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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Iowa Breakdown

I came across an interesting piece from Associated Press in my paper last night. Titled "Closing Arguments" when I read it (the online version's "Candidates Fine-Tune Campaign Pitches"), it goes through the front runners in Iowa -- as well as one who doesn't stand a chance in hell -- and sums up their campaign messages.

I thought I'd add a little to it, to sort of flesh out the reporting with analysis and add a couple of candidates who aren't frontrunners anywhere but on the internet.

The Democrats

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: According to AP, "The night before the caucuses on Jan. 2, Clinton will make a taped, two-minute appearance that will air during evening newscasts statewide. In the final days she has contended that she is the candidate who will be 'ready on Day One' to take over the nation's highest office, based on her experiences as first lady during her husband's administration and as a senator from New York."

While most polls put Iowa in a statistical tie for Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, candidates also do their own polling, which often isn't released. In a world where most ads are 15 or 30 second spots, a two minute spot is one damned long ad. It may be that Clinton's polling shows her in more trouble than does the public polling. It's seems like a more expensive move than a candidate who feels secure is likely to make.

Why the argument's good:

Clinton's argument that her experience makes her "ready on Day One" is clearly aimed at Barack Obama and, to a certain extent, John Edwards, who only served one term as a Senator. People hoping for a Democratic president are clearly hoping for change, so any dem candidate can claim the mantle of "agent of change." Clinton's hoping that, by claiming experience, she can stand out among a field of candidates who all represent pretty much the same thing -- a fresh start.

Why the argument's bad:

Clinton's not touting her experience as a Senator, but as the First Lady. The argument that being married to a president automatically makes you qualified to be president makes as much sense as saying that you can perfom a triple bypass because you were married to a heart surgeon. Watching it is clearly not the same thing as doing it. In real world governance, Clinton's hardly any more experienced than her closest rivals. Her argument also cements her as the "establishment candidate" and a "Washington insider," which will hurt her with voters disappointed with the current Congress.

Who likes Clinton:

Of all the frontrunners, she's probably the best connected. Her fans would be fans of husband Bill, as well as people excited at the prospect of the first female president, centrists, conservative Democrats, pro-choicers, feminists, and people most influenced by polls.

BARACK OBAMA: AP sums up Obama's argument this way, "Obama is turning around Clinton's argument, telling voters he's the candidate best able to bring change precisely because he is untainted by a long tenure in Washington. His argument boils down to 'throw the bums out,' regardless of party."

This is Obama grabbing the mantle of "agent of change" with both hands. He's relying most on his skill as an orator, which has served him very well in the past. He's also offering a different take on the experience question.

Why the argument's good:

Kind of a no-brainer, really. In terms of experience, Barack Obama's political history closely resembles Abraham Lincoln's. The "inexperienced" charge dies right there. Besides, the Constitution has no experiential requirements. Technically, you could be elected president even if your only experience was being stranded on a desert island for the past twenty years.

Why the argument's bad:

No real specifics. Pretty much everyone agrees that change is necessary, but it's kind of important to know what kind of change we're talking about here. Undefined change is scary -- and that's what Obama's been offering.

Who likes Obama:

That's actually kind of hard to say. Minorities like the idea of the first black president. Being endorsed by Oprah didn't really help any (Oprah's demo are mostly likely Clinton voters). I guess I'd have to say they're people most likely to embrace change for the sake of change and those who are swayed by his powerful personal charm. Ironically, I just described people who were most likely to vote for Bill Clinton in his first primary -- although the two men are very, very different people.

JOHN EDWARDS: AP reports, "Edwards continues his populist pitch, arguing that he is the only White House hopeful who is ready to do the most to fight for the middle class by standing up to the special interests."

They go on, "'Nobody who takes their money and defends the broken system is going to bring change,' Edwards said Friday in a swipe at Clinton.'"

Why the argument's good:

As the report says, it's a populist message. Edwards has aimed his message straight toward the middle and lower class -- i.e., most Americans. He offers himself -- the child of a lower class family who has been given the chance at personal success -- as an example of what all people are capable of. "If I can do it, so can you," it boils down to, "Provided all the obstacles are removed."

Why the argument's bad:

Like Obama's, it lacks specifics -- although not to the same degree. Edwards has also been spending a lot of time talking about America at a time when many voters are concerned about the world. People may see this as being a little light on foreign policy.

Who likes Edwards:

Union members, people having trouble keeping their head above water, people affected by the mortgage meltdown, people who worry that their children may not go to college. Also, Edwards shares Obama's strong personal charm, having honed his skill at logical argument in the courst system as a lawyer. Attorneys and people who've benefitted from lawsuits may find him atttractive as well.

The Republicans

FRED THOMPSON: AP tells us, "The former Tennessee senator, who is behind in the polls just about everywhere, continues to hammer his conservative theme of lower taxes and limited government. At times, he adds a dose of tough, if not detailed, talk about terrorism."

Why the argument's good:

What argument? This was the inclusion I found odd. He doesn't stand a chance in hell, so why are we talking about him? Put Thompson on the celebrity news page, with Britney Spears.

Why the argument's bad:

Again, what argument? He's basically an actor trying, unsuccessfully, to convince an audience he's Ronald Reagan. Frankly, Reagan was a better actor and Thompson doesn't have the chops to pull it off.

Who likes Thompson:

Polls show almost no one. I guess mental patients who can't tell the difference between TV and reality and women who fall for big, crotchety old guys who smell like scotch and cigars.

MITT ROMNEY: AP takes us back to reality, where we're talking about candidates who stand a snowball's chance in hell. According to the report, "For months, the former Massachusetts governor was the leader in Iowa, but he's now on the defensive after a surge by Huckabee. His closing argument centers on electability, and he touts his experiences in office and in life, including his background in corporate America and public service."

Romney's the only candidate we've talked about so far who has any real executive experience.

Why the argument's good:

Romney's taking pretty much the same tack as Clinton, although to a different group of voters and with better standing. As the Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt inarguably scores in the experience category. He also points to his signing of a Universal Health Care law as Governor.

Why the argument's bad:

Mitt's the classic "finger in the wind" politician, who's views reflect those of his audience of the moment. In Massachusetts, he was a liberal Republican. In a national election, he's trying to run to the right of Genghis Khan. There is no "there" there.

Besides, although health care polls well in national polls, the primaries aren't the best place to bring it up. GOP voters are more unlikely to dislike the idea of government health care than any others.

Who likes Romney:

Frankly, I find Romney's popularity perplexing. To me, he's transparent as a plane of glass. If I had to guess, I'd say that they're people who like good hair and slick ads. Seriously, I just don't know. People who like funeral directors, maybe.

MIKE HUCKABEE: AP reports, "The former Arkansas governor is playing his folksy populist card, betting that will work with evangelicals who form the bulk of his political base."

"The people of Iowa don't want to be forgotten when someone goes to the White House," he said, drawing contrasts with Romney, who is very wealthy and lives in the Northeast. "People in middle America feel like folks will come and campaign in Iowa and then they get elected and they forget that people out here in flyover land still exist. Some of us grew up in the middle of the country and still live here."

Why the argument's good:

Like Edwards, he's aiming straight at the majority of Americans with a populist message. Arguing that politicians forget about "flyover land" may resonate with some Iowans. More one that in just a bit, though.

Why the argument's bad:

I live in a state bordering Iowa and I've never heard anyone complain that Washington forgets about the midwest. Mike's offering a solution to something that not many people believe is a problem.

Besides, his populist appeal is undercut by his bear hug of the screwiest, most right wing evangelical nuts. The message of inclusion is belied by his embrace of the agents of exclusion.

Who likes Huckabee:

Right wing loonie tunes. Evangelicals, pro-lifers, people who want evolution out of the classroom, people who want the US to be a "Christian nation." To be fair, he's extremely charming and very quick with a joke -- which I believe is a good measure of intelligence. But Mike doesn't seem to apply that intelligence, showing a shocking ignorance of foreign affairs. Like Edwards, Huckabee's message is almost strictly about America, so he may be garnering many of the conservative counterparts to Edwards voters.

RUDY GIULIANI: Writes AP, "The former New York mayor is trying to rally voters around the images they saw of him on Sept. 11, 2001, covered in dust from the collapsed World Trade Center towers and shoulder-to-shoulder with the first responders."

Rudy's cemented his campaign squarely in his experience as America's Mayor of 9/11. I find it strange that one of the candidates talking most about foreign policy is a former mayor. Rudy's campaign seems to be only about 9/11, but to be truthful, it's actually very broad in scope, looking beyond America's borders.

Why the argument's good:

As I say, Rudy sees America as a member of the world community, not as a different world unto itself. People may see his experience as NYC Mayor during 9/11 as being a strong argument in favor of his readiness. In fact, his campaign slogan is "Tested, ready, now. America needs a leader."

Why the argument's bad:

Rudy's not running as a leader, Rudy's running as your daddy. The idea that the president exists to protect America may resonate with Bush fans, but there really aren't many of those left. Rudy's authoritarian message probably doesn't go over very well with independent-minded, DIY midwestern conservatives, which may go a long way toward explaining why Rudy's doing so poorly in Iowa, while polling so well nationally.

Being constantly exposed as hopelessly corrupt doesn't help his law and order bona fides, either.

Who likes Giuliani

Rudy's the candidate for gay and pro-choice Republicans. Despite running to the right of his past, most Republicans see Giuliani as a left-leaning centrist. Rudy also wins the hard-line "tough on crime" and "tough on terrorism" vote.

JOHN McCAIN: According to AP, "McCain's final argument is essentially the one he's pitched in recent months, that he's the most experienced candidate to deal with the most pressing national security issues.

"New campaign commercials remind voters of the sacrifices he's made for his country, relying on footage of the former Navy pilot's days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam."

McCain is what McCain is. His reputation as a "maverick" is a bonus, a curse, and more than a little inaccurate. He's actually spent a lot of capital trying to rid himself of the reputation and it seems to have worked. It's only very rarely that you read a story about McCain that includes the word "maverick."

Why the argument's good:

Like Giuliani, part of McCain's message is that we need to worry about the world. John's campaign is also like Clinton's, in that he touts his many years of experience as a factor.

Why the argument's bad:

McCain, like Giuliani, is playing the fear card. I don't think Americans respond to that anymore. We're sick of being scared. I credit McCain's recent rise in the polls to his shifting of his message to a more hopeful tone. He's been making very compelling arguments about global warming and immigration lately -- de-emphasizing his support for the Iraq war. McCain seems to be correcting the bad parts of his argument. Don't forget they still exist.

The Guys AP Left Out

I'm only going to talk about two more. Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Duncan Hunter, etc. -- no matter how good or bad they may be -- don't stand a chance. Sorry.

Two candidates stand a slim chance of doing better than predicted -- Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. The weird thing about these two candidates is that they sorta-kinda have the same fans, but definitely have different messages. Both spend most of their time talking about the Constitution, but both have radically different interpretations of that document. These are the internet candidates.

Where Kucinich has a Rooseveltian view of government -- a positive tool for change and a force for the common good, like Edwards -- Paul views government through a Libertarian lens -- an invariably oppressive force that exists only to suck money out of your wallet and limit your rights.

The one thing both candidates have in common is what I think may be the underlying issue of this election -- Bush sucks, a lot.

Both oppose warrantless wiretaps, both oppose the phony "Global War on Terror," both oppose this bushie idea of the Executive as the Most Powerful Branch of Government. That's the appeal of both and it's very broad.


Given all of that, Iowa is hopelessly hard to call. People show up at the polling place and actually try to change people's minds. It's almost invariable that they succeed. Screw the polls, pay no attention to them.

But pay attention to the candidates' messages in Iowa. The campaign now begins in earnest and America's crazy season now begins. Iowa isn't a deciding factor, but it is a proving ground. We'll probably see at least one candidate drop out and all the candidates adjust their campaigns.

We are in the fetal stage of a monster. I think we'll see a campaign unlike any we've seen in our lives. Let the games begin...


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jacksmith said...

Some food for thought:

“HR 676:
For church goers: less money to insur. companies and more to the church- lots more.
Srs on Medicare: save way over $100/wk. Because no more medigap, long term care & dental insur. needed. No more drug bills.”

jacksmith said...

The #1 cause of injury, disability, and DEATH in America is, Health Care. More people die now from contact with the American Medical Health Care system than from any other cause of death. More than from Cancer, Heart disease, or Stroke. More than any other country in the world. Many times more than any other people in the world. Contact with the American medical health care system is the #1 risk factor now for injury, disability, and premature DEATH in America. This fact is a catastrophic indictment of the entire US Health Care System.

Driven by greed. And a rush to profit. Thousands of Americans are killed, and injured daily in America. By compromised health care. Cutting corners. Over, and under treatments. And poisonings with all manor of toxic, poisonous pharmaceuticals. Especially the children. America only makes up 2-4% of the world population. But Americans buy, and consume 50% of all pharmaceuticals world wide.

This is an emergency. America is in a crisis. And more Americans have died from this health care crisis than have died in all the wars in US history.

But the tide has turned. And the message is getting out. And taking hold about the fact that we have a very serious, and major health care crisis going on in America. Hurting everyone. Especially our precious little children. Rich, and poor alike. And most all Americans seem to understand now that "HR 676 Not For Profit Single Payer Universal National Health Care For All (Medicare For All)" is the way to go. Like all the other developed countries have done. Americans want government managed, tax payer supported health care Now. Medicare for all. Like other developed countries have. And like older Americans have now. Accept no substitute.

I am sick and tired of hearing how the candidates, and politicians health care plans are going to protect, and preserve the private for profit health insurance companies that have been killing, and ripping off the American people. And now the politicians want to mandate (require) that every American has to support the private for profit insurance company's that have been killing, and ripping you off. Or you will be fined, and PENALIZED. Thats right. PENALIZED. Ridiculous! The politicians really think you are all detached idiots. CASH COWS! To lead to the slaughter. Don't put up with that.

Just look at what is already happening with Massachusetts insurance mandates. It's a catastrophe. Financially, and medically for all the people of Massachusetts. And the private insurance companies just raised their rates by as much as 16%. And everyone has to pay now. It's a slaughter.

It's NOW TIME to bring out the BIG GUNS!! The BIG GUNS!! are you. The American people. And anyone else that wants to help. From now until HR 676 is passed into law. I want every person to reach out and touch their fellow Americans every day if you can. I want you to take a phone book. And call at least one of your fellow Americans every day. And ask them to pickup the sword of HR 676 Single Payer Not For Profit Universal Health Care For All (Medicare For All).

Call more than one each day if you can. And ask them to do the same as you are doing if they can. And also to put maximum pressure on their politicians to get HR 676 done. And to make sure their politicians support HR 676. Accept no substitute. HR 676 is a no-brainer. It's the best way to go on health care. It's the only moral, and ethical way to go. That is why every other developed country has done it. Most did it years ago. See, and

I know that many of you have been doing a fabulous job of spreading the word by talking it up with family, friends, and co-workers. And putting pressure on the politicians to get HR 676 done ASAP. The phone calls to your fellow Americans will increase the pressure. And increase momentum for HR 676 at an astonishing, and exponential rate. And I know many of you have been wanting to do something more to help. The phone calls to your fellow Americans is something you can do every day to help.

Trust me. It will be something to see. But you have to keep the focus, and pressure on getting HR 676 passed pronto. They will try to distract you. With all manor of other crises, and catastrophes. And other plans. Don't be distracted. HR 676 Single Payer Not For Profit Universal Health Care is the #1 concern of the American people. Thousands of Americans are dieing daily now. And you or your loved ones could be next.

There is no good reason HR 676 cannot be passed into law well before the coming elections. And SCHIP should have been passed by now. Even if it was for 3x the 35 billion congress ask for. Do not tolerate delays. If it is not passed before the coming elections. All America will know which politicians are on the side of the American people. And which are not when they vote. Well before the elections. This is supposed to be a democracy. And well over the majority of Americans want tax payer supported single payer government managed health care for free for all Americans as a right. Many of the politicians will be soliciting your financial, and political support for the coming elections. Make sure you send a note telling them that you expect them to support HR 676 if they expect you to support them.

Everyone can do this. Most of you are well informed about HR 676. This truly is one of those no-brainer's. Be considerate of your fellow Americans when you call. But be comfortable about calling. These are your fellow Americans. Some will be receptive. And some will not be. Some maybe rude, and mean. Just thank them, and move on to the next. Most will be with you. And if you get a call from one of your fellow Americans about HR 676. Let them know you are already on board. And thank them for calling. Build them up. And keep them strong. They are fighting for all of us.

Keep fighting. Pickup that phone, and call your fellow Americans. It's the right thing to do. It's time to start swinging your political sledge hammers. Until your government gets the message you want HR 676 NOW! And nothing else. No more insurance mandate bait, and switch. Or hokey tax deduction open market lunacy, and lies. Market solutions don't work. That is what we have now. You cant seek the low bid for your child's brain surgery.

Start using all your powers Now. There are at least 250-300 million of you that want HR 676. The insurance, and medical industry want to keep our disgraceful system as it is. And force you through mandates to continue to pay them to rip you off, and KILL you, and your loved ones.

Everyone knows the true story now. If we continue to let them get away with this through our politicians, and our corrupted political system. The American people will be known as the worlds biggest bunch of lazy chumps, and dummy's. Don't let that happen. Start swinging your political sledge hammers with all your might until HR 676 is law. That is the only way we can have the best Universal Health Care system in the world. Bless you all... KEEP FIGHTING!!!!! Be creative. Your doing great!