Presidential Campaign

Presidential Campaign

The Anti-Bush Debate

Think about this. You are George Bush, you are in Europe, you have jet lag, you are having trouble sleeping. You wake up and turn on the television in the middle of the night and watch the Republican debate on CNN.

What a shock. All 10 of these country-club Republicans, nice elderly white males, are turning their howitzers on you. They are killing you on immigration, they are killing you on earmarks and profligate spending, they are killing you on running as a conservative and governing as some wild-eyed liberal. They are accusing you of mismanagement of Iraq, lack of leadership, and ruining the country.

Wait a minute. Am I dreaming? Is this the Democratic debate being replayed? They are all quoting Ronald Reagan again — it must be the Republicans. Remember their first debate, when they mentioned Reagan 19 times and Bush once? As Reagan used to say, “There you go again!”


Romney, Rudy Win Debate; McCain Loses

Mitt Romney looked good and sounded good in the debate last night. Image is a key part of politics, and Romney did very well at projecting a very good image. His answers were articulate and on target. I haven’t thought very highly of Romney in this contest, but he did very well last night. He exuded charisma.

Giuliani also did very well. While looking older than Romney, he did a very good job of addressing the issue of terrorism and showing his toughness and good sense. His answers were sharp and to the point. He embarrassed CNN’s Wolf Blitzer by asking whether the media would cover good news in Iraq with as much relish as it covers bad news. Rudy entered the debate as the front-runner and left it in the same condition.


Ruminations on Romney

I was wrong about Mitt Romney.

Before the first debate hosted by MSNBC, I predicted the forums would benefit the handsome Massachusetts Republican who’s been described as “slick” in the media  because A) they would give him the national exposure he wasn’t getting (indeed, he’s getting attention, though to little avail nationally); and B) because I thought he was a better communicator than the other candidates.

Tonight, however, I admit I was wrong. In fact, I would judge tonight’s performance as Romney’s worst of the three debates held to date. On the matter of his Spanish-language ads, the governor proved incapable of thinking on his feet. He failed to answer a fairly innocuous question posed by a member of the audience, who asked Romney why he is airing campaign ads in Spanish if he believes English should be the nation’s official language.

Romney, caught off guard by the alleged “flip-flop” (I would argue it’s not a contradiction, though Romney didn’t even challenge the premise of the question), went into sound-bite mode with a prefabricated answer to a question that wasn’t asked. It came off as confusing.


Scandals Fade As Issue in 2008

Voters were galvanized by the corruption issue in 2006, and their anger led them to expel the Republicans from control in Congress. But that was then and this is now. The limited ethics reforms of the new Democratic Congress — and the very fact that the Democrats threw the Republicans out — have largely appeased the electorate, and congressional corruption does not loom large as an issue with 2008 approaching.

But that is not to say that corruption will not become a factor in the presidential race. House and Senate Democrats, warming to the investigative powers their committee chairmanships confer upon them, are likely to leave a trail of blood through hearings and investigations that may make corruption in the executive branch a big issue by the time 2008 comes around. The close relationship between lobbyists and regulators throughout the Bush administration will make red meat for a new round of corruption scandals.

Democrats Tangle on Iraq

Eight Democrats met onstage for the second time at St. Anselm College and, thanks largely to John Edwards, they put on quite a show.

Overall, what an impressive gaggle of candidates. In terms of experience, intelligence, gravitas, grasp of the issues and vision for the future, they completely overshadow the 10 Republicans — or 11, if you count Fred Thompson — who are busily preoccupied trying to compare themselves to Ronald Reagan. Back to the future!

Who won in New Hampshire? I don’t think there was one clear winner, but John Edwards certainly dominated the evening. He needed to breathe some new life into a stalled campaign, and he did, challenging Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for voting against the Iraq funding bill but doing so too quietly. Sure, it may not be fair — they vote the right way, and still get slammed — but it was good politics, and good theater. And so was Obama’s retort: “John, you’re four and half years late showing any leadership on this issue.”

Hillary Takes Charge

Hillary Clinton has taken charge of the 2008 presidential campaign, her national lead is wide, and intensity of support for her leading opponents is declining.

This is not an endorsement or value judgment, only a state-of-play analysis that is not being well-reported in the media, despite the media obsession with all things Hillary.

Disclosure: I have advocated a Gore-Obama ticket, written about it here and elsewhere, advocated it behind the scenes, and it has generated serious buzz in the political world.

Personally I would enthusiasticallly support Hillary or any of the other candidates if they are nominated.

Hillary Loses Dem Debate

Hillary lost the Democratic debate Sunday in New Hampshire. She was uptight, defensive, curt, unfriendly, cold and tense in her defense of her positions on the Iraq war. Only after the first 40 minutes of the debate, when the subject turned to more congenial fields for her — such as healthcare, gays in the military and immigration — did she finally loosen up and show some smiles and charm.

Barack Obama, dignified, substantive and prepared, came out the best. His reasoned answers and his calm, deliberate presentation contrasted sharply with Hillary's tight, unsmiling presentation. Edwards set the tone for the debate with his criticism of his two rivals. He did very well and may have talked himself back into the race — although he did himself no good by repeating that the war on terror was just a "slogan" or a "bumper sticker."


"Oh puh-leeeez"

When it comes to the debates, the Hippocandidate Oath should be "First, do no harm. To Myself.”

Bill Richardson won the Self-Inflicted Wound Award Sunday with his suggestion that if the Chinese don't start applying pressure on Darfur,  "we say to them, maybe we won't go to the Olympics."

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton continues her struggle against the impression she is  all "paint-by-numbers,” even as she recites the ad-libs her pollsters have prepared for her. To paraphrase an old George Burns line: The key is spontaneity, and if she can fake that, she has it made.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, is SUPPOSED to be boring ... flogging us with  wonkish policy ... so he can overcome the perception he's an inexperienced, fluffy rock star. How about a campaign slogan like "HERE'S the Beef"?  

Crime Up Again

The nation's murder rate rose slightly last year, but the number of robberies skyrocketed by 6 percent, preliminary FBI data released Monday show. The rise in violent crime is especially prevalent in the suburbs and in smaller cities.

While nobody is talking about this now, I believe that it will become an issue in the elections next year, and that it is having an impact on the current debate on immigration.

The backers of the immigration bill should take this dynamic into consideration if they want to truly understand what is driving the anti-immigrant sentiment in the current debate.

Criminal gangs from Latin America are having an impact on the nation’s crime rate. They should be targeted and destroyed. Their members should be deported and pressure should be put on their home-country governments to help us stop illegal gang activity.

The Vice Presidential Dating Game

All three top contenders for the Democratic nomination tied for victor at the New Hampshire debate last night, each for separate reasons. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who had given a weak performance at the last debate, was far more prepared and his confidence set him apart. John Edwards, clearly reading the polls, knew it was time to make a move and he made it. He was forceful and articulate and had, perhaps, the best answer next to Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) on Iran. And but for a bit too many fake nervous chuckles, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) delivered what front-runners must — she was poised, calm and authoritative without allowing herself to become combative. She got a laugh at Dick Cheney's expense to boot, always an added benefit in New Hampshire.

But more intriguing than the substance was, of course, the Vice Presidential Dating Game that has clearly begun. While Edwards was going for the jugular on the Iraq supplemental votes Clinton and Obama came to at the last minute, he stirred some applause by praising Obama for opposing the war. This AFTER Obama had rebuked him earlier for arriving at his leadership on the war four and a half years late. Not only that — when it came to healthcare, Edwards gave credit to Obama for introducing a plan but never acknowledged that Clinton had introduced one as well. When she spoke on the subject Edwards took pains to add that the savings she spoke of from tax relief were incorporated into the Edwards and Obama plans as well. It practically sounded like teamwork. Obama couldn't let all the love go unanswered and he later said he appreciated Edwards's compliment. Clinton was stuck, literally, in between them to make it even more awkward. In the break before she sat down Obama and Edwards yukked it up over her empty chair.