She won the most "at-large delegates," which President Clinton slammed as patently unfair because they counted "five times as much as everybody else." And her statewide numbers may be slightly higher than the true popular vote. Obama benefited too, of course, nabbing a national delegate in a region where Clinton's support was perfectly strong.
It all comes back to national delegates, since they pick the nominee. After Nevada, the Obama Campaign began circulating delegate-obsessed quotes from Clinton aides. ("You've got to remember this [is] about getting delegates." Terry McAuliffe! "This is a race for delegates…It is not a battle for individual states." Howard Wolfson!) But Nevada, like many states, does not bind national delegates by the actual turnout. Delegate preferences can technically change at the Nevada state party convention, held in April. (Many state parties operate on the premise that the nominee will be decided by the time of their conventions, anyway.) The Clinton Campaign invoked the convention in a three-sentence rebuttal to Obama on Saturday night: "Hillary Clinton won the Nevada Caucuses today by winning a majority of the delegates at stake. The Obama campaign is wrong. Delegates for the national convention will not be determined until April 19." Jill Derby, Chair of the Nevada State Party, also spoke out on delegates as the results came in. She emphasized that national delegate counts are "based upon an assumption that delegate preferences will remain the same," when in fact they could change at the convention. Derby added a disconcerting line to hammer the point home: "We look forward to our county and state conventions where we will choose the delegates for the nominee that Nevadans support."
Translation: If this thing is close, "we" party insiders will "choose" for the rest of the state.
At least the sparring over delegates has forced out a rare political confession, helping expose the distortions of these party rules. And the reforms present themselves: Require binding votes, absentee voting rights, proportional measurement and a true popular vote.
And The Nation's Chris Hayes goes rural...
Hillary Clinton now faces long odds in Nevada and South Carolina -- and that may work to her advantage.
Clinton has a cyclical tendency to rise and fall and rise and fall, only to rise once again. While her unexpected New Hampshire comeback triggered tons of commentary about polls and tears, the results may have actually turned on her conflicted feelings about her own success. Having spent most of her life as an overachieving underdog, Clinton still does best running against the odds. And she does worst feigning the aura of inevitable incumbent, a role that was obviously uncomfortable both for her and the Democratic electorate.
Clinton in Salem on the eve of the New Hampshire Primary.
After a year running as an inevitable frontrunner, placing a weak third in Iowa was the toughest rebuke in Clinton's political life. Yet she looked much more comfortable afterwards. She was thoughtful in her newly interactive campaign events, and forceful when debating her rivals. She sounded more passionate appropriating the messages of change and populism than she ever was about taking credit for her husband's administration.
She spoke about her achievements as a woman leader with a newfound candor and pride – not as a contest over who has it harder, though Gloria Steinem took that tacky route – but as a relevant demonstration of her mettle. Like Barack Obama, Clinton has broken barriers in her legal and political career. That kind of experience can reveal more grit than speeches, because it demonstrates a candidate's ability to rout adversity. It was not easy serving as the only woman the board of a Fortune 50 company in 1985, nor battling the Republican attack machine while taking on the largest policy role of any first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt. Yet Clinton spent most of last year pretending she had the incumbent experience of a pseudo-president, instead of the record of a fighting underdog.
Forced back into a tough spot, Clinton sounded more genuine reminding voters of her record, not her husband's. Suddenly, the power lawyer who hid a failing bar exam for decades was not claiming invincibility or incumbency. Instead, she conveyed a fighting and even frantic sense that she need more time, that she had more to say, that momentum and polls and pundits should not cut this election short. She truly needed The People to back her in a fight against all the varied forces that distort, abridge and control our elections. Bill Clinton hit this point on the night of the New Hampshire victory, telling a reporter, "they know what they're doing here. They knew that they were telling America we should continue this [race]." Maureen Dowd may be right that at bottom, Clinton essentially cried for herself, not for America. But after a year of campaign contrivances, Clinton was undeniably an underdog, wrestling with that core, unyielding fact of a healthy democracy: power comes from the people.
If the storyline sounds melodramatic, it's partly because our politics are often broadcast as a supercharged blend of sports and entertainment. Clinton seemed especially beleaguered because the media establishment rushed to end her campaign after a single state spoke. (Having led New Hampshire polls for most of 2007, she might have won there no matter what.) But the media often pumps up politicians just like celebrity entertainers, prepping to tear them down for the sake of entertainment. And when the elites come to destroy you, the people are your only hope.
--Photo Credit: Daniella Zalcman
This is a sad Martin Luther King Day for American politics, thanks to Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign.
President Clinton was confronted today by Roland Martin, a black radio host and CNN contributor, for the racially charged attack against Barack Obama at a Hillary Clinton event this weekend. The Clinton Campaign has repeatedly attacked Obama, through surrogates and supporters tasked with introducing Hillary Clinton at events, so Martin pressed President Clinton on his claim that the latest attacks from Bob Johnson were not "part of any planned strategy." Referring to the innuendo about Obama's prior admitted drug use, Martin said:
When you listen to that tone and the inflection, he was not talking about community organizing. It seemed to be very clear what he was implying.
The former president continued to defend the remark, saying "nobody knew" it was coming. (Nobody apologized for it, either.) Yet as all political observers know, presidential campaigns carefully select and coach every supporter who introduces the candidate at major events. Just last week, in fact, a supporter introduced Hillary Clinton by referencing political assassinations and Barack Obama, (which the Clinton campaign had to disavow). And while Johnson's drug remarks are garnering the most attention -- he was forced to issue a statement explaining them -- he also launched another racially charged attack, saying Obama was a "reasonable, likable" figure like "Sidney Poitier [in] Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Jack and Jill Politics, a blog offering a "Black Bourgeoisie perspective on American politics," breaks down the attack in an excellent post today, contending that "the point of that insult is that Obama is a House Negro, a sellout." The post quotes James Baldwin's analysis of how the movie presents a "black doctor" succeeding in American life by promising not to "defile" the white society, and then elaborates:
This is a character who has been written from the perspective of being as inoffensive to white viewers as possible--so much so that he is willing to leave the hemisphere in order to prevent white people from feeling uncomfortable about his marriage to a white woman. [...] these are more than just accusations that Obama  is a sellout ... While it is currently black Clinton surrogates who are doing the heavy lifting, eventually the "Obama is a sellout" meme will become so common that white people will have no problem making the same kind of assertions. Obama's run for president in itself will become a kind of selling out; a metaphor for his ambition trumping his commitment to the community.
Read the whole thing. The New York Times' Matt Bai raises related concerns in a new column this afternoon, pressing the Clintons to renounce the "latest turn into ugliness." He opines:
It must be a kind of nightmare for both Clintons to be running, at this moment, against a talented black man, to be caught in an existential choice between losing their mythical status in the black community or possibly losing to a candidate they feel certain does not deserve to win.
Maybe. But there's a third "choice," too. Team Clinton could continue these despicable campaign tactics, alienating not only blacks, but a wide range of Democratic voters who value equality, and still lose the nomination along the way.
Hillary Clinton has eked out a crucial win in New Hampshire, a state her aides have long staked out as the "firewall" in her quest for the Democratic nomination. At roughly three points, the margin of victory is far smaller than her lead in state polls over the past 11 months, which often topped 20 points. But Clinton's success will surely help stabilize her presidential campaign, which was rocked by infighting since her loss in Iowa. Rumors of a major staff shakeup had percolated for days: Campaign Co-Chair Terry McAuliffe already annouced that the campaign would "bring in more people to help," while James Carville and Paul Begala spent the primary day denying rumors they were taking over. On Tuesday afternoon, a Democratic source told The Nation that Team Hillary was still debating whether to hand the reins over to Steve Richetti, who served as President Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff – the strategic post that Karl Rove made famous.
Yet Clinton cleared away the doubts and struck an inspiring note in her victory speech, telling New Hampshire voters, "I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice. I felt like we all spoke from our hearts and I am so gratified that you responded!" She was met with roaring applause. Clinton likened the narrow victory to her husband's famous "comeback" in 1992, when he battled back to a surprising second place finish in New Hampshire. Then she offered a much more important parallel, vowing to give America the "kind of comeback" that New Hampshire just gave her.
The Clintons shared another political asset in New Hampshire, though farther offstage. Michael Whouley, the most respected field strategist in Democratic politics, was dispatched to overhaul the mobilization program in the state. Clinton aides had debated whether to deploy him in Iowa, where he had helped engineer John Kerry's huge comeback in 2004, or task him with fortifying the famous "firewall." Some feared that his efforts would simply be wasted in New Hampshire if Clinton lost Iowa, but the "Plan B" advocates won, and now they look pretty shrewd.
Obama took the narrow loss in stride, congratulating Clinton and delivering a dignified iteration of his stump speech. Reminding voters that he was "far behind" for "most of this campaign," Obama repeated his call for a bipartisan "new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness." He did not shy away from reiterating his contrasts with Clinton, claiming the mantle of a different, bolder campaign that is "not just about what I will do as president -- it is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of this country, can do to change it. That's what this election is all about!"
If the boisterous beginning of this presidential campaign proves anything – and elections still do officially start with voting – it's the empirical fact that a year of polls and predictions were flat wrong. Clinton was not an inevitable frontrunner, as her chastened aides now rush to emphasize; "cash on hand" is not even a rough predictor of political viability, as Mike Huckabee and John McCain are celebrating; polling remains unreliable, as every candidate says when the "second tier" comes calling; and while Iowa is powerfully pivotal, even the sum total of its caucus wisdom cannot dictate democracy in other states.
So Obama can only take cautious solace from his strong position in the next two states. I'm not talking about polls, of course -- especially since Nevada's tiny caucus electorate is inscrutable to surveys (its 9,000 attendees were 1% of the voting population last cycle) -- but rather his political and organizational footing. Obama will receive the endorsement of Nevada's most influential union, the Culinary Workers, and Iowa demonstrated his organization's prowess in a caucus state. His aides have also built a strong network in South Carolina, the first primary with a significant black population. Meanwhile, John Edwards could reemerge with a strong finish in his birth-state of South Carolina, which he won in 2004. Clinton has no clear foothold in either state; this week her aides debated whether to surrender both and focus on regrouping for Super Tuesday. But even after winning New Hampshire, ceding two weeks to a delegate fight between Obama and Edwards would be dicey, potentially undermining claims that she is a fighter with national appeal. (Democrats want a nominee who can compete everywhere, including pivotal southwestern swing states like Nevada, which reelected Bush by a scant 21,000 votes.) Yet if Clinton competes and loses both states, she would be heading into Super Tuesday on two weeks of losses. That's a tough slog either way, but then again, she'll have more than five days to turn things around.
By backing John Edwards' presidential campaign this week, Ralph Nader offered "rare praise for a leading Democratic politician," as The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel explained. After all, the consumer advocate is a Green Party hero and Democratic Party nemesis. Now the New York Times Katharine Seelye wonders whether the Edwards Campaign is trying to duck Nader's praise, noting it has blasted press releases about minor endorsements and free ice cream, while there is radio silence on any developments involving the (in)famous Ralph Nader:
Is the campaign is more eager to boast about handing out free ice cream in January than to mention Mr. Nader's endorsement? The Edwards camp confirms that they did not issue a release, saying they believe that Mr. Nader did. Why not? No response. [...] The silence from the Edwards camp may be a new sign of how far Mr. Nader has fallen in public esteem from his days as the nation's chief consumer advocate.
Nader is clearly anathema to Democratic activists. But Edwards Campaign Manager David Bonior did welcome Nader's support, with a 2000 caveat, when I asked him about it on Tuesday:
We're pleased to have support from people from all walks of life around the country. We disagreed with Ralph Nader obviously about what he did in 2000, but we're pleased to have support from [Iowa First Lady] Mary Culver, from Ralph, from all kinds of folks...
So Bonior doesn't think Nader is so electorally toxic that his support must be rebuffed. I don't think Nader cuts any ice with Democrats in Iowa, though he could still be useful in mobilizing some progressive and radical voters in a general election.
Mount Pleasant, Iowa -- John Edwards continued his 36-hour tour across Iowa this morning, meeting with canvas organizers over cider and donuts and fielding a few questions from the growing pack of reporters tracking his "middle class marathon." Writing on the front page of today's New York Times, defense correspondent Michael Gordon reports that Edwards has "staked out" an Iraq policy auguring "a more rapid and complete troop withdrawal than his principal rivals," so I asked Edwards whether he is claiming the mantle as the most antiwar candidate in his closing argument. He responded:
I don't make those kind of evaluations. I'm doing what I think is the right responsible course for America, which is to get all our combat troops out of Iraq in the first year of my presidency; end combat missions and have no permanent military bases. America needs to end its occupation of Iraq and I will do that as President.
Tom Hayden sees the Times article as a new development, but I don't really see a major shift in the policy or tone here. Edwards is still closing on economic populism, but reaffirming his Iraq plan when voters or reporters raise the question. Iraq is not mentioned in his current, truncated stump speech, though Edwards did add a reference to ending the war during a pitch to undecided voters at a café in Fairfield this morning. But it's clear that the focus of his closing argument remains beltway-bashing populist passion, as he emphasized today:
The people of Iowa and the people of America are unstoppable when they commit themselves to stopping these entrenched special interests. And I believe that's going to happen, I think it's going to happen tomorrow night in the caucus, and it's going to continue after the caucus through the rest of America.