Mike Gravel hits on ‘Obama girl’

May 8th, 2008 – 10:38 AM by Dennis J. McGrath

While Hillary Clinton tries to pry superdelegates away from Barack Obama, another presidential candidate, Mike Gravel, is trying to steal Obama’s Girl.

Yes, Gravel is still officially in the race. If you’ve forgotten, he’s the former U.S. Senator from Alaska — a Democrat who recently turned Libertarian. He produced some quirky videos early in the campaign, and now he’s featured in a new one, alongside Obama Girl. As an added bonus, he “totally learned” and performs the Soulja Boy dance.

Here’s Gravel’s website: http://www.gravel2008.us/

And here’s that offbeat Rock video:

Overnight commentary: It’s all over

May 7th, 2008 – 12:23 AM by Dennis J. McGrath

The final results from Indiana weren’t even in before bloggers, pundits and others were writing the obituary for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign.

At the Huffington Post, Miles Mogulescu declared that “the task now is for the Democratic party to unite around its presumptive nominee — Barack Obama — and get ready to take on McSame in the fall.”

Also at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein concluded that the exit polls show that Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” may have been effective in Indiana.

“Thirty-six percent of primary voters said that Clinton does not share their values. And yet, among that total, one out of every five (20 percent) nevertheless voted for her in the Indiana election. Moreover, of the 10 percent of Hoosiers who said “neither candidate” shared their values, 75 percent cast their ballots for Clinton.”

Allahpundit at Hot Air said that whatever the outcome in Indiana, it doesn’t matter now:

“As I write this, she’s been nuked in Carolina and is, er, clinging to a bitter four-point lead in Indiana with 82% in. I said this morning that if she got blown out down south then she’d have to pull off a blowout of her own in the midwest to keep the superdelegates jittery about Obama’s Wright baggage. Hasn’t happened.”

Scott VW at Weblog Worth Writing in Las Vegas saw two very different candidates:

“I watched both candidates’ speeches tonight in the wake of a split decision in Indiana and North Carolina. Hillary seemed tired and resigned. In fact, she seemed to be on the verge of conceding. Obama was energized and spoke about the American Dream, an important theme of his. My wife was skeptical, though, reminding me that Obama might just be telling people what they want to hear. She’s right, of course. I think his campaign has been an honest, principled one so far, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t playing for votes. I hope he can maintain his principles in the face of what will be an onslaught in coming weeks.”

The view from Oklahoma in The McCarville Report was that this was the beginning of the end for Clinton:

“What is clear in the results is that Clinton’s momentum is ended; she needed a solid Indiana win and a close race in North Carolina and she got neither. Obama’s North Carolina win erased Clinton’s early Pennsylvania win and his better-than-expected finish in Indiana makes any argument Clinton makes about electability just so much talk.”

Obama declared winner in N.C.

May 6th, 2008 – 6:34 PM by Dennis J. McGrath

Only seconds after the polls closed in North Carolina, Fox News, CNN and the Associated Press have declared Barack Obama the winner there.

RNC: Seeking 10,000 volunteers; announcing Platform chair

May 5th, 2008 – 11:47 AM by Dennis J. McGrath

Catching up with a couple of announcements from the Republican National Convention:

Seeking Volunteers: The RNC has selected Monster, the online jobs site, to help in its effort to recruit 10,000 volunteers for the convention in St. Paul. Monster has created the online application for volunteers, which can be found at the convention’s website: www.msp2008.com.

The RNC press release says, “Volunteers will perform key duties in the areas of transportation, information services, hospitality and special events before, during and after the Convention. Prospective volunteers will complete a secure, online application consisting of personal information and a summary of their skills and experience.

“All applicants must be 18 years of age or older and must be willing to undergo a security background check as well as attend orientation and training sessions conducted by Convention organizers.”

Rep._Kevin_McCarthy_CA.jpgPlatform chairman appointed: A freshman congressman, Kevin McCarthy of California, has been named chairman of the Republican Party’s Platform Committee.

McCarthy will head the committee and “develop a forward-looking platform – grounded in Republican principles – that advocate common-sense solutions to our nation’s challenges,” said Republican National Committee Chair Robert M. “Mike” Duncan.

The platform committee will meet in Minneapolis the week before the GOP convention opens in St. Paul. McCarthy will be joined in leading the committee by a governor and a U.S. senator to be named later. The committee consists of a man and a woman from each state and territory.

McCarthy, 43, is a go-getter from Bakersfield, Calif. He was elected to the California Assembly in 2002 and in his first term was chosen as the GOP minority leader, the first freshman ever to be named to that post in California history, according to his biography. And now, in his first term in Congress, he’s been selected to head the platform committee.

Here’s his congressional website.

Reaction to Franken’s tax problems

April 29th, 2008 – 10:41 PM by Dennis J. McGrath

Our story about Franken’s disclosure that he’s paying about $70,000 in back taxes and penalties resulted in plenty of comments being posted to the story, which you can read here.

Also, here’s a sampling of reaction from bloggers — first those on the right, and then those on the left.1Franken0430.jpg

Hugh Hewitt on Townhall.com says:

“There’s no other way to put it. Franken cheated on his taxes and has been found out. … How many working class Democrats are going to leave a wealthy-comedian tax dodger for a very effective, classy Norm Coleman? I think quite a few.”

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air doesn’t think Franken was deliberately trying to evade taxes. But Morrissey’s point is something Franken no doubt will be hearing plenty of from critics who give him the benefit of the doubt:

“Did Franken intend to evade his tax responsibilities? I’d say it’s much more likely that he just didn’t care enough to figure out what they were, although he certainly knew enough to incorporate to gain legitimate tax advantages. Now he wants Minnesotans to believe that he cares about their concerns when he didn’t care enough about his own business to run it properly. The voters — and taxpayers — of Minnesota are not going to have much affection for someone who has more in common with Leona Helmsley than with themselves.”

Sean Hackbarth — formerly of the Fred Thompson presidential campaign — writes on The American Mind: “Ah, tossing the accountant under the bus. At least it was his grandmother. [I think Hackbarth must have meant "wasn't his grandmother."] We don’t know if this will be the final shoe to drop. Judging from the mismanagement of Franken’s campaign a place like Puerto Rico could come calling demanding him to pay up.”

At Power Line, Scott Johnson writes: “Since the expiration of the Al Franken decade in 1990, the only kind of humor for which Franken has been responsible is unintentional. Assuming Franken’s tax delinquencies are the result of negligence, they would run true to his post-Franken decade form.”

Minneapolis blogger doubtcreptintohisvoice doesn’t think this will derail Franken’s campaign, but he nevertheless finds it troubling: “While the figure and scale is big, the Franken people are implying that it stems from the same misunderstanding of tax law. They continue to blame the accounting firm. It could very well be that the accounting firm is incompetent and gave horribly faulty advice. But the very fact that Franken was unable to figure out about himself what the Republicans uncovered fairly easily is troubling. This will probably not foil Franken’s DFL endorsement, but it can’t help.”

At MnPublius, Matt Martin argues that the facts point to no intent on Franken’s part, and he praises the Franken campaign for getting on top of these financial problems:

First of all, if the Frankens paid taxes on every single cent earned, then this truly isn’t an issue of tax evasion; I mean, why go through the bother of paying at all then? It seems that the sum gain Franken occurred due to the relative tax rates was about $4000; not enough to be worth this trouble. In short, it seems that this is legitimately an accounting error and that’s not just clever spin.

Second, the states aren’t the ones asking for money. This isn’t a story that the GOP had their hands on, it’s something that the campaign started researching when the accountant’s prior mistakes were realized. They did the research, and now the Frankens are willfully correcting the mistake by repaying the taxes owed to the various states; in some cases this is as little as $53.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this, all these issues have made for some rough times for the Franken campaign over the last month, but I can honestly say that this step by the campaign is encouraging. The campaign seems to be at the front of this now and has decided to take the path of full, willful disclosure–a choice that will hopefully get this all out there.

Likewise, Joe Bodell at Minnesota Campaign Report posted this item at 9:48 p.m. (Tuesday), giving Franken’s campaign credit for the damage control effort: “Got off the phone with Franken campaign staffer Andy Barr a little while ago. The campaign office is busy, obviously, but not doing what one might think they’d be doing at a time like this. According to Barr, their goal was to call every single DFL State Convention delegate so the delegates ‘could hear what really happened from us tonight before they got it wrong from someone else tomorrow.’ It’s damage control mode, no doubt about it, but there’s a good way to do that and there’s a bad way, and Franken’s team appears to be doing it the good way.”

So, what do you think of Franken’s problems, and what do they mean for his campaign?

Watch (or read) Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s speech, Q&A

April 28th, 2008 – 6:26 PM by Dennis J. McGrath

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is back in the news with TV interviews and speeches over the weekend and Monday. Here are You Tube postings of his speech to the National Press Club on Monday, and the ensuing Q&A.

Since these videos sometimes get removed from You Tube, here’s the link for CSPAN, which aired his speech.

Also, if you’re the reading rather than the watching type, the Chicago Tribune has a text of the full speech and Q&A.

Part 1 of Wright’s speech:

Here’s Part 2:

Here’s Part 3:

Here’s the final part — the Q&A session:

Overnight spin and predictions

April 23rd, 2008 – 6:34 AM by Dennis J. McGrath

Here’s a sampling of the analysis, commentary and deft spinning in the hours since Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 10-point win in Pennsylvania.

Clinton campaign’s spin: Obama spent a gajillion dollars in Pennsylvania, went negative, can’t close the deal with voters and can’t win the key, working class states that are essential for a Democrat to win the White House.

Here’s an excerpt from the campaign’s morning e-mail:

SEN. OBAMA PLAYED TO WIN & LOST: Sen. Obama played to win Pennsylvania outright, outspending the Clinton camp by a 3 to 1 margin while sharply attacking Sen. Clinton on the stump and in television, radio, and direct mail pieces. He understood what was at stake for him in Pennsylvania, had six full weeks to make his case, went for a knockout at the end and came up short. Sen. Obama’s failure to do well raises questions about his ability to win the large, swing states that Democrats need to win in November.

Obama’s campaign spin: The Pennsylvania exit polls show an improvement over Ohio, where he also lost by 10 points. The main argument from the Obama camp is that he did better among older voters and among white men than he did in Ohio. While he lost the 60-and-older vote in Ohio by 41 points, he lost it by only 24 points last night. Among white men in Ohio, he lost by 19 points; last night, the gap was down to 12.

From his e-mail sent late last night:

In a state where we trailed by more than 25 points just a couple weeks ago, you helped close the gap to a slimmer margin than most thought possible.

Thanks to your support, with just 9 contests remaining, we’ve won more delegates, more votes, and twice as many contests…

But it’s clear the attacks are going to continue, and we’re going to continue fighting a two-front battle against John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo calls it status quo.

Lots of spin coming from both campaigns tonight. I’d say the real story is that this leaves us basically where we were. It was a decisive win for Hillary but that was the expectation. Going into tonight I think the dividing line was about 8 points. Closer than that and the story would have been that Obama didn’t win but closed the margin (which is how it looked early in the evening). A bigger margin than that and the story would be that Hillary got her big victory. So the 10 point spread is close to the dividing line but on Hillary’s side of it. There’s a lot of crowing from Hillary’s campaign tonight about a shift in momentum and doubts about Obama. Tomorrow there will be a lot of chatter from Obama’s campaign that none of that really matters because of the reality of the delegate numbers which won’t change much.

Like I said, I think that means we’re basically right where we were.

The Moderate Voice doesn’t see how Clinton can win the nomination, despite the Pennsylvania win:

It’s close to impossible for Hillary Clinton to win this nomination for reasons many others have laid out. She cannot overtake him in pledged delegates. She will almost definitely not overtake him in popular votes – even if Florida is included. She has not been gaining superdelegates since Super Tuesday even as he’s racked up about 75 new ones. Her only path to the nomination seems to be to raise enough electability doubts about Obama that superdelegates will balk at supporting him. But that may end up handing the election to John McCain.

Rich Lowry at the National Review says Clinton has turned into nothing more than an ally of John McCain:

If Hillary can’t win the nomination—and it’s clearly very, very hard for her—she’s basically a stalking horse for McCain. She’s preparing the demographic ground for McCain, by getting white working-class Democrats used to (if you will) not voting for Obama.

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line makes this observation:

Exit polls showed that only slightly more half of those who voted today consider Hillary Clinton trustworthy. Yet Clinton has won a decisive victory. Obama must be fairly unpopular in Pennsylvania.

Ed Morrissey rejects the Obama camp’s spin and says the glow has gone off the candidate for many voters:

Obama has quit resonating with white, working-class families, and small wonder why. After his Crackerquiddick comments and poor debate performance, he has left all but his true believers wondering who he is.

My own analysis, as I expressed on Dark Star’s show on WCCO Radio last night is that this is an impressive win by Clinton. It certainly gives her reason to continue on, will help ease her desperate financial situation, keeps her poised to take advantage of missteps by Obama, and it has to be creating more doubt in the minds of superdelegates about Obama’s ability to win in November.

Still, the results don’t change the fundamental problem for Clinton: Something — another “bitter” type of comment from Obama, a surprising disclosure — has to happen for her to win over the huge number of superdelegates she needs. At this point, it’s still Obama’s nomination to lose.

Fox News declares Clinton the winner

April 22nd, 2008 – 7:53 PM by Dennis J. McGrath

Fox News has projected that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the winner of the Pennsylvania Primary.

Returns are just starting to roll in, so Fox is basing this on exit polling. The exit polls likely project a fairly large win for Clinton, for Fox to call the race this quickly.

Making sense of Pennsylvania

April 21st, 2008 – 3:52 PM by Dennis J. McGrath

Sure, Hillary Clinton needs a big win Tuesday in Pennsylvania. But what, exactly does that mean?

Here’s an all-purpose, everything-you-need-to-know look at the Pennsylvania primary and the overall race for the Democratic nomination.

Delegates at stake
Pennsylvania will award 158 pledged delegates based on the primary results. Of that amount 55 will be allocated based on the statewide results, and the remaining 103 delegates will be distributed based on results in each of the state’s 19 congressional districts.

Latest polls
Clinton’s lead over Barack Obama has been running at about 5 percentage points. That’s generally within the margin of sampling error, and it’s down considerably from the 10- to 15-point margin she held during February and March. Two polls released Monday showed Clinton with leads of 7 points and 10 points.

Turnout: Up, up, up — including Republicans
(Staff Writer Bob von Sternberg contibutes this section on turnout.)

One big number — 300,000-plus — looms over the Pennsylvania primary. That’s how many newly-registered Democrats have been added to the voting rolls since the beginning of the year.

Nearly half were first-time voters joining the party, and slightly more than half are voters who switched their registration from Republican or independent to Democratic, allowing them to vote in the Democratic primary.

A recent poll conducted by Franklin and Marshall College shows nearly two in three (62%) of the new voters plan to vote for Obama.

In the five-county Philadelphia region, the Democrats gained 140,000 voters and the Republicans lost 42,000 over the last year. An analysis published by the New Republic found that about half of the newly-registered Democrats live in those counties, which are heavily African-American and home to affluent, college-educated voters. That makes the region “fertile ground for Obama,” the analysis concluded.

Pennsylvania’s politics
The state voted Republican for president in 1980 and 1984 (Reagan) and 1988 (Bush). But it has voted Democratic since then: 1992 and 1996 (Clinton), 2000 (Gore) and 2004 (Kerry).

Its governor is a Democrat — Ed Rendell — and it has a Republican senator — Arlen Specter — and a Democratic senator — Bob Casey.

Obama likely will do well in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but many suburban areas and rural counties have the type of demographics that favor Clinton — heavily white, blue collar, older, Catholic, Reagan Democrats.

Endorsements
For Clinton: 15 of the state’s superdelegates, including Gov. Rendell and Rep. John Murtha, have endorsed her. She also received the endorsement of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, owned by conservative Richard Scaife.

For Obama: 5 superdelegates, including Sen. Casey. Newspapers include the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Allentown Morning Call.

Pennsylvania snapshot
Population: 12.4 million
White: 84%
Black: 10%
Urban population: 77%
Rural: 23%

The delegate battle
Obama leads with 1,645 delegates to Clinton’s 1,507. The magic number for nomination is 2,025.

Clinton still leads among superdelegates, but Obama has dramatically cut into her margin among this group. For example, on the eve of Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), Clinton had 86 more delegates than Obama (213 to 127). Now, she leads by only 26 (257 to 231). Put another way: since Super Tuesday, Obama has won the support of 104 superdelegates while Clinton has added only 44 more to her total.

An Ohio comparison
It’s obvious that Clinton needs a big win in Pennsylvania. But what would that mean in terms of delegates?

For comparison, look back at Ohio, which was a big win for Clinton on March 4. She won the primary by 10 points — 54 percent to 44 percent. That translated into nine more delegates for her than for Obama — 74 delegates for Clinton to 65 delegates for Obama.

So, if Clinton wins Pennsylvania by, say, 10 points, it likely would earn her 10 to 20 more delegates than Obama (depending on the margins in each of the congressional districts). That won’t make an appreciable difference in the overall delegate count. But a big margin of victory gives her more reason to persevere and hope that the delegate trend grows in her favor and that Obama’s troubles (Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his “bitter” comment) are more serious than her’s (Bosnia sniper fire).

Exactly how big a win does Clinton need?
John McIntyre at Real Clear Politics says that a narrow win (by 2 to 4 points) would doom her. He expects she’ll remain in the race if she has a modest win (6-9 points) and she’ll have a real chance of turning the nomination battle around if she wins by 10 points or more — because it will fuel doubts about Obama’s ability to win key blue collar states like Ohio.

Toby Harnden, Washginton editor for the British Daily Telegraph, lists 10 reasons why Obama might squeak out a win Tuesday.

A Philadelphia City Paper blog predicts Obama by 5 points.

The Boston Globe notes that recent polls show that about 10 percent of likely voters remain undecided, and that could favor Clinton, because she holds an edge over Obama in winning those late-breakers.

Polling hours
The polls close at 7 p.m. Central (8 p.m. EST).

After Pennsylvania
Next up — the Guam Territorial caucuses are Saturday, May 3. Guam will pick four delegates to the national convention. Then on Tuesday, May 6, Indiana (72 delegates) and North Carolina (115)

Your predictions
What do you think will happen on Tuesday — and afterwards?

Sources: AP, Almanac of American Politics, New York Times

Pawlenty’s press release

April 21st, 2008 – 11:09 AM by Dennis J. McGrath

Here’s the press release from Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office, announcing the appointment of Tom Sorel as the new state transportation commissioner:

Saint Paul – Governor Tim Pawlenty today appointed Tom Sorel as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT).

Mr. Sorel currently heads the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) division office in Minnesota. The FHWA is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and provides financial and technical support to state and local governments for constructing and preserving America’s highway system. He starts at Mn/DOT on Monday, April 28.

Mr. Sorel, 51, has held various positions with the FHWA since 1978 including Major Project Team Leader at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Director of Planning and Program Development and Chief of Technology Services in Albany, New York. During the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Mr. Sorel was the USDOT liaison for federal transportation issues and led the effort to build the infrastructure for the event.

“With 30 years of transportation experience and a civil engineering background, Tom Sorel is the right person to lead Mn/DOT,” Governor Pawlenty said. “Minnesota has invested more in roads over the last five years than ever before. Tom Sorel will provide the leadership as we continue to build a modern and efficient transportation system for Minnesota.”

Mr. Sorel received his degree in civil engineering from State University of New York in Buffalo and his Master of Business Administration from Thomas College in Maine. He has also received a Certificate of Conflict Management from Cornell School of Industrial/Labor Relations and an Associate Certificate Project Management from George Washington University.

In addition to many FHWA performance awards, he received the Presidential Honor for leading the federal transportation response, recovery, and rebuilding efforts in Minnesota in the aftermath of the I-35W Bridge Collapse. He currently serves on the boards of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Guide Star, and the Transportation Engineering and Road Research Alliance.

Mn/DOT, with approximately 4,400 employees, develops and implements policies, plans and programs for highways, railroads, commercial waterways, aeronautics, public transit and motor carriers in the state. Minnesota has the fifth largest highway system in the United States.

Earlier this month, Mn/DOT announced the state’s 2008 construction season that included135 new highway and bridge projects valued at $441 million. Highlights include the completion of major projects originally advanced by the Pawlenty bonding program in 2003. These include the Highway 10 realignment in Detroit Lakes, the Highway 34 reconstruction in Park Rapids, the I-694/I-35E Unweave the Weave reconstruction north of St. Paul and the new Highway 212 project in the southwest Metro. There are also some 20 additional carryover projects begun in previous years like the I-35W/Highway 62 Crosstown reconstruction in the Twin Cities.