Monday, December 31, 2007

Video: Barack Obama Answers Question - “Why You Instead of John Edwards?”

Happy New Year from seattleforbarackobama (UPDATED)

UPDATE: New Iowa Poll: Obama widens lead over Clinton---Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has widened his lead in Iowa over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards heading into Thursday's nominating caucuses, according to The Des Moines Register's final Iowa Poll before the 2008 nominating contests.

Obama's rise is the result in part of a dramatic influx of first-time caucusgoers, including a sizable bloc of political independents. Both groups prefer the Illinois senator in what has been a very competitive campaign.
Howie P.S.: icebergslim's diary on Kos starts the Obama celebration tonight.

I am waiting for the final pre-caucus Iowa Poll results from the Des Moines Register. This poll is reputedly the most accurate predictor of what place each candidate will finish, but not necessarily the margins between them. It will be available online here after 9pm CST, which I believe is 7pm PST. I should still be functional at that hour and will post it (probably).


"Obama Tries New Tactics To Get Out Vote in Iowa"

WaPo, page one:
DES MOINES -- In Sen. Barack Obama's Iowa headquarters, young staff members sit at computers, analyzing online voter data and targeting potential backers. They zip one e-mail to an undecided voter and zap a different message to a firm supporter.

Depending on the voter, they follow with Facebook reminders, telephone calls, text messages and, most important, house visits. The effort will culminate in what state director Steve Hildebrand calls "the largest grass-roots volunteer operation that Iowa has ever seen."
Whether Hildebrand's boast proves true on Thursday, Obama's campaign has taken a markedly different approach to identifying its supporters and getting them to the caucuses than those of his two main opponents, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

With turnout likely to be decisive in a Democratic race that pollsters call a three-way tie, Obama (Ill.) has built an Election Day operation that combines an apparent edge in technology with the tried-and-true grunt work of a traditional Iowa campaign. Edwards and Clinton have also assembled formidable ground operations, with outside help from labor unions and political interest groups.

Edwards, who has been campaigning virtually nonstop since finishing second here four years ago, is depending on caucus veterans. Strategists for Obama and Clinton are counting on a record turnout, which means inducing caucus neophytes to gather on a cold January night.

The chances appear good that more Democrats will participate than ever before.

"It's more money, more staff, more TV, more of everything," said Jean Hessburg, a former executive director of Iowa's Democratic Party. "We had a record turnout in 2004. I'm sure we'll break it in 2008."

Obama began organizing in Iowa by deploying more staff members earlier to more counties and by building tracking mechanisms to identify and retain supporters. For example, the campaign mines data gathered online: Which petitions did people sign on the campaign Web site? Which e-mails have they answered?

If the Internet is like a big grocery store, Obama's aides made sure he appeared on every aisle. As some campaign workers built mailing lists and telephone trees according to political, professional and personal interests, others created the first groups and profiles on sites as varied as Eons, the MySpace for baby boomers, and LinkedIn, a site mostly for white-collar professionals.

They also used,, and -- the MySpace and Facebook for, respectively, the African American, Latino, Asian and gay online communities. They have posted more than 350 videos on his YouTube channel, twice as many as Clinton, and his videos have been viewed nearly twice as often as hers. Obama has more MySpace friends than any other Democratic candidate, and he lists more Facebook supporters than all other Democrats combined.

Looking ahead to caucus day, the campaign is setting up a "catch-all queue," in which caucus-goers could get an answer within minutes after texting a question such as "Where's my precinct in Des Moines?"

Four years ago, another Democrat, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, came into the Iowa caucuses as "the Internet candidate" and finished third, all but ending his candidacy. Obama's campaign flatly rejects that comparison, arguing that today's Web is vastly different, that Iowa is much more wired, that they have learned that electronic touches are only part of the picture.

"We don't think we could be any more different than the Dean campaign," said Hildebrand, a veteran political strategist. "We get everyone who signs up with us online to get involved in person. It's not just a computer-to-computer relationship -- it's a person-to-person relationship. This is Iowa, after all."

Unions have their own 2004 precedent to avoid. That year, then-Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), who won the caucus in 1988, was considered a favorite because of his strong union backing. Instead, he finished behind Dean and his candidacy was also ended.

Chuck Rocha, national political director of the United Steelworkers of America, has spent much of the past six months in Iowa, directing labor volunteers for the Edwards campaign. Over the weekend, about 130 steelworkers were in Iowa, spending eight hours a day on union time, then working the rest of their long days directly for the Edwards staff.

This time, Rocha said, his members are targeting union members more, engaging them on their doorsteps and at the gates of 21 Iowa factories instead of just passing out leaflets. The outsiders concentrate on identifying Edwards supporters and urging undecideds to see him in action. "What they're saying to our members is, 'You have a voice that I don't have. Use it,' " said Edwards precinct captain John Campbell, a steelworker and an Iowan. "We learned from our mistakes that a caucus is a different critter."

Clinton's campaign has its own target group: female voters, including many who have never caucused. In one ambitious effort to expand her base, Clinton launched an effort to reach women -- especially over 65, under 30 or single -- registered as independents or as Democrats considered unlikely to caucus. She taped a call to them and told them to expect an envelope in the mail.

The packet, less political than other Clinton mail, included a card that said, "If you're itching for change, scratch here to win." Those who sent it back received a blue travel mug that said "I'm standing with Hillary." The campaign collected the names of thousands of potential supporters -- so many that it needed a tractor-trailer to haul all the mugs.

"This is a huge experiment," said Karen Hicks, a senior campaign adviser. "We have no idea if this will work or not."

For weeks, the Clinton campaign has been doing much hand-holding of its newest recruits, pairing them with experienced caucusgoers to boost their confidence and inspire them to show up.

Along the way, the campaign has had considerable help from its union supporters. Emily's List, the women's political fundraising group, spent more than $400,000 to design an elaborate marketing program aimed at Iowa women. Strategists identified a large subset who described themselves as predisposed to support Clinton and having a six in 10 chance of caucusing.

"We realized it wasn't that we needed to spend our time building the support in Iowa for Hillary -- we just needed to turn out the support that she had," said Emily's List spokeswoman Ramona Oliver. "We looked at why they wouldn't go -- what were the barriers?"

The strategists found that many women simply found the caucuses confusing and intimidating, so they took several steps to counter that. At the same time, Emily's List designed an online advertising strategy that popped up a link to its Web site every time a computer in Iowa searched Google or Yahoo using specific terms. Some of the search terms were politically oriented, such as "2008 caucuses." Others aimed at the presumed interests of Iowa women, such as "recipe," "stocking stuffer" and "post-Thanksgiving sales."

By the end of the week, about 20,000 visitors from 613 Iowa towns had clicked on the ads.

"We really were trying to get to women where they live," Oliver said.

The group decided not to send out-of-state volunteers to knock on doors in Iowa. "It just felt wrong," said Maren Hesla, director of the group's Women Vote program. Instead, Emily's List sent names of targeted women to the American Federation of Teachers, a Clinton supporter, which sent its own literature promoting her.

All the organizational work is just a prelude to what will happen the night of the caucuses, which won't even begin until 6:30 p.m. Anything from bad weather to a sick child could prevent someone from leaving home, and that's why campaigns have been urging Iowans for months to bond with like-minded supporters at barbecues, house parties and mock caucuses. And that's why the ground armies are arranging rides and babysitters, and the candidates are returning again and again to Ottumwa, Davenport and Mason City.

The key of keys, Hildebrand said, is to knock on doors.

"Working the ground, going from house to house, talking to supporters and those leaning towards us and to undecided voters, is what we'll do all day Thursday," he said. "Nothing beats that door-to-door contact."

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"One Voice" (video)

BarackObamadotcom, video (00:30):
Iowa for Obama, November 2007.


"Is This Obama's Moment?"

Scott Galindez (

t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Obama staffers said they only expected a few hundred people since they only invited South Des Moines supporters and undecideds. The actual turnout was around a thousand people, many of whom had to stand in the aisles.
(Photo: Scott Galindez / Truthout)
Monday 31 December 2007

In Obama's closing argument, which he is delivering throughout Iowa this week, he argues that he can't wait another four years - that his moment is now.

He challenges those who argue that he doesn't have the experience, by tying his opponents to experience working in a system that is broken. He argues that as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, and as a civil rights attorney, he learned what people really need from Washington.

Bill Clinton said a few weeks ago that a vote for Obama is "a roll of the dice." Obama counters by arguing that the real gamble is voting for candidates who will continue to operate in a system that is not working and expect different results.

Obama argues that he has not taken PAC money or corporate donations, so he will not be owned by the special interests in Washington. He went on to say that those special interests are worried and are joining the fight against him:

"And now, in four days, you have a chance once again to prove the cynics wrong. In four days, what was improbable has the chance to beat what Washington said was inevitable. And that's why in these last weeks, Washington is fighting back with everything it has - with attack ads and insults; with distractions and dishonesty; with millions of dollars from outside groups and undisclosed donors to try and block our path.

A young supporter of Senator Barak Obama shows his support on Sunday in South Des Moines. Over 1,000 people packed the gymnasium to hear Obama's closing argument for the Democratic nomination.
(Photo: Scott Galindez / Truthout)

"We've seen this script many times before. But I know that this time can be different.

"Because I know that when the American people believe in something, it happens.

"If you believe, then we can tell the lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over."

Obama delivered his closing argument on the South Side of Des Moines Sunday night in front of a standing room only crowd that was diverse: young, old, children, senior citizens.

Mark Bradley, a Des Moines resident, said that he has never caucused before, but will this time: "I travel oversees and have watched our image in the world decline. Barack Obama can turn that around; his message rekindles my belief in America"

Others agreed that Obama's message of hope is timely. Sara Davis, who last voted for Ronald Reagan, said: "Obama is the first candidate in a long time that has inspired me." She went on to say that everyone she talks to is jaded; they don't recognize the America that we have become", but she believes Obama is genuine. She said, "He could have written his own check on Wall Street, or joined a high-powered law firm, but he instead he dedicated himself to improving people's lives."

Obama making his case is South Des Moines. He told a crowd of more than 1,000 that their time is now.
(Photo: Scott Galindez / Truthout)

Obama himself echoed their sentiments:

"I've spoken to Americans in every corner of the state, patriots all, who wonder why we have allowed our standing in the world to decline so badly, so quickly. They know this has not made us safer. They know that we must never negotiate out of fear, but that we must never fear to negotiate with our enemies as well as our friends. They are ashamed of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and warrantless wiretaps and ambiguity on torture. They love their country and want its cherished values and ideals restored."

Obama delivered these remarks on a day when the latest polls show the race for the Democratic Party nomination locked in a three-way dead heat.



Ari Melber (The Nation):
Barack Obama is drawing huge crowds in his final swing through Iowa, while his field organizers are ramping up what could be the largest mobilization program in the history of the caucuses.
On Sunday night, Obama spoke to a packed gym on the South Side of Des Moines, a working class neighborhood in Iowa's largest county, which John Edwards won with about 8,000 caucus votes in 2004. "I'm the only candidate in this race who has actually passed laws to take away the power of the special interests and the lobbyists," Obama declared to the cheering crowd. His down-tempo stump speech presents voters with a temperamental spectrum: Edwards lurches to the angry left; Clinton gravitates towards Beltway accommodation; but only Obama stands for a practical idealism that can inspire and deliver.

Yet with four days to go, even the king of anti-politics cannot avoid talking tactics. Obama's speeches are now studded with appeals to electability. In a strategy powerpoint released on Monday, Obama's aides claim he is more electable than Clinton and better funded than Edwards. The document also implies that reporters should discount Edwards for accepting public financing, despite Obama's pledge to do the same in a general election (if the Republican nominee agrees). David Axelrod, the campaign's chief strategist, defended the emphasis on electability in the homestretch. "I don't think electability is a Beltway concern, electability is the concern of every Democrat," he told The Nation on Sunday. "The fact that [Obama] doesn't bring the baggage of some of the other candidates to a general election enhances our ability to win, and that's very important," he added.

Unlike traditional voter turnout, caucus attendance is not necessarily tied to spending, field organizers or crowd size, as Howard Dean saw in 2004. But Obama has drawn huge crowds at events in several Iowa towns in the past week, far outpacing Edwards and Clinton, including over 500 people in Nevada, Davenport and Mason City. The campaign says it drew an astounding 600 people to a recent event in Carroll -- a tiny town where only 649 people caucused in 2004. Obama has over 200 field officers deployed in 37 field offices across the state; the Des Moines office was buzzing well past midnight on Sunday night. Organizers are distributing a detailed, 16-page confidential strategy packet for precinct captains, advising on everything from how to count delegates to "persuasion talking points" tailored to supporters of other candidates. Democrats who caucus for non-viable candidates – falling short of 15 percent in a precinct – get to vote in a second round, which can tip the entire caucus. As a former organizer, Obama is already making a pitch for those crucial second choice votes. He is now telling Iowans if they are "embarrassed" about their commitment to another candidate, "then make me your second choice."


"Obama Fires Back at Edwards" (with video)

Chris Cillizza (WaPo's The Fix), with video (01:49):
INDIANOLA, Iowa -- Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) directly confronted the idea -- pushed by former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) -- that he is "too nice" to bring about change in Washington, dismissing what he called "hot air" and "rhetoric."
"The argument goes that the only way to bring about change is to be angry," said Obama at an event in a church hall here tonight. He quickly added: "I don't need lectures about how to bring about change because I have been doing it all my life."

Less than twelve hours earlier at a rally in Boone, Iowa, Edwards called the idea of sitting down to negotiate with special interests to solve the nation's problems a "complete fantasy", adding: "You can't nice these people to death." [Watch the Video]

Neither man mentioned the other by name when delivering the rhetorical jabs, although it was crystal clear to whom they were referring.

The back and forth between the two men is simply the latest volley in an increasingly nasty battle for the segment of undecided voters who have ruled out Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) as an option.

Obama's strategists long believed that Edwards would fade as the caucuses drew closer, ceding the anti-Clinton vote to the Illinois Senator. That has not happened; in fact, just the reverse is true -- Edwards appears to be gaining strength in recent Iowa polls. (Take a look at the slew of Iowa polls out in the last few days; Edwards is tied for the lead in two.)

Edwards' continued strength has forced the Obama campaign to fight with the former North Carolina Senator over how each will bring about change.

At the heart of the dispute between the two candidates is what kind of approach is the right one to make change real. Edwards casts himself as a skilled, effective and willing fighter for the middle class; he told a story earlier in the day how his father told him as a boy to never start a fight but if one started to "never walk away."

Obama, on the other hand, has a far more conciliatory approach -- pointing to his years of bringing people together to create change both inside (and, more importantly, outside) the political process. "There's no shortage of anger in Washington," said Obama. "We don't need more heat, we need more light."

The philosophical differences between the two men are clear and palpable. Which approach will win over voters in Iowa?

We've long written that Edwards' anger (strong conviction, his campaign calls it) is a dangerous game. Voters tend not to like their presidents angry, preferring candidates who appear above-the-fray and always looking at the big picture. That conventional wisdom would suggest that it is Obama's change argument that will prove more compelling to undecided caucus goers.

And yet, the anger and resentment within the Democratic base -- caused and fomented by the Bush Administration -- is at historic highs. Progressive voters, are quite frankly, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. One of Edwards' biggest applause lines of the day was a scathing indictment against Bush's record on science; "George Bush is the most anti-science president in American history," said Edwards to roars from the assembled crowd.

The question is whether that anger aimed at the Bush Administration has fundamentally altered the thinking of members of the Democratic base. Do they want someone who offers a raised fist or someone who offers a handshake? The answer will be clearer by the end of Thursday night.

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"Conrad announces endorsement of Obama"

Bismark Tribune (ND):
Sen. Ken Conrad, D-N.D., announced he will endorse Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, on Saturday.

It's the first time Conrad has endorsed a presidential candidate during the primaries. He placed his support with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., one of four senators running for the Democratic party nomination.

"As I've observed and worked with Sen. Obama, he has an ability to bring people together," Conrad said.

He chose Obama because he wants someone whom he thinks can unite people. Conrad wants a candidate who can decrease dependency on foreign oil, rebuild foreign policy and focus on eliminating the threat of al-Qaida.

The other Senate candidates are Christopher Dodd, of Connecticut, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Joe Biden of Delaware. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, among others, also is seeking the nomination. The endorsement comes five days before the Iowa caucus. North Dakota will have presidential preference caucuses on Feb. 5.

Conrad said he planned to campaign with Obama in Iowa today (Sunday).


"Must Read: How Obama Is Best Prepared to Win the Presidency for the Democrats"

H/t Think On These Things:

Read the Powerpoint Presentation from the Obama campaign here.

"Video: Barack Obama on Meet The Press - December 30, 2007"

"Obama's Middle Class Appeal" (with video)

The Trail, WaPo's political blog, with video (01:49):

NEWTON, Iowa -- Meet Barack Obama, man of the people.
The Illinois senator is weaving new threads about his life into his stump speech, recalling a time not long ago when he was a member of the beleaguered middle class -- just like so many of the Jan. 3 caucusgoers he's battling Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards to win over.

Speaking before a large, enthusiastic crowd at a local high school gymnasium here, Obama described the ordinary problems, like daycare and housing costs, that he and his wife Michelle confronted as recently as five or six years ago, before he was elected to the U.S. Senate and became a best selling author.

"We were still struggling with all the student loans we had to pay off after law school, because neither of us were rich," he said. "Our parents couldn't provide us with all that education. We had to borrow. We hadn't started a college fund yet for our kids. We hadn't started saving for retirement. We had some credit cards we had to deal with. We were living in a small condo that was getting a little too small for our two kids."

People nodded their heads. "I was doing the grocery shopping," Obama continued. "Michelle shopped at Target. She does still shop at Target. She really loves Target." He quoted his wife telling him, "I think one of the reasons you'd make a good president now is...we're not that far from being normal."

In one of his standard riffs, Obama asserts that his career choices -- community organizer, civil rights lawyer, elected official -- underscores his commitment to public service and to bringing about political and social change. He always mentions the lucrative job offers he turned down, but today he added a new line.

"That's why I didn't become a trial lawyer," Obama told the Newton audience -- a clear dig at Edwards, who made millions in the courtroom.


"Words Barack Obama swears by"

Top of the Ticket (LA Times political blog):
Another day closer to the Iowa caucus and another several events in towns that merge into a gray blur and hundreds more eager faces in the crowds listening intently to every word the candidates say, as if it's the first time they've ever said them to such a group instead of the 800th.

And then something comes out of left field.

Today in Knoxville, Iowa, The Times' Maria LaGanga was watching Barack Obama take questions from the crowd unlike a certain fellow senator from New York. The unusual question came from a woman who described herself as a Republican. She said she has “enormous respect” for Obama because her daughter, “an Obama girl,” is volunteering for the senator from Illinois.

The woman had only one question on this chilly Sabbath morning: “What separates you from Mitt Romney?”

“That’s a very long list,” Obama replied, laughing. ”Let me say this. Mitt Romney is a very handsome guy. He is taller than me. I was listening to an interview this morning and somebody asked him has he ever cursed.

“And he said, 'Well, of course, but not the real harsh ones,'” according to Obama's account. Then, the politician from Chicago's South Side made a public confession. “I have to tell you," he said, "I have used some really harsh curse words. The really good ones, the juicy ones.”

Seriously, though, most of the Republican contenders, Obama said, “seem to be looking for a continuation of Bush-Cheney policies…There is going to be a very clear choice between myself and any of the Republicans.”

And on that you can bet your sweet #a$&**g!%.


"Barack Obama: Stand for Change in Davenport"

BarackObamadotcom, video (03:29):

On December 28, 2007, Barack spoke at the RiverCenter in Davenport, IA- a stop on his Stand For Change tour.


"Barack Obama: Stand for Change in Ottumwa" (video)

BarackObamadotcom, video (03:09):
Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of 500 in Ottumwa, IA on December 29, 2007.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Video: Barack Obama on Meet The Press - December 30, 2007"

Think On These Things, with video:

Watch the full thing here. Obama comes on for the second half of the program.
  • Watch the clip where Obama outlines why he is prepared to lead the country here.
  • Watch the clip where Obama discusses the situation in Pakistan and its influence on America here.


"McCain losing votes to Obama in N.H."

LA Times:
NASHUA, N.H. -- Like many New Hampshire voters, Dave Montgomery considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool independent -- which in this state means he can vote in either the Republican or Democratic presidential primary when he goes to the polls Jan. 8.

This year, the semi-retired school bus driver from Milford finds himself torn between two candidates, one from each party: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Montgomery likes McCain, he said, because "he seems to be enough of a rebel." He likes Obama for pretty much the same reason -- because he seems to be "his own man."

"I think either one of them could do the job," he said.

Independents like Montgomery may be the decisive factor for both major parties when New Hampshire holds the nation's first primary next week, hot on the heel's of Iowa's caucuses on Thursday. And the choices these nonaligned New Hampshire voters make almost assuredly will shape the nation's later primary races.

"This big group in the middle . . . has a chance to really transform the election," said Tom Rath, a veteran New Hampshire Republican strategist who is advising former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.). Describing the efforts to woo independents, he added: "It's more like a general election here."

If Obama bests national front runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), he probably will owe his New Hampshire victory to independents, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll suggested last week.

Among the state's registered Democrats, the survey found Clinton led Obama, 35% to 28%. But among independents who plan to vote in the Democratic primary, Obama led, 37% to 24% -- turning the contest into a virtual tie.

In a sense, a win for Obama would be a mirror image of McCain's primary victory in 2000, when he derailed GOP front- runner George W. Bush, largely because New Hampshire independents flocked to his side. Bush went on to win the nomination by rallying party regulars in later primaries -- a strategy Clinton no doubt would pursue.

And Obama's strength among independents now looms as a problem for McCain.

The Republican's campaign, after struggling mightily this year, has regained some of its footing and is hoping a New Hampshire win could propel him to success in later primaries. But he may fall short in the Granite State, in part because so many independents are choosing Obama.

The Times/Bloomberg poll found that among New Hampshire independents who have chosen the party primary in which they will cast a ballot, 61% said they planned to vote in the Democratic race, 39% in the GOP contest. And among those who have decided whom they will support, more than twice as many said they planned to back Obama, compared to McCain.

These voters include retiree Stephen Winship, 88, who plans to vote for Obama.

Winship said he supported McCain eight years ago "because he was candid," but won't do so now, in part because he disagrees with him over the Iraq war. McCain "has a conservative frame of mind and military background, so I think he would very much like to see this succeed," Winship said. "I think we need to get out."

Winship's shift reflects a broader trend among New Hampshire independents: Over the last eight years, they have drifted to the left.

On major issues, the Times/Bloomberg poll found that the state's independents tended to agree with Democrats more than with Republicans. For instance, asked to name the issues they considered top priorities, independents most frequently cited Iraq, healthcare and the economy -- the same ones that dominated among Democrats. The state's Republicans, by contrast, cited illegal immigration and national security first, followed by the economy and Iraq.

On Iraq, 74% of independents said they favored withdrawing U.S. troops within a year -- a view shared by 98% of Democrats, but just 33% of Republicans.

Independents often have had an outsized effect in New Hampshire's presidential primaries. In 1992, they bolstered Republican Patrick J. Buchanan to a strong second place that embarrassed President George H.W. Bush. And in 1996, they were key to Buchanan edging then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), the front-runner who went on to claim the GOP nomination.

The more pronounced Democratic tilt among the state's independents surfaced in 2004, when they helped the party's presidential candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, carry New Hampshire's electoral votes in the general election.

The change was more marked in what Republicans here call "the 2006 tsunami" that saw Democrats capture both houses of the New Hampshire Legislature for the first time in 132 years and sweep out two incumbent GOP members of Congress.

Obama and McCain, as they have courted New Hampshire independents of late, are acutely aware that they are competing not only with rivals in their own parties, but with each other.

One of Obama's final New Hampshire stops before focusing on Iowa was in Exeter, which claims to be the birthplace of the Republican Party. He met with a small group of undeclared voters and clearly sought to touch on themes that would appeal to them.

"My goal is to campaign in a way that taps into independents, that taps into common sense and pragmatism, that doesn't demonize anybody out there," he said. "In that way I hope I can create a working majority for change."

McCain frequently highlights his ability to work with a Democratic majority in Congress, a message more pleasing to centrists than partisan Republicans.

At a recent visit to a high-tech company in Salem -- shortly after McCain was endorsed by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat-turned-independent -- he bragged that he could march into the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and say, "Harry, let's sit down and fix Social Security."

McCain told reporters after the event that he sensed "some movement" among independents, but acknowledged that he was not sure whether it was "wishful thinking or reality."

His advisors acknowledge that independents, despite his courtship, are unlikely to flock to the current McCain campaign in the massive numbers that marked the 2000 vote. But the McCain camp can live with that.

"The last time, when [undeclared voters] moved as a pack, it meant we won by 19 [percentage] points," said McCain advisor Charles Black. "We just want to win by one point."

In conversations with voters, it is clear that McCain's strong support for an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq has alienated some independents.

Power company lineman Brad Soucie, 32, of Canterbury said he would have been "a McCain man, no questions asked," in another election year. "I just think with McCain, there might be a little too much more of the same. . . . The big chest, kind of world-police mentality," said Soucie, a relative newcomer to the state who had not decided on a candidate.

For others, the Democratic field is more exciting.

Carol Walker Aten, who heads an Exeter nonprofit, says she still admires McCain's independence, which drew her to him in 2000. But she had narrowed her choice to Democrats Obama and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. "We really need a change," she said.

Indra Edmonds, 40, a stay-at-home mom who voted for McCain in 2000, said, "He's not the same person" now.

"He struck me as the guy out to meet America on his bus the first time around," said Edmonds, who lives in Strafford. "This time around, he's using different tactics. He doesn't seem as enthusiastic and fresh."

She backs Obama, saying he's "younger, he's still more positive and he hasn't been there so long that he's bitter or negative."

She said she devoured Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," as she had McCain's autobiography -- and found similarities between the two. "I like their character; they're not big-government people," she said.

Though she was not budging from Obama, she added that, when the New Hampshire primary is over, "if it comes down to McCain versus a different Democrat, I'm back with McCain."
Howie P.S.: H/t to Mr. Smith.


"Senator Obama's Barber Shop" (video)

buzzflashnews, video (03:56):
Come with and take a visit to Senator Barack Obama's barber shop, home of the "Obama Cut." If you can judge a man by his barber shop, Obama's a regular guy, talking sports -- and still using the same barber after 13 years. So open the door and learn about the best cut you'll get for $20, as visits Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.


"Precinct Captain Matt Tapscott 12/29/07" (video)

BarackObamadotcom, video (02:51):
Matt Tapscott of Des Moines hit the streets of his neighborhood to canvass and speak with his neighbors about Senator Obama.


"Ready to Lead on Day One?"

Susan Rice (Huffington Post):
Senator Clinton today (12/26) launched her campaign's closing argument based on the theme "Big Challenges, Real Solutions: Time to Pick a President." Her message is that only she has the experience and the readiness to lead on Day One. Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson could justifiably take issue with this message.
But, it is not directed not at them. Her target, rather, is Barack Obama whom Bill Clinton deemed a "roll of the dice," his own far lesser foreign policy experience as a presidential candidate notwithstanding.

Is Senator Clinton really better suited than Senator Obama to lead on Day One?

Clinton argues her years as First Lady give her unprecedented insight into foreign policy and governing. But what would she do as president on Day One and thereafter?

So far, Senator Clinton has said she would convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draft a plan to start withdrawing our forces from Iraq within 60 days and send her husband and a suitably senior Republican (TBD after George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell demurred) on a listening tour of the world.

Beyond these statements, we know relatively little about whether, on foreign policy, Senator Clinton in fact has "real solutions" to our "big challenges."

Senator Clinton is right about this: President Bush will leave behind an unprecedented mess. An ill-conceived and disastrous war in Iraq, an emboldened Iran, a reconstituted and more diffuse Al Qaeda 2.0, frayed alliances, damaged international institutions, an over-stressed military, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, a coddled Pakistani leader on the precipice, accelerating climate change, democracy demagogued, China rising without much attention much less constraint, Russia growing more autocratic and provocative, going on five years of genocide in Darfur, and the moral detritus of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, torture, the abuse of habeas corpus and warrantless wiretaps.

The next American president will have a serious job to do to clean up this mess.

He or she will need exceptional judgment, vision and energy to do so. He or she will need to be unbound by conventional wisdom and unfettered by the need to defend the successes and to obscure the failures of any previous administration.

He or she will also need concrete, credible and bold policy prescriptions for how to tackle these pressing problems and be open with the American people about those policies while still a candidate, so that the voters can elect a president with a clear mandate to govern.

Senator Obama has been comprehensive and exhaustive over the course of the campaign in laying out his foreign policy. Voters don't have to guess what he will do on these issues. They just need to listen and read.

Barack Obama has outlined his vision of American leadership and his approach to national security policy in major speeches delivered in April, October, and December as well as in his article in Foreign Affairs. He understands that, in the 21st Century, America's security and prosperity is inextricably linked to the security and well-being of people in far-flung parts of the world.

Obama, however, has gone beyond broad vision to share with voters detailed plans:

Having opposed the Iraq war from the start, Obama was the first major candidate to set forth a comprehensive plan to redeploy our forces safely and press Iraqis to achieve the necessary political progress. His Iraq War De-escalation Act introduced in January 2007 was embraced by the Senate Democratic leadership in the Senate and remains the basis for their primary legislative vehicle to end the war.

In September 2007, Obama elaborated his Iraq strategy, making clear that he would plan to withdraw combat forces at the responsible pace of one to two brigades a month, with the aim of having all of our combat brigades out within 16 months. Obama has been very specific about the means to achieve political reconciliation as well as the economic and humanitarian steps he would take to avert a worst-case scenario in Iraq and to build the kind of political consensus that's essential to end the conflict. Obama was also very clear that he would leave no permanent bases in Iraq. To the extent that that there will be a need for a small residual presence for a period of time, it would be focused on protecting our embassy and our civilian operations, and on targeting al Qaeda operatives inside Iraq.

On a range of other pressing national security issues, Obama has been specific about how he would govern on Day One:

From counter terrorism, Iran, the Middle East, revitalizing and modernizing America's Armed Forces, supporting America's veterans, reversing climate change and achieving energy security, and reducing the nuclear threat and the risk of proliferation of WMD to tackling poverty, underdevelopment and supporting democracy, combating HIV/AIDS, Obama has been very direct, detailed and comprehensive about his "real solutions" to "big challenges."

Like all the major candidates, Senator Clinton laid out in broad strokes her foreign policy approach inForeign Affairs. This followed a general speech she delivered in June at the Center for a New American Security.

But with the recent exceptions of energy and climate change and HIV/AIDS, she has revealed little during the campaign about how precisely she would tackle pressing national security challenges.

On counter-terrorism, she has said virtually nothing as a presidential candidate.

On Iraq, until the week before Christmas, Senator Clinton declined to specify a timeline for withdrawal of US forces. Then, finally, she embraced Obama's timeline of one to two combat brigades a month. However, she remains ambiguous about permanent bases, signaling in Foreign Affairs there may be a need for some in Kurdistan. She has said on the one hand that she would not act to stop a potential genocide in Iraq but on the other that she would leave behind a presumably larger residual that would have broad responsibilities, including going after other terrorist organizations elsewhere in the region. It is not clear if she means Hezbollah or Hamas, but Senator Clinton leaves the door open to doing more than going after al Qaeda.

On Iran, we know Senator Clinton supported Kyl-Lieberman and condemns Obama's readiness to conduct direct and unconditional diplomacy with Iran, obviously after due preparation, at the Presidential level. Beyond saying she opposes a "rush to war" (the same language she used on Iraq) and favors robust diplomacy, we don't know what precisely Senator Clinton would do about Iran on Day One or thereafter.

Thus, on many of the major foreign policy issues of the day, Senator Clinton is, in effect, asking us to take on faith that she has the right policy approaches because, as she asserts, she has the experience to lead.

She may be right, but that is what Bill Clinton might more aptly call a "roll of the dice."

Equally important as electing a president with the right policies is choosing one who starting on Day One can unify our divided nation so that we can tackle pressing domestic and global challenges. To be strong, we must be unified. Without unity, our nation must confront challenges and threats with one hand tied behind our back. Unity requires more than a governing mandate but also the vision and the wisdom to heal rather than to polarize. Poll after poll shows Senator Obama is the Democrat best positioned to win a substantial victory over the Republican nominee and to do so with significant support from Independents and Republicans, in part because he carries none of the baggage of our bitterly partisan present and past and has made unity, healing and hope the hallmarks of his leadership.

Finally, when a new president takes office in January 2009, he or she will have a brief window of opportunity to change the current dismal state of America's relations with friends and foes alike. The world will give us a fleeting fresh look. Whether we can capitalize on this opportunity to garner the good will and cooperation of peoples and nations in all corners of the world could determine America's fate as a 21st century world leader. It is an opportunity that we must recognize may not come again.

At a critical moment, when America needs to show new policies and a new face to the world, who better than Barack Obama's?


Obama's final Iowa arguments

Chris Cillizza's "The Fix" (WaPo):
For much of the last week, Barack Obama has alleged that the series of independent organizations spending money on behalf of his main Democratic rivals in Iowa raise real questions about those candidates' commitment to serious reform of the political process.
Today (Saturday), Obama campaign manager David Plouffe put out a memo arguing that "this unprecedented level of outside spending could impact the outcome in Iowa and New Hampshire, and we believe voters in these states deserve to know exactly how much is being spent, where it's coming from, and who's benefiting."

According to the Obama memo, two pro-John Edwards groups -- the beneficently named Working 4 Working Americans and the Alliance for a New America -- have spent nearly $2.1 million on direct mail, radio and television ads. Three groups promoting Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers and EMILY's List -- have dropped $2.6 million, including, according to the memo, $309,000 against Obama.

While assuring supporters that the Obama campaign has the "financial and organizational resources to compete aggressively in all four early states and through February 5th," Plouffe adds: "There is no doubt that the size of the spending and its underhanded nature deserve further scrutiny."

Given the amount of time the Obama campaign has spent on highlighting the outside spending on behalf of other groups and the ties that one of these groups has to a former Edwards senior aide (Nick Baldick is advising the Alliance as first reported in the Sunday Fix), they clearly believe this is a winning issue for them.

But is it?

In The Fix's experiences covering campaigns, it is the exception -- not the rule -- that the source of funds for so-called "independent expenditure" ads actually winds up making a difference in a race. The truth of the matter is that average voters simply do not follow elections that closely and much of the back and forth is lost on them -- aided by the complexity of campaign finance laws.

Ask yourself this question: Does the average Iowa voters know what a "527" is? Can they differentiate that from a 501(c)(4)? We're guessing the answer to both questions is no. Do voters have a sense that massive sums of money are being spent on this election in Iowa? Absolutely. Do they know the intricacies of whose spending for whom and why? Probably not.

Obama's campaign clearly believes this presidential race is different. And there is some evidence to suggest they are correct. Because of the amount of money being spent, voters are much more educated about the process than they would typically be if it was a House or Senate race. Poll after poll shows voters are following this election more closely than any one in modern history, and in Iowa in particular voters tend to know far more about the ins and out of a campaign due to their quadrennial role in picking the president.

The final factor that could make the caucuses the exception to the rule, where the Obama and Edwards campaigns' efforts to paint their man as a true reformer who can bring about real change in the status quo, will actually pay off. As the race has entered its final week, Obama and Edwards have battled hard for the mantle of reform, and Obama sees the outside money being spent on Edwards's behalf as a way to tip undecided voters his way.

It's a major gamble, however, to spend precious time in the few remaining days of the campaign talking about the origins of campaign cash -- a topic that usually glazes over the eyes of the average voter.
Obama and his campaign team have proved us wrong before and, if he winds up on top on Jan. 3, they'll have done it again.
The Swamp (Chicago Tribune's political blog):
Obama questions Edwards' credibility as a populist--KEOKUK, Iowa—In the closing weeks of the campaign, Barack Obama has concentrated more on winning over voters wavering between him and John Edwards. On Saturday, Obama grew more pointed in criticism of Edwards as the Illinois senator argued he is the best-equipped agent of change in rallies in small towns across southeastern Iowa.
Obama suggested that the moderate, sunny campaign Edwards waged unsuccessfully for president four years ago undercuts the credibility of the populist campaign he is now waging as a fighter of moneyed special interests.

“Part of the problem John would have in the general election is that the issues he is taking on now are not the issues or the things that he said four years ago, which always causes problems in general elections,” Obama said at a rally in an elementary school gymnasium in Keokuk, Iowa.

Campaigning in Washington, Iowa, Edwards announced that he would bar anyone who has done lobbying work for a corporation or a foreign government from working in his White House. Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz said the ban would apply for lobbying work going back up to five years.

“We will not replace corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats,” Edwards said.

As part of an ethics plan Obama released earlier in the year, he has proposed more limited restrictions on hiring former lobbyists for his White House. Obama has said he would ban White House staff who have lobbied in the prior two years from doing work on regulations or contracts relating to the industries they had represented.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton derided Edwards’ proposal as a last-minute ploy in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

“Early in this campaign, Barack Obama introduced the furthest-reaching lobbying reform proposal of any candidate in this race, and we appreciate that John Edwards is now following his lead," Burton said.
"The truth is, in his six years as a U.S. Senator, John Edwards did not propose or accomplish a single thing to reduce the power of lobbyists while Barack Obama passed the most sweeping lobbying reform since Watergate."
First Read (MSNBC):
Obama says he's the most electable Democrat--FORT MADISON, IA -- Obama pushed his electability argument a step further at his second stop here today, highlighting Clinton's unfavorable ratings -- while claiming that he could win enough Republican support to create a coalition for governing if he were to win the presidency.

"There's one Democrat who beats every Republican potential opponent, and that's me. I beat Giuliani, I beat McCain, I beat Thompson, I beat Huckabee -- I beat whoever else they are planning to throw at me," he said.

Obama added, "And the reason that I beat them all -- and Hillary doesn't and Edwards doesn't -- is because I get more support from independents and I even get some Republican support, despite the fact that I've got the most progressive track record on many issues of any of the candidates."

Obama went a step further, contrasting his favorability ratings with Hillary Clinton's unfavorable ones nationally and played on the fears of Democrats that the election in 2008 could be a repeat of the one in 2004.

Obama paused before he drew his contrast, conscious of how his words would come off. "We can't win an election with a candidate... Let me say it this way, because I want to be fair…" He went on to say, "We are less likely to win an election that starts off with half the country not wanting to vote for that candidate." And in what seemed to be a dig at Edwards, he said, "We are less likely also to win an election with somebody who had one set of positions four years ago and has almost entirely different positions four years later. We've been through that."

In the most recent national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, both Obama and Clinton bested their potential GOP rivals, yet Obama did so by larger margins than Clinton did. Clinton also had net-negative favorability rating in the survey.

Making a reference to the attacks leveled against Senator John Kerry in 2004 for being a flip-flopper, Obama added, "It's a problem, and so if you are concerned with electability having somebody who has been consistent, who has opposed the war from the start so the opponent cant say he was for the war just like I was." (Of course, Obama's rivals would likely point to his own changes on issues -- like the death penalty, gun control, and health care -- from the 1990s.)

At his next town hall in Keokuk, Obama appeared more comfortable making clearer distinctions, singling out Edwards and Clinton by name. "Part of the problem John would have in a general election is the issues he's taken on now are not the issues or the things that he said four years ago, which always causes problems in general elections," Obama said of Edwards, referring to his vote for the bankruptcy bill and the trade deal with China.

Regarding Clinton, he said, "And Senator Clinton doesn't beat all five of them because you start off with half of the country not wanting to vote for her."

Though the conventional wisdom in Iowa is that a candidate tries to stay above the fray in the week leading up the caucuses, Obama's willingness to target the other candidates in the race may reflect the incredibly tight race in Iowa and recent polls that show both Edwards and Clinton rising in recent weeks.

A spokesman for a rival campaign said of Obama's attacks, "The Los Angeles Times [poll] was the second in a week to show him sinking to third place in Iowa. Is it mere coincidence that he's going negative or turning up the heat and retooling his stump speech as his numbers began to sink?"

To stress its electability argument, Obama's campaign released a series of poll numbers that showed him leading Republicans in a two-way race in a general election.

But even Obama acknowledged that for a progressive Democrats to win wide margins among conservative Republicans may be a pipe dream. "I understand that there are going to be Republican operatives that don't want to know what I'm going to say. I'm not trying to persuade Rush Limbaugh that I'm going to be a good president; you know I know he's not voting for me. I'm not trying to you know persuade the chief lobbyist for Exxon mobile about why we need to free ourselves from the dependence on foreign oil. He's not going to be persuaded," Obama said.

In talking about the power of hope, Obama also stepped outside of himself to take a look at his own candidacy in which his race could be a handicap if he were to run as the first African-American president.

"I'm a black guy running for president named Barack Obama. I must be hopeful."


Barack Obama on "Meet the Press" this morning

Barack Obama is on the second half hour of "Meet the Press" today, airing in Seattle @ 6am on KING5 and at 10am KONG16. Check your local listings. I prefer to call this show "Meet Tim Russert."


"Obama Pitches Undecided Voters in Iowa"

BURLINGTON, Iowa — Barack Obama sealed the deal Saturday with Hal Geren.

Geren entered an Obama campaign event unsure of whom to support in next week's Iowa caucuses. He left as an Obama backer, convinced that the Illinois senator has what it takes to win the election and shake up Washington.
"I think he's a lot tougher than people think," said Geren, a 56-year-old postal service employee. "He's not afraid to stand up."

Obama spent much of Saturday courting undecided Iowa voters with an argument that he has the political skills to win the presidential election but none of the baggage carried by Democratic rivals John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton. He boasted that a recent poll showed he could beat the five major Republican candidates, while Edwards or Clinton could not.

"Part of the problem John Edwards would have in a general election is that the issues he's taking out now are not the things he was saying four years ago, which always causes problems in the general election," Obama told about 400 people at a Keokuk high school. "And Senator Clinton doesn't beat all five of them because you start out with half the country not wanting to vote for her."

Obama argued that his message of inclusion and consensus amounts to "a politics of addition" that will attract independents and even some Republicans in November.

That argument resonated with Brian Hagmeier, who attended an Obama speech wearing a T-shirt that said "I'm the Republican Barack warned you about." Hagmeier said he has long been a Republican, but he is turned off by the party's candidates this year and likes what he hears from Obama.

"He's talking about just being an American and furthering the cause of America," said Hagmeier, an industrial technician from Coralville.

A poll released Dec. 20 by Zogby International showed Obama beating GOP presidential contenders Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson. But other national polls have shown both Obama and Clinton beating some Republicans but not others.

Obama did not spell out where he thinks Edwards has flip-flopped since his 2002 vice presidential campaign, but in the past he has noted Edwards' vote for the resolution authorizing the Iraq war — a vote Edwards now says he regrets. Edwards also supported the "No Child Left Behind" initiative but now says it should be overhauled.

The Illinois senator also rejected arguments that he's too nice or too inexperienced to fight special interests in Washington. Obama said listening to other views and looking for common ground is not a sign of weakness.

People who say he needs more seasoning in Washington just want to "boil all the hope out of him" so he sounds just like everybody else, Obama said.

Another undecided voter, Steve Rippeteau of Fort Madison, said he was still torn between voting for Obama and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. But he cited one key difference between the two — Obama's personality.

"He can beat the other candidates and he has the charisma," said Rippeteau, a retired railroad conductor.


Win the Washington State Caucus!

From Mark Milo (
Neighborhood groups are now forming to get Obama supporters to the caucus on Feb 9th! The goal is that a team in each neighborhood or community will contact all the known Obama supporters and discover all the unknown Obama supporters and make sure they get to the caucus. Obama can only win Washington if we show up on Feb 9th.

Here are some neighborhood meetings that are already scheduled:

Vashon Island
Saturday, Jan 5, 1pm, Vashon Library, 17210 Vashon Hwy S.W.

West Seattle
Sunday, Jan 6, West Seattle Public Library, 2306 42nd Ave. S.W
(Caucus training during second part of the meeting.)

Sunday, Jan 6 and Sunday Jan 13th

Capitol Hill
Thursday, Jan 10, 5:45p.m. Capital Hill Library 425 Harvard Ave. E. .

Queen Anne - West (98119)
Saturday, Jan 12, 1pm, Baker Residence, 2658 10th Ave W

46th LD (parts of North Green Lake, Greenwood, Northgate, Lake City, Wedgewood, and Laurelhurst)
Saturday Jan 12, 1pm, North East Seattle Public Library,
6801 35th Ave NE

Central District / Leschi
Saturday, Jan 12, 4:30 pm,
Douglas-Truth Branch Seattle Public Library
2300 E. Yesler

Saturday, Jan 12, 3pm, Morehouse Residence, 2652 A NW 59th




If you don't see a meeting in your area, contact me and we'll get something going in the next 2 weeks.
If you see a friend's neighborhood contact them and encourage them to attend. And, if you're having a meeting in your area and it's not on this list, please get it posted on and send the info to me so I can pass it along. We can also supply you with lists of Obama supporters in your areas and neighborhood walking lists as well.

2008 is almost here....


Barack Obama on "Meet the Press" this morning.

Barack Obama is on the second half hour of "Meet the Press" today, airing in Seattle @ 6am on KING5 and at 10am KONG16. Check your local listings. I prefer to call this show "Meet Tim Russert."


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Obama robocall: Clinton's "misleading attacks"

Ben Smith:

Obama RoboCall - Twango

Obama's campaign is out with a sharp-edged robocall from an Ames physician, "Dr. Bob" (his last name isn't clearly audible in this recording), pushing back on Clinton's criticism of his health care plan.

The opening: "Hillary Clinton and her allies have launched misleading attacks."

This call, recorded last night in Fort Dodge, is a sign of the fact that he's waging an all-out, two-front war against Clinton and Edwards, with both of their allies amplifying their attacks. Some polls have cast him as the frontrunner, and those attacks reflect that dynamic.

This call counters negative mailings and radio ads from AFSCME, the public workers union, which is spending heavily on Hillary's behalf.

"Clinton would force people to buy insurance, even if they can't afford it," he says.

Rough transcript -- the sound isn't perfect -- after the jump.

My name is Dr Bob ???, and I'm a physician in Ames, Iowa.

Hillary Clinton and her Allies have launched misleading attacks on Barack Obama's.
healthcare plan.

Well it's time to set the record straight

Bill Clinton's own secretary of labor looked at both of their plans and said that Obama's plan will insure more people than Hillary Clinton's.

The key difference Clinton would force people to buy insurance even they can't afford it.

Obama says the reason people don't have insurance is because it costs too much. His plan saves the typical family $2500 dollars per year.

That's how Barack Obama will cover everyone.

Forget the negative attacks, just the facts at

Paid for by Obama for America. 888-622-6242

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New Iowa ad: "Hope"

Video, (00:30).

Howie P.S. Some of the last words spoken by Obama in the ad are borrowed from Howard Dean's 2004 campaign.

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Evergreen Volunteers for Obama Getting Organized

Howie Intro: Obama supporters in the Evergreen state have had a website for some time: Washington For Obama. I also received this notice today:
Obama supporters, Barack may just win in the important state of Iowa ! Let's gather together to network and watch the Iowa caucus results at the new grassroots Obama Volunteer Office in Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington on January 3rd.

Click here to RSVP

The event will run from 7pm until 10pm at the 3rd Floor of 614 First Avenue in Seattle.

The volunteer office is now open noon to 8pm M-F and Saturday noon-4pm, and need volunteers especial ly for 4pm-8pm telephone outreach to prepare Obama supporters to win our own caucus. Please drop in to help, or email . Office website : . Office phone (206) 529-3859.



Michelle Obama (Baltimore Sun):
“To me, it’s now or never,” Michelle was quoted as saying in a Vanity Fair article released to the media this week. “We’re not going to keep running and running and running, because at some point you do get the life beaten out of you. It hasn’t been beaten out of us yet. We need to be in there now, while we’re still fresh and open and fearless and bold. You lose some of that over time. Barack is not cautious yet; he’s ready to change the world, and we need that. So if we’re going to be cautious, I’d rather let somebody else do it, because that’s a big investment of time, just to do it the same way. There’s an inconvenience factor there, and if we’re going to uproot our lives, then let’s hopefully make a real big dent in what it means to be president of the United States.”
Howie P.S.: The Vanity Fair "article" referenced above is really a rather long interview.

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"Washington's Presidential Caucuses and Primary: Access, Democracy, Relevancy"

Noemie Maxwell (Washblog):
PRECINCT CAUCUSES: February 9, 1PM, many neighborhood locations.
State Democratic Party website will feature a tool for finding local caucuses (starting early January).
PRIMARY: February 19
WA Secretary of State Primary Info
WA Secretary of State Online Voter Registration
The primary and caucuses are for the voting public, not just party activists. Everyone who is registered to vote and who declares as a Democrat or Republican can vote.
As a Precinct Committee Officer I've been getting questions about Washington's presidential primary and caucuses: are we having both this year? Where and when are they? Is it worth participating?

The way we do the primaries and caucuses has been changing in recent years. The process also differs by political party. And the recent contentious public debate on related partisan issues has caused more confusion. It's complex enough that, even though I took part in the 2004 presidential caucuses and am helping to help organize local caucuses this year, I've had to do a bit of work to feel confident that I'm answering people's questions without misinforming them. I'm guessing others are on a quest similar to mine -- judging from how many people are Googling into previous Washblog stories on the issue.

The "primary" question: Does my participation matter?
The big question I hear from people on Washington's primary and caucuses is whether there's a point to participating. Does the primary mean anything? Are the caucuses open to the input of regular people -- or only to party insiders? If you vote in one, should you vote in the other too? Is the whole process manipulated by the party elites to produce a foregone conclusion? Is everything scheduled so late that it won't matter what we do in Washington anyway?

I've asked the same questions myself, although my starting assumptions are somewhere between those of unquestioning Democratic Party supporters (there aren't many of those around, actually) and the most disillusioned people I've talked with. I'm skeptical of the Democratic Party as an organization, but I see that it is grounded in principles of democracy and sustainability, operated with significant grassroots participation, and generally run for public benefit. I'm not happy with the way the process has been set up this year. But I believe my participation in the caucuses will be meaningful. I may skip the Democratic primary in protest. If I were voting Republican, I might decide differently. More on all this, below.

The image to the left, from the Washington Democratic Party, lays out the Democratic caucus-convention cycle with nice parsimony. It is, perhaps, a bit West-Washington centric. I understand that some areas in eastern Washington may select delegates to the state convention at the County Convention. Click on the image for a larger version.

The Republican cycle is organized differently, but the general idea for both parties is similar. A large number of delegates and alternates are elected at the neighborhood caucuses on February 9. Those delegates then attend subsequent caucuses where they vote amongst themselves to elect smaller numbers of delegates. By the end of the caucus-convention cycle a small number of Washington delegates, 97 Democrats and 40 Republicans, attend their respective national conventions to join with other delegates from around the country to elect the parties' nominees.

The caucus v. primary democracy question
The caucuses have been criticized as events that exclude large numbers of voters, while the primaries have been extolled as inclusive. This is a view put forward by people I respect, including Greg Rodriguez, the former Chair of King County Democrats who wrote here on Washblog that the caucuses are a futile attempt at democracy, and by Steve Zemke of Majority Rules blog, who was the campaign organizer for Initiative 99, which brought us the primary system to begin with. With due respect, I believe that this a mischaracterization -- at least in terms of the Democratic caucuses.

I'll go with the view of Krist Novoselic of US Fair Vote (and formerly bassist for Nirvana), who was one of the Democratic committee members who voted for the caucus process this year. Novoselic wrote on Washblog back in May that the 2008 caucuses will be a real exercise in democratic participation. "These local events," Novoselic wrote, "will fill with citizens eager to nominate candidates for president. We're in an age of apathy and we should not assault this process of civic engagement."

I believe that any defense of the caucuses against the charge that they are elitist has to start with an acknowledgment that we are struggling to maintain democracy with an electoral system that is seriously messed up. The opportunity to run for President is effectively closed to anyone who presents a serious challenge to the corporate powers that control the media and pay for elections. It is effectively closed to anyone who doesn't run under the label of one of the two major parties. Our elections run on dirty money, dirty tricks, lies, smears, fear-mongering, voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression. The caucuses are part of this dysfunctional system and they have their own additional flaws (2). But they are one of the brightest spots in a faltering system. I believe they are among our most democratic institutions.

Access versus meaning
On the Democratic Party side, at least, caucuses have evolved into a series of events that begin with caucuses that are wide open to input from any registered voter who declares as a Democrat. As the cycle progresses, input and participation from all players is narrowed, increasing the relative influence of the party "machine". But our system requires the organization and power that only a party machine can deliver. Absent some profound electoral reform -- which we're not going to get between now and November, 2008, no candidate with reasonable positions on the environment, social justice, and democracy can get elected without that power behind him or her. The caucuses are a major point of entry for the input of regular citizens -- we the people, we the democracy.

Yes, the primaries are more physically accessible because they are conducted by absentee ballot. But there is a trade-off for this access. They are also much more influenced by big-money electoral politics. Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz has said that the caucus system encourages grassroots democracy and dialogue while the primary favors candidates who spend the most money on TV ads and teaches participants that politics is a solitary process. I agree. (3)

Washington's primary and caucuses are scheduled after Super Tuesday. So the presidential nominees may be known by the time we hold the first caucus on February 9. If that's the case, we'll see less citizen participation in the caucuses, and we're not likely to see the presidential candidates traveling to Washington to court us. Would this be cause to stay home on February 9? I believe not!

What if it's all over by February 9?
Why not stay home from the caucuses if the race seems run?

Well, first, it's important to remember that an apparent early result can change. That's a slim - but real - possibility, and I write about it more later on.

Even beyond these horse race considerations, the caucuses are the key event in the presidential election cycle that allows Washington citizens to organize themselves for more impact on both primaries and the November general election for President and for all other candidates. History shows that even small numbers of people who care about their community can have a decisive impact on the outcome of elections.

The caucuses are a key opportunity to organize for a successful general election and for the kind of long-term civic community relationships that are necessary to keep democracy alive. They allow like-minded neighbors to bypass the usual electoral noise of money, power, and prejudice to share political information face to face. These are not symbolic benefits. They are the kind of neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue that is essential for rebuilding the integrity of our electoral democracy. The 2004 Democratic caucus in my neighborhood was democratically beautiful.

What happens at the caucuses?
There is no need to be an expert or an experienced partisan activist to take part in the caucuses. Most participants are not. The training provided by the Democratic Party requires that each person who walks into the building will be welcomed and helped to sign in and find a seat in a section assigned to his or her precinct, and participate meaningfully in the proceedings.

The primary order of business is to elect delegates from the precincts who will go on to the next level, the legislative district caucuses, to elect a smaller number of delegates from among themselves. A larger percentage of people who attend the precinct caucuses on February 9 will have an opportunity to serve as one of these delegates. Delegates can choose to be pledged to a candidate, or can choose to remain unpledged or undecided. The delegate elections take place after everyone is given a chance to speak on behalf of a candidate for a short amount of time (perhaps 2 minutes). At my neighborhood caucus in 2004 I was amazed at how many people got up to speak intelligently, sharing information that was new to me. The process was orderly and very respectful.

Resolutions are also introduced at the precinct caucuses. Any person attending can introduce these resolutions. By way of example, here are two sample resolutions posted by Democracy for Vancouver for impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney that people can introduce on February 9th.

What if I want to participate and I can't attend the caucus?
Democrats who cannot attend the caucus because of physical disability, religious observance, or military service can file a surrogate form which allows them to both to stand for election as delegates and to vote for other delegates (by nominee preference). Republicans who are unable to attend for similar reasons can stand for election as a delegate but can't vote for other delegates. They also must contact the party to arrange for this in advance. (4) The Democrats have a delegate selection and affirmative action plan, which requires considerable outreach to the community and a robust effort to even out the playing field for gender and race. Here's the state Democratic Party page on the Caucus-Convention Cycle. Here's the state Republican Party Caucus and Convention Manual.

The primary for both parties will be held on February 19. In some areas, there will also be a special election held for other offices at the same time. All registered voters can participate, as in any election. Here's the Washington Secretary of State 2008 Presidential Primary Page. The last day to register to vote for this election (with some exceptions) is January 19. Here's an online registration form, available starting January 7, 2008.

The Democratic and Republican nominees for President are elected by delegates who are appointed and elected through primaries and caucuses. They are not elected directly by the citizenry at large. So what's the primary for?

For Democrats, the answer to that question in 2008 is "not much". That's because the primary is scheduled after the caucuses, when it has the least affect on candidates' momentum -- and because the Democratic Party leadership decided early in the year to not use the primary results in allocating delegates.

There was a suggestion made early in the year that the Washington's primary be moved to February 5, "Super Tuesday". That would have allowed for the momentum established in the primary to feed into the caucuses. It would have allowed for those who voted in the primary to be mailed invitations to the caucuses. (5) Dave Gibney, a Democratic State Committeeman advanced this in a Washblog article in April: Washington Needs to Hold a Presidential Primary. The current configuration leaves the Democratic primary election "orphaned", or isolated from the rest of the political cycle. However, there is still a chance that a strong result for a candidate could get some media attention and add to that candidate's momentum.

The story is a little different for Republicans voting in the February 19 primary - though not a lot.

Washington's Republican Party has 40 delegates, total, to apportion to all presidential primary candidates (out of 2,476 Republican delegates nationally). They've settled on a complex formula to decide how these delegates will be pledged to individual presidential candidates. (6) By using both primary and caucus results to apportion that small number of delegates -- and by electing a quarter of their delegates at the state convention --after the primary and caucuses are all over -- the Republicans are diluting the impact of both the primary and the caucuses. I think their system maximizes party choice over citizen choice so much that I don't see much citizen choice left over. The Democratic use of the caucus system alone allows for caucus votes to have more impact -- enhancing both the advantages and flaws of the caucus system.

It is unfortunate that we're holding a $9.7 million primary that has, practically speaking, very little effect. Many people may remember that, in 2004, the presidential primary was canceled in a special session of the legislature. So we didn't have a primary that year at all. I am hearing that the legislature didn't cancel the primary again because neither party wanted to take the political heat for taking the primary "choice" away from voters. I don't know if that's true. It seems plausible.

A delegate situation
The presidential nominees for the parties are chosen by delegates. So it's worth dwelling for a moment on our state's delegate situation. How many delegates do we get? What does this mean for people backing Democratic or Republican candidates?

Washington has more Democrats than Republicans in statewide and national office -- and we've voted for the Democratic candidate for President in recent elections. So Democrats get more voice in the matter of choosing a presidential nominee for their party than Republicans do. Nationally, 4,367 Democratic delegates will vote for their presidential nominee. Ninety-seven Washington State Democratic delegates, about 2.2% of that total, will take part in that process. On the other side of the aisle, we have 2,476 Republican delegates voting for their party's nominee. Forty Washington State Republicans, about 1.6% of that total, will take part.

More on the delegate role
Washington's Democratic and Republican leadership decided back in March to keep the state's primaries and caucuses scheduled late in comparison with those of other states. The Democratic nominee needs 2,184 delegate votes (out of 4,367) to win. It will be possible for one nominee to have that many votes pledged to them by February 9. And even if there isn't an outright winner, it is likely that one or two strong front-runners will have emerged. I doubt that, by the time our state finalizes the caucus process on May 17, we won't have an apparent winner or a clear front-runner.

If it happens this way, it's still possible that something unexpected can change everything. A candidate can commit a major political blunder -- or their support can unexpectedly weaken. This happened with Howard Dean early in 2004. That could cause two candidates with close numbers to reverse their positions. Or even take the race in a completely unexpected direction. Delegates for several different candidates could pool their votes and put their collective weight behind a compromise choice. In these kinds of fluid circumstances, a single delegate advantage could make all the difference-- and all of this can influence the decisions of people in states who are voting even later in the game.

Staying home because the election seems like a done deal means giving up the chance to help add to the political weight behind a candidate you support -- and his or her platform. Numbers matter. Some attribute Howard Dean's Chairmanship of the DNC, for example, to his strong delegate presence in 2004. If Edwards or Kucinich delegates have a strong contingent at the National Convention -- or even make it possible through vote trading for one candidate to pull ahead of another -- are we are more likely to have a Department of Peace -- or more action on poverty in 2009? Possibly.

The most important reason to participate is that civic participation is what makes democracy work. The antidote to a manipulated electorate and a cheated majority is civic participation. The "party machine" that is so reviled in the media is actually -- on both sides of the aisle -- a major opportunity for ordinary citizens to bring back democracy.

The precincts, the precinct caucuses, and the position of Precinct Committee Officer are mandated in Washington state law because they form a democratic foundation for the two parties that have immense political power. This structure is not perfect is the true grassroots. Its power is waiting to be claimed by the citizenry.