Thursday, May 31, 2007

Florida and the New(t) Republicans

by Tally

In a discussion of Newt Gingrich’s analysis of the Republican Party as stated in a recent New Yorker article, Kos says the following:

Gingrich, on the other hand, appears to sense that Americans are disgusted
at Bush and GOP incompetence and expect government to work for them. Katrina and Iraq have driven that sentiment home.

Therefore, if his party is to remain relevant, it must recreate itself not as the party of smaller government, but the party of modernized government.

But this has already taken place in Florida. Learn more below.

Tally's diary :: ::

Many of us have written about Charlie Crist, and how he essentially appears to be acting like a progressive Democrat. Limelite, bejammin075, T Rex, cornball, britain33, meowmissy, creepers, and yours truly have all commented on this phenomenon, if a bit skeptically at times. Both gatordem and I have diaried a little more explicitly about our doubts and concerns and our belief that Crist is very politically astute.

The bottom line is that our new governor, unlike our president, knows how to govern competently and knows how to steal the rhetoric of the Democrats. A while back I posted the following quote from Crist:

"What I pay more attention to is what I hear from people on the street," Crist
said. "Their encouragement, their critique or their compliments are all
appreciated because they are the boss, as I say all the time. It's much more
important to get it from them, eye to eye, and understand what really is in
their hearts, what their needs and desires are."

As I said at the time, "Who else could get away with a comment like that?"

In other words, Crist has already done in Florida what Kos wrote about:

Gingrich isn't talking about a slight or subtle ideological shift here, he's talking about erasing the biggest fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats, and doing so by adopting our position.

That’s been the standard joke ever since the legislative session began: "Charlie Crist is the best Democratic governor ever elected."

Kos wondered if Gingrich would enter the presidential race and use the "Sarkozy Strategy", i.e., running against Bush rather than the Democrats. This would set up an intense intra-party struggle within the GOP.

But Crist was able to win without this apparently happening in Florida. His defeat of Tom Gallagher (who ran as a religious conservative) in the primary was decisive and not particularly divisive. Personally, I have been trying to push this concept of opening up a split in the Republican Party of Florida, but it hasn't really been getting a lot of traction.

There seemed to be some hope over Crist telling the state Republican Party not to push the state's anti-gay marriage amendment and his fallout with State Attorney General Bill McCollum over restoration of felon rights. But these seemed to fade away without much being made of it and I haven’t seen anything else to indicate a split between the pragmatists and the fundamentalists.

You might remember then Congressman Bill McCollum from Bill Clinton's impeachment. He seemed to have impeccable conservative credentials. But then he refused to pull out of the Republican primary for the open Florida senate seat in 2004 and was savaged by Bush's people for daring to get in the way of Karl Rove's Cuban strategy of having Mel Martinez run.

One of the results of that dustup is the now seemingly incongruous situation where McCollum is Rudy Giuliani's campaign manager in Florida in order to get a shot at being Attorney General in a Giuliani administration. While we all thought McCollum was a fundamentalist it turns out he’s as pragmatic as the next guy.

What we have to understand is that the majority of Republicans in Florida, just like the majority of Republicans in the country, are not fundamentalist Christians. They might give lip service to cultural issues, but those aren't the sine qua non of their votes.

Another key player in the Republican Party of Florida is State House Speaker Marco Rubio. He's young, good looking, and ambitious. He was the force behind moving the Florida primary up. He wants to follow Crist as governor and is praying that the Republican nominee will pick Crist as vice president. Rubio anticipated Gingrich’s approach by years. One of the first things I ever diaried about on DKos was Rubio's 100 Ideas Project. I still defy anyone to watch the promotional video and tell me it isn’t exactly what you want from a progressive legislature. In this regard, both Rubio and Crist have been working from the same populist playbook.

And guess what. When I went to the 100 Ideas site to get the correct link for the video I found that the site’s been updated. And what should I find but a new video of Newt Gingrich praising Rubio and the 100 Ideas Project (same link as above)!

So there you have it. If you want to see the new face of the Republican Party, all you have to do is look at Florida! Giuliani has already said he intends to concentrate on winning it's primary next January 29.

Which leaves us Democrats struggling with Dr. Dean's intransigence. Please read gatordem's plea to make the Democratic primary count and send a message to the DNC about it.

If you are a Florida blogger you might want to be signed up for the Blogger Luncheon at the FDP's Jefferson Jackson Weekend event June 9 & 10 .

If you're serious about organizing in Florida then you might want to be signed up for the DFA training in Tampa June 30 and July 1.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: Bill Richardson

A month ago, I laid out my plan to review our candidates for President to try to determine who I was going to support for the nomination. I started with Hillary Clinton and followed with John Edwards. Last week it was Barack Obama.

I was going to cover the so called "second tier" candidates in one diary and then do a review. But thanks to my friend, Robert Becker, Bill Richardson's Iowa State Director, today's diary will cover New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

If you haven't seen the other diaries in this series, it would help to give them a quick look. And after that, here we go...

As I discussed in the overview to this series:

There are two top level criteria I am going to use to evaluate the candidates. The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to win the general election.

In my attempts to evaluate candidates chances to win the nomination, I am going to look at these factors:

  • Values projected in the Message
  • Stance on issues
  • Fundraising ability
  • Staff competence
  • Primary strategy
  • Does this candidate make me feel it?

Let's take a look at the values projected in Bill Richardson's message. In a speech titled The New Realism and the Rebirth of American Leadership in February, Richardson said this
Realists like Truman and Eisenhower understood that defending Europe and ourselves from the Soviets required a strong military. But they also understood that we could not lead our allies if they did not wish to follow.

These and subsequent American Presidents knew the importance of moral leadership. Our remarkable military and our prosperous economy gave us the power to lead. But our commitment to human dignity – including our willingness to struggle against our own prejudices -- inspired others to follow.

In remarks to the Arab American Institute at their Kahlil Gibran "Spirit of Humanity" Awards Dinnerin April, Richardson had this to say
We want to make this world more peaceful, more understanding and more livable for all people; so that everyone may fulfill their dreams and live in a world respectful of race, ethnicity, sex and religious tolerance.

America should lead the world in spearheading a Middle East, North Africa, and Asian multi-national Marshall Plan that includes support for public education in the Muslim world which is the best way to mitigate the role of Salafist madrasas that foment extremism. We must help those Arabs and Muslims who promote a vision of peace, prosperity, tolerance and respect for human dignity, who form the overwhelming majority of the Arab and Muslim world, as opposed to the apocalyptic fantasies offered by a vocal minority of jihadists.

Here at home, we must adhere and protect the words, spirit and life of our Constitution for America is not just a country, it is a belief. A belief in a right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. A belief that every man and woman has the right to elect their government and a belief in freedom, justice and equality. America is the land of opportunity, but we have much to do to ensure that America is the land of equality of opportunity.

And at the New America Foundation this month, Richardson had this to say
Today, I am going to stake my claim to being the next president, the Energy President, on the concept of a fast, comprehensive energy revolution in the United States

Here are the principles that guide my thinking.

Our energy policy solutions must fight global warming, which threatens human, ecological, and economic catastrophe literally everywhere on earth.

Our energy policy solutions must wean us from oil, because any oil addiction perverts our nation’s strategic objectives, limits our options, and costs us both blood and treasure.

Next, in meeting this challenge, we must support and help people, communities, industries, and small businesses who could be hurt by a careless transition – but are being terribly hurt by soaring prices today.

Further, I am a market-oriented Democrat. I want to set clear regulatory standards and systems and incentives, and allow the markets to respond.

Finally, we must keep the U.S. at the forefront of science and technology development – exploring frontiers, finding solutions to our energy and climate challenges.

These are my bedrock principles -- they are not subject to negotiation.

Let's look at how the values expressed in the speeches translate into Governor Richardson's stance on the issues. Of course the paramount issue of the day is Iraq. In a recent CBS News/New York Times Poll, 31% named the war in Iraq as the most important problem facing this country today. No other issue even reached double digits. Richardson's plan for Iraq is to
de-authorize the war and withdraw ALL troops by the end of the year
Richardson goes on to say
Congress must continue to use the power of the purse without cutting funds for troops on the ground, but we should also go one step further. Congress should assert its constitutional authority and pass a resolution de-authorizing the war under the War Powers Act. Congress can then set a military pull-out date and appropriate funds accordingly for the re-deployment of troops.

On health care, Richardson opens with
Affordable and secure health insurance for every American should be our national goal.
He continues with a litany of measures to extend coverage and assist families in paying premiums. However, this is not a call for universal single payer health care.

In Energy Policy, Richardson makes a strong call for
a New American Revolution -- an energy and climate revolution
As we saw above in his speech to the New America Foundation, Richardson puts a premium on energy policy for both national security and environmental security concerns.

Richardson had this to say on fund raising
voters will judge the candidates on their experience, on their records, on their passion, and that fund-raising will be secondary
He better hope that's true, because he is truly in the second tier of fund raisers. His $6.2 million raised in the 1st quarter puts him fourth on the fund raising list, behind Senator Chris Dodd and well behind all the "first tier" candidates.

Richardson's campaign manager is Dave Contarino. Contarino ran Richardson's first campaign for Governor, served as his Chief of Staff for 3 years and most recently was the Chair of his re-election for Governor campaign. Amanda Cooperia is overseeing fund raising. Cooper was Richardson's re-election Campaign Manager and Fundraising Director. Cooper oversaw raising $14 million for the Governor's re-election campaign and led the effort to raise $28 million for the DGA in Governor Richardson's two year term as Chair. Bsides the aforementioned Robert Becker, Richardson's experienced and tenacious Iowa state director, Richardson is putting locally experienced operatives in place in Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

More than anyone else in this campaign, Bill Richardson is running on his resume. Every speech he gives, he reminds his listeners that he is the governor of New Mexico. He was Ambassador to the UN, Energy Secretary under Bill Clinton and a Congressman. In Iowa, Becker has this to say about Richardson's campaign
Make no mistake about - while we are using today's latest technology (including this email!) and innovative, engaging TV ads - we will run an aggressive, old-fashioned, one-handshake-at-a-time caucus operation.
He needs to shake a lot of hands. The latest Real Clear Politics 2 week average has Richardson at 8% in Iowa, far behind the top three. He needs a stronger than expected showing in Iowa (in the top three) and a very good showing in Nevada, with its heavy concentration of Hispanic voters to get to New Hampshire with any chance at all.

So far, Richardson is too low in the pack for anyone to be doing head to head polling against the leading Republican contenders. So we don't know where that stands right now. He is a governor, however, and he does have that extensive foreign policy experience. And that foreign policy experience is 180 degrees different than we have been experiencing under the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For my money, Richardson is running too much on his resume. In looking for Richardson's expressed values in his speeches, I had to wade through endless repetitions of his resume before I could find kernels of his values. Elections are about the future. Yeah, we want to know what makes you think you're qualified. But more than that, we want to know what you stand for and what your vision is.

In the end, I don't get that from Bill Richardson. Not yet.

Monday, May 28, 2007

GOP's Jim Greer in Lady Fight- Republicans at "TheBuzz"

GOP's Jim Greer in Lady Fight- Republicans at "TheBuzz"

They changed the title of this item from "RPOF Generalissimo Greer flexes muscle, sparks fight,"
to the tamer, "RPOF's Greer flexes muscle, sparks fight".
Wonder if the comments will survive? Read them while you can!

From the Republican comments at "the Buzz" site

FACT: Jim Greer is a pompous, self-important fool.

FACT: Albertelli is suffering from sour grapes, because she failed to get elected President of the NFRW.

FACT: Anne Voss, Delores Clark, Pixie Livingston (whose husband ran for office a few years ago) are all a bunch of mindless followers.

FACT: Albertelli has sticky fingers. She was Vice Chair of Duval - $40,000. went missing. She was President of FFRW - they lose their charter and $80,000. go missing.

FACT: If the Federation money is indeed in the Florida Federation of Republican Women, Inc. (CCE)account they have been using a lot of money out of there to pay for "expenses" for people like Albertelli, Voss and Clark.

CONCLUSION: Albertelli, Voss, Clark and others have a lot to lose from being exposed. The best defense being a good offense, they have launched this strike at the RPOF to clout the fact of their theft of Federation funds.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

He shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed

The title of this diary is a clause from Article. II, Section. 3 of the Constitution for the United States of America. This is a particularly apropos time to take a close look at the meaning of this clause. What are the real duties of the President of the United States? What are the real duties and responsibilities of the Congress of the United States? Why does this matter now more than ever?

The answers (?) to these and other questions are below the fold...

This clause bears repeating right at the outset
he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed
Article. II of the Constitution deals with
The executive Power
shall be vested in a President of the United States
It contains only four sections. This is in contrast to Article. I. dealing with
legislative Powers herein granted
which has ten sections.

Section. 8. deals with the powers of Congress. Among these are the power
To raise and support Armies, ...

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

So what is this diary really all about? Why is any of this at all important right now? Over at RockRidge Nation, George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith have posted an important piece titled The Framers Got It Right: Congress is the Decider. In this piece Lakoff and Smith posit
Congress would find it easier to act courageously if the public understood the constitutional stakes. And that public understanding requires correct and persistent framing by Congress itself. What needs to have been framed — indeed what still needs to be framed — is Congress's constitutional responsibility and power to set the course on military missions like Iraq. (emphasis added)
To prove this point they quote David J. Barron of the Harvard Law School
Congress possesses substantial constitutional authority to regulate ongoing military operations and even to bring them to an end.
They also quote Louis Fisher, Constitutional Specialist, Library of Congress
The legislative judgment to take the country to war carries with it a duty throughout the conflict to decide that military force remains in the national interest...In the midst of war, there are no grounds for believing that the President's authority is superior to the collective judgment of its elected representatives. Congress has both the constitutional authority and the responsibility to retain control and recalibrate national policy whenever necessary.
Lakoff and Smith go on to argue
Congressional leaders have neglected to remind the nation what the Constitution says. They have allowed the president to reframe the Constitution, usurping their power for himself. The Framers framed it right. The Congress irresponsibly let the president reframe the Constitution.... Opponents of the president's Iraq policies should have framed the issue immediately when Democratic leaders took control in January 2007. The message should have been: Congress defines the strategic mission; the president's job is to carry it out. He is refusing to carry out his mission.
Lakoff and Smith point out the frames successfully used by the Bush administration that have made the Congress afraid to execute their powers. They also point out the framing traps that proponents of bringing the Iraq Occupation to an end should avoid. They also provide useful frames to help the public understand the true nature of the situation, including this
Progressives must point out that it is the president, with an enabling Congress, who commenced a foolhardy adventure with no clear exit strategy or way to "win." That same president has refused to properly prepare or adequately equip soldiers — and now he is blaming Congress. When Congress passed a supplemental spending bill with reasonable timetables attached, he refused it. The betrayer is the president. Say it over and over: The president has betrayed our troops and the nation.
This reminds me of something my good friend alonewolf has been saying. I am going to paraphrase what alonewolf says Congress and Democratic candidates should be saying about authorizing this misadventure in Iraq
We gave him the keys to the car. We didn't tell him to drive it into a ditch.
Like any parent whose child drives their car into a ditch, Congress should, no must, take away the keys to the car.

Read the Rockridge piece. They give some good ways where we can help to make that happen.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Suzan Franks is no stranger to politics

The Citrus County Chronicle has a good piece on Suzan Franks, Democratic candidate for the SD-3 special election. Franks announce press release was posted on Florida Kossacks earlier. The Chronicle had this to say about Suzans' issues:
Her focus is preservation and protection of water resources. She said the state needs more scientific data to define the problems that cause pollution and their solution...

She suggests alternatives to groundwater pumping, such as desalinization plants.

Franks also suggests the state seek alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy...

Franks has a different take on property tax relief. Rather than suggest tax rollbacks, Franks said the Legislature should stop mandating programs on the local level without the funding...

Franks supports creation of a national catastrophic insurance fund to help bring down the costs of property insurance.

Franks said she would not support extension of the Suncoast Parkway through Citrus County if it adversely affects constituents.

Suzan Franks will face Mark Ravenscraft of Tallahassee in the Democratic Primary on June 5th.

Time for a Progressive Congressional Campaign Committee?

While reading Bill in Portland Maine's diary The Insulting Email of the Day , an idea occured to me. I know ideas are dangerous things. This one, in fact, may be dangerous to a particular breed of Congresscritter. You know, like the Democrats in the House who voted for the Iraq funding bill without a time line for withdrawal of our troops.

If you want to find out more about this dangerous idea of mine, follow along after the jump.

It struck me when I read this comment by standingup , that maybe there is something else we can do other than support the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Perhaps it is time for a Progressive Congressional Campaign Committee? There already exists a Progressive Congressional Caucus. Why not a Progressive Congressional Campaign Committee? So I sent the following email to Bill Goold, Policy Advisor, Congressional Progressive Caucus:
Yesterday's vote on the Iraq war funding bill has created an incredible amount of consternation among progressive Democrats. There is much gnashing of teeth and pounding on keyboards going on in the progressive blogosphere. Many folks are discussing leaving the Democratic Party. Others feel betrayed by the Democratic Leadership. An email sent last night from the DCCC was particularly galling to many progressives, leaving them very cold about the idea of ever supporting the DCCC again.

In light of that, I want to suggest to you that now might be a good time to consider a Progressive Congressional Campaign Committee if one does not exist already. I feel you may find tremendous support for such an idea amongst the progressive Democratic community.

So what do you think? Is this an idea worth pursuing. Is there something like this that exists already that we can get behind? Act Blue, perhaps? I'd be interested in your ideas.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Intro; DFA Training Academy in Tampa

Hello fellow Sunshine State Kossacks. I'm PattyP (obviously, heh) and I've been a registered DailyKos user since around March 2005, smack in the middle of the nationwide Terri Schiavo tragedy and Pope John Paul II dying. What a time I picked to introduce myself to the blogosphere, I tell you what. I'd like to thank gatordem for adding me to the Florida Kossacks posting roll a few weeks ago. My own blog is called spacebawl; it doesn't have any specific focus at the moment, but I'm going to try to write more on local politics as well as post more frequently, both here and there.

I recently started attending some of the City Council and Board meetings of my relatively small central-east coast town of South Daytona and would like to report on them, assuming that's not too narrow a focus for this blog. No doubt it will include some Volusia County and Florida legislature stuff as well. I'm also supporting Clint Curtis for Congress in U.S. House District FL-24, home of the notoriously corrupt and all-around icky Tom Feeney, and will no doubt write about this race from time to time. My primary political concerns are environmental protection and separation of church and state, which is certainly not to say I don't care about other issues, but that I really need to focus on just a few due to time and brain cell constraints. ;-)

Other than that, as my DailyKos bio says, I'm a librarian living in Florida with four cats, many plants, and varying numbers of tropical fish - that about sums it up. For some time I've been pondering the best topic for my first post here, but have yet to come up with one, so I figured a brief introduction is as good as anything.

I also wanted to mention that I'l be attending the Democracy for America Training Academy to be held in Tampa, Florida at the end of June. I would imagine most everyone here is familiar with the DFA Training Academies, but just in case, please check out the link. They did one in Orlando a couple years ago and a friend of mine who attended was very happy with it and learned a lot. If any Florida Kossacks are also planning to attend the Tampa training, let's try to meet up and "introduce" ourselves in meatspace. If anyone has attended previous academies, I welcome your reviews as well as advice for getting the most out of them.

The recent Florida Progressive Coalition posts on what's wrong with the Florida progressive blogosphere were very enlightening and I'll keep those suggestions in mind when I write. One thing that will be difficult for me to do is post frequently due to my work schedule, but I will endeavour to post regularly. I welcome constructive criticism so don't hesitate to offer it. I will do my best to be a productive contributor and look forward to working with all of you to Blog Florida Blue!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: Barack Obama

Three weeks ago, I outlined my plan to review the Democratic presidential hopefuls and come to some resolution on who I would support for the nomination. I started with Hillary Clinton. Last week was John Edwards turn. Today it is Barack Obama.

If you haven't seen the prior diaries in this series, it would be helpful to give them at least a quick scan. Below the fold, I'll briefly review my methodology and reasoning when evaluating the candidates. OK, here we go...

As I discussed in the overview to this series:

There are two top level criteria I am going to use to evaluate the
candidates. The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to win the general election.

In my attempts to evaluate candidates chances to win the nomination, I am going to look at these factors:

  • Values projected in the Message
  • Stance on issues
  • Fundraising ability
  • Staff competence
  • Primary strategy
  • Does this candidate make me feel it?

I am a true believer in values based decision making. Here are the values I have chosen to bring to bear on this particular process:

  • community
  • individual liberty and capacity for self-government.
  • equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.
  • thirst for innovation and civic duty.
  • insist upon new, viable means to achieve progressive ideals.

OK, having said all of that, here we go with Obama's values expressed in his speeches. Obama burst on the scene for most of us with his Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2004:

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to he self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will he counted, or at least, most of the time...

The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of
opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that

In Remarks to the American Legion Legislative Rally on March 01, 2005, Obama had this to say:

I thought about the hundreds of Illinois veterans I've met over the last few years. We asked them to leave their homes, leave their families, and risk their lives in some far-off place to protect us. And yet, somehow, we're still hearing stories like the one I heard from a veteran named Bill Allen, who told me that on a trip to Chicago, he actually saw homeless veterans fighting over access to the dumpsters. That's what I thought about. And finally, I thought about a young man named Seamus Ahern, who I met during the campaign at a V.F.W. hall in East Moline, Illinois. He told me about how he'd joined the Marines because he was so proud of this country, and he felt that as a young person in his early twenties he wanted to give something back. He was getting shipped out to Iraq the following week, and as I listened to him explain why he'd enlisted, the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all that any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: When Shamus comes home, will we serve him as well as he served us? That's the question we should be asking ourselves when we talk about veterans' benefits and the veterans' budget. And that's the standard we should meet.
On May 02, 2005 at an NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner, Obama said:'s one thing to know that everyone has a seat at the lunch counter, but how do we figure out how everyone can pay for the meal? It was easy to figure out that blacks and whites should be able to go to school together, but how do we make sure that every child is equipped and ready to graduate? It was easy to talk about dogs and fire hoses, but how do we talk about getting drugs and guns off the streets?" This is what they told me.

And of course, I reminded them that it wasn't very easy at all. That the moral certainties we now take for granted - that separate can never be equal, that the blessings of liberty enshrined in our Constitution belong to all of us, that our children should be able to go to school together and play together and grow up together - were anything but certain in 1965.

In the budget they passed this week in Congress, they gave out over $100 billion in tax cuts, on top of the trillions they've already given to the wealthiest few and most profitable corporations.

One hundred billion dollars. Think about what that could do for our kids if we invested that in our schools. Think of how many new schools we could build, how many great teachers we could recruit, what kind of computers and technology we could put in our classrooms. Think about how much we could invest in math and science so our kids could be prepared for the 21st century economy. Think about how many kids we could send to college who've worked hard, studied hard, but just can't afford the tuition.

Think about all that potential and all that opportunity. Think about the choice Washington made instead. And now think about what you can do about it.

I believe we have a mutual responsibility to make sure our schools are properly funded, our teachers are properly paid, and our students have access to an affordable college education. And if we don't do something about all that, than nothing else matters.

But I also believe we have an individual responsibility as well.

Our grandparents use to tell us that being Black means you have to work twice as hard to succeed in life. And so I ask today, can we honestly say our kids are working twice as hard as the kids in India and China who are graduating ahead of us, with better test scores and the tools they need to kick our butts on the job market? Can we honestly say our teachers are working twice as hard, or our parents?
Speaking at the Pritzker School of Medicine Commencement on June 13, 2005, Obama said this:

...Today, as we continue to find new ways to live longer and better, the greatest single threat to the health of our nation is not a scarcity of genius or a failure of discovery; it is a lack of collective will to ensure that every single American has access to effective, affordable health care. It is our inability, after years and years of talk and gridlock, to finally do something about the crushing cost of health care in America.

45 million Americans are uninsured - over 5 million more in the last four years. This isn't just a moral shame, it's an economic disaster that's catching Americans in a vicious cycle. Because the uninsured can't afford health care, they put off seeing a doctor or end up in the ER when they get sick. Then their care is more expensive, and so premiums for all Americans go up - to the tune of $922 a family. Because everyone's premiums go up, more Americans lose their health care.
And on the Confirmation of Judge John Roberts, which he voted against, Obama said this:

The problem I face -- a problem that has been voiced by some of my other colleagues, both those who are voting for Mr. Roberts and those who are voting against Mr. Roberts -- is that while adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95 percent of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95 percent of the cases -- what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5 percent of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.

In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions or whether the commerce clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled -- in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart.

I talked to Judge Roberts about this. Judge Roberts confessed that, unlike maybe professional politicians, it is not easy for him to talk about his values and his deeper feelings. That is not how he is trained. He did say he doesn't like bullies and has always viewed the law as a way of evening out the playing field between the strong and the weak.

I was impressed with that statement because I view the law in much the same way.
The problem I had is that when I examined Judge Roberts' record and history of public service, it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak. In his work in the White House and the Solicitor General's Office, he seemed to have consistently sided with those who were dismissive of efforts to eradicate the remnants of racial discrimination in our political process. In these same positions, he seemed dismissive of the concerns that it is harder to make it in this world and in this economy when you are a woman rather than a man.
So how do these values expressed in these speeches square with Obama's positions on the issues? As always, I am starting with Iraq. It is still the biggest issue on the minds of the public, by far. Unlike, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, Barack Obama was not in the United States Senate when the AUMF came up for a vote. He was in the Illinois State Senate. But he did say this Against Going to War with Iraq on October 02, 2002:

I don't oppose all wars... After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again. I don't oppose all wars... What I am opposed to is a dumb war...I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the middle east, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.
Now that he is in the US Senate and faced with actually voting on these issues, Obama is somewhat less forthright. Obama reportedly told the Associated Press the Congress should pass the war funding money without a time line for withdrawal if Bush vetoed the spending bill. Statements like that have not enhanced Obama's standing with the progressives in his party.

Obama has not laid out detailed positions on many of the other issues. However in Remarks to the National Conference of Black Mayors on May 05, 2007, Obama laid out strong positions on education, energy independence and global warming and affordable housing.

Obama's position on Health Care from his web site:

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, and in a series of speeches and public events Barack Obama has outlined specific principles for providing affordable and comprehensive coverage and for improving quality of care and reducing of costs for everyone. These include tackling medical inflation and spiraling health care costs, developing new mechanisms to extend portable, affordable coverage, and reforming health care delivery so that it emphasizes prevention and efficiency.

As a first step, Barack Obama wants to hear from you. He is hosting a series of community discussions around the country to hear not only from policy experts, but also from real Americans who are struggling with the health care system, doctors and nurses, people with insurance and without it.
There does not seem to be a ringing call for single payer universal health care in there.

Obama is the only candidate who takes on Government Corruption on his web site.

On fund raising, the New York Times had this to say at the end of the first quarter:

Mr. Obama’s total for the first fund-raising period of the 2008 presidential race was close to Mrs. Clinton’s. She reported Sunday that she had raised $26 million, but declined to provide a breakdown of contributions for the primary season versus the general election. Mr. Obama said $23.5 million of the money he raised was for the primary season.
It did turn out that Obama had actually out raised Clinton in primary money. He also had more contributions under the campaign finance limit, meaning he has more mileage left in his donor base than Clinton. This was a truly stunning development.

Obama has put together an interesting campaign management team. Certainly the finance department, led by Julianna Smoot, has proved to be top notch. Smoot was finance director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this past cycle.

At the top of the campaign is David Axelrod, his media strategist. Axelrod is founder of Chicago-based AKP Media and handled Obama's 2004 Senate race. He has an "A" client list and consults for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Rep. Rahm Emanuel. The Washington Post has this to say:

David Axelrod, a former newspaper reporter who has worked on past campaigns for no fewer than five of the Democrats racing to the White House, a form of political ubiquity that only enhances his reputation. This time, he's with Obama.

A measure of his status in the top tier of Democratic spinners, scripters and fixers is that when his peers detect something subtle and good, they presume Axelrod must have had a hand in it.
David Plouffe, another partner in AKP Media is the campaign manager. You can read up on Plouffe at his Wikipedia listing.

Despite the credentials of the top management, the Obama campaign has had a couple of stumbles so far. There was the dust up with the Clinton campaign over the David Geffin remarks. More recently, CNN had a story titled Obama publicly scolds staff for scheduling decision:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, told New Hampshire firefighters Friday that he was frustrated his staff did not build into his travel schedule a personal appearance before their union meeting taking place in the coastal city of Portsmouth. Instead, the presidential hopeful had to address the IAFF and Federation of State and Provincial Firefighters Association this morning by telephone.

"I have to tell you, I wish I was there," Obama said over a speakerphone. "My staff had already scheduled some things and they couldn't wiggle out if it. They heard from me a little bit because I wasn't happy I couldn't be there personally."

Altogether not a big deal. But it is something to watch for as the campaign goes on.

Obama's primary strategy can be devined from a review of his campaign staff. The staff is weighted with folks heavy on Iowa experience. New Hampshire, not so much. Obama is a Senator from Illinois, a neighbor state to Iowa. Somewhat like Edwards, it appears Obama is looking to get momentum going with a strong showing in Iowa. In the latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, John Edwards is leading at 29%, but Obama has slipped past Hillary Clinton into second at 23%. Clinton trails at 21%. A second in Iowa would not be a campaign killer for Obama. Particularly if he beats Clinton.

New Hampshire shows Clinton with a 12 point lead over both Obama and Edwards according to the Real Clear Politics Average through May 15th. Whatever momentum is developed coming out of Iowa and Nevada will surely have a major impact on New Hampshire.

In head to heads against Republicans, the latest RCP average has Obama leading Giuliana by 3.4 points and McCain by 5 points. These are not quite as big a lead as Edwards has over the GOP rivals, but certainly in the ballpark. Obama appears to have a better than reasonable chance of winning the general should he be the nominee. Certainly a better shot than Clinton does.

Now we are at that very subjective point. Does this candidate make me feel it? There is a lot to like about Barack Obama. His message of working together to solve our problems, to turn the page does resonate with me. The values expressed in his speeches are my values. I'm more than a little concerned about his unwillingness to let those values guide him in his current views on Iraq. It concerns me all the more because on other issues, he has not laid out any measure of specificity on how he would proceed. In sum, Senator Obama has not closed the deal with me at this point.

So where does that leave me? Let me know where it leaves you. Next week, a look at the "other" candidates.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dr. Dean - Let Our Votes Count

Blog Florida Blue

Florida Governor Charlie Crist today signed an elections reform bill that moves Florida's Presidential Preference Primary up to January 29th in 2008. This puts the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee on a collision course. DNC primary rules call for draconian penalties for any state that moves its primary up before February 5th. Potentially, Florida could lose all of its delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

I have blogged about this before. The first time was last November on DailyKos. More recently, I blogged about the Florida Primary Conspiracy Theory, a dubious concept at best. I have also blogged about How to Have Our Primary Cake and Eat It Too. This laid out how the FDP could avoid delegate penalties from the DNC. The technique would be to declare the January 29th primary non-binding. This would then require the FDP to hold a caucus at a later date to actually select and apportion the convention delegates. It would also have the unfortunate effect of the the Florida Democratic Party telling its members that their votes on January 29th wouldn't count.

I have come to the conclusion that this is not a cake I want to eat. Our Republican dominated state legislature did this to us. Make no mistake here, though. Many Dem legislators were just as happy to move up in the primary schedule. I know I was, and continue to be. We are the largest swing state in the country. We have more electoral votes at stake than the states going before us combined. We are much more diverse than any state going before us in this process. Floridians deserve to have their voices heard as part of the presidential nominating process.

Our own state party should not be put in the position of telling us our primary votes are not going to count. Not in Florida of all places. We have a hard enough time getting our votes to count here as it is. (Although the bill that Gov. Crist signed today also does away with touch screen voting machines (almost entirely) and provides us with a voter verifiable paper trail.) No , the state party should not put us in that position.

That puts the ball squarely in your court, Dr. Dean. As Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, your position on this dilemma counts for a great deal. Do you really want to tell Florida Democrats, of all people, that their votes won't count? After all, this was done to us by the Republican controlled Florida Legislature. The Dems couldn't have stopped this if they had wanted to. Speaking of Florida Democrats, Dr. Dean, you do recall how important their support was in your ascendancy to the Chairmanship, don't you? The early support from the Florida delegation to the DNC really got the ball rolling for you.

But, let's just get back to the basic issue here. There will be a presidential primary in Florida on January 29th. It is now the law of this state. The Democratic candidates are going to campaign here. This state supplies too much money, and holds too many electoral votes for the candidates to ignore us. The only remaining question is this:

Doctor Dean, are you going to let our votes count?

Primary will be January 29, 2008

Crist signed a bill Monday moving Florida's 2008 presidential primary up to Jan. 29, leapfrogging several other states in a change that could dramatically alter the Republican and Democratic presidential nominating campaigns.

The move puts Florida's primary, which had been scheduled for March, behind only the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and on the same day as South Carolina's Democratic primary.

"We're losing the Web right now."-GOP Strategist

Interesting article in the Washington Post this morning about Dems beating GOP online.
There is a widening gap between Democrats and Republicans on the Internet. "For the most part Republicans are stuck in Internet circa 2000.

Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that in recent months has been advising Democratic members of Congress and their staffs on how to take full advantage of the Web, argues that the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world.

"What was once seen as a liability for Democrats and progressives in the past -- they couldn't get 20 people to agree to the same thing, they could never finish anything, they couldn't stay on message -- is now an asset," Leyden said. "All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it."

The New Politics Institute is unambiguous in our recommendation that progressives “engage the blogs” this fall and in the years to come. All things considered, the blogs are a huge asset for progressives, as the accompanying memo powerfully argues.

Friday, May 18, 2007

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Gregory Miller on DOJ Firing List

Florida U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Gregory Miller was on the short list that led to the controversial firing of eight U.S. Attorneys since last June.

Miller said he learned Wednesday afternoon he was among those recommended for termination by D. Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff for embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Conservative Worldview Breeds Incompetence

Blog Florida Blue

Over at Rockridge Nation, they have up a particularly important post on the framing of the incompetence of the Bush administration. Every Republican on the planet is now backing away from Bush and declaring him not a true conservative. This is their explanation for his failures and incompetence in governing.

We need not concede that point. In fact, we can take that frame completely away from them.

From the Rockridge post:

What many conservatives are doing today is playing the "blame game," or the "bad apple" defense. It's all Bush's fault, these failures, not ours. We are different, better, competent. The Rockridge Institute pointed out in a piece last year,"Bush is Not Incompetent," that Bush wasn't a failure at all; in fact, by conservatives' standards, he is quite the success. He has achieved many of their goals; that these ended in apparent failure points not to incompetence, or a deviation off the golden conservative path, but to the failure of the conservative vision at its heart.

In a piece behind the firewall in today's New York Times, David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University, had this to say:

...if any president has tried to implement conservative ideals, it’s Bush... The result — in the assessment of not just liberals but also other observers — has been disaster: a mess of a war, the failure to plan for Hurricane Katrina, the erosion of the church-state wall, widening inequality, the loss of civil liberties including habeas corpus, and scores of other ills that readers of this column can list as easily as I. This was the fruit of modern American conservatism.

There is a basic reason for this. The conservative worldview is ill equipped to govern and therefore naturally breeds incompetence in governance. The view that government is bad ill prepares conservatives to actually run the government.

Even in their supposed strength in national defense, their management of the armed services and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has proved disastrous. The Secretary of Defense's famous statement about going to war with the army you have rather than the army you wish you had is a case in point. These conservatives started a war of choice with a military, that by the Secretary's own words, was not the military he needed to do the job.

Other areas of governance have proved even more grossly incompetent. Their inept reaction to Hurricane Katrina is but one example of this. Having political hacks change the reports of scientists and threatening scientists over global warming is another. Management of the environment by people who truly don't believe in the efficacy of environmental management is a proven method of insuring incompetence.

This appears to me to be an area where we could all do a better job in framing our message. It may be true that the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is particularly incompetent. However, this is by no means an aberration of conservative governance. We should not let the Republicans get away with framing this mess as if it were.

Democracy is at Risk in Jacksonville

Barely 9% turned out to vote for five district council and one at-large seat up for grabs, requiring the opening of all 285 precincts in Duval County on May 15.
If you voted, you're a tiny minority
--observed Mark Woods.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Democrats Running In Florida

Two Democrats running running for office. I thought I give them a shout out since they linked to me.

Lee Nelson is running for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. He is running against Buddy Johnson. I have blogged a great deal about Johnson's ethically questionable behavior and incompetence.

Mark T. Ravenscraft is running for Florida Senate seat District 3. The seat is open. Dennis Baxley is the favorite. Baxley sponsored the failed bill to allow employees to bring handguns to their job parking lot.

Citing the same pressures this year, House bill sponsor Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said, "There are members who are a little squeamish about getting out there on this one."

You think? Perhaps lawmakers don't want to face a replay of the Virginia Tech shooting.

Baxley also supports the racist anthem The Swanee River as the state song.

My advise to these Democratic candidates is put donation boxes on their sites. They should also contact Gatordem. He will get the Kossacks into action.

It helps Dems running for office to linked to me. I blogged like mad about Alex Sink. Ditto for Rod Smith... err, let's scratch that one.

Update: Nelson is hinting he may not run on his website.

I ran for City Council in Council Bluffs, IA in 2005, I did not win. It was a great experience and I continue to be active in the City. Will I try again? I don't know, but to be prepared, I will keep this website updated.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: John Edwards

Last week, in the first diary of this series, I reviewed Hillary Clinton. I included a poll asking whether people thought this process was useful. I was gratified to see that 65% of the respondents did think the process was useful. As of 5:00 PM Sunday, the diary had drawn 106 comments and 18 Recs. Thank you all for participating.

As promised last week, today is John Edwards turn in the barrel.

The two broad criteria I am using to evaluate the candidates are these:

The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to
win the general election.
You can check out the other criteria being used at the Overview Diary for this series. But I am a big believer in value based decision making, so I am putting a lot of stock in the values expressed by the candidates.

Here are some of the values expressed in John Edwards speeches:

London School of Economics Speech

When hundreds of thousands of children are now orphaned living in tents and
temporary shelters, their despair and disillusionment is a threat to their
stability and to our security
. For disillusionment is the fuel that feeds the
fire of hatred and tyranny. And when millions of people — men and women who used to be able to work and support their families — are at risk of slipping into
poverty, it is the moral conscience of the world to give them hope.

For example, how do we ensure that the great divide between the "haves" and the "have nots" starts to close? How do we lead so that developing countries understand that education, market reforms, and just governments will bring hope to even the most desperate places?

And today, many ask whether America and Europe can continue to work together to ensure the broader spread of democracy. The only answer to that question must be yes.
This is the moment when we must strengthen our partnership to ensure that in the 21st century, the world moves toward liberty and opportunity.

The Transatlantic Partnership in an Age of Global Challenges

America has a responsibility to lead and to lead on the issue of extreme poverty around the world, not just addressing the millions of Americans who live in poverty everyday... How do we win the hearts and minds of young people, especially the millions who are struggling in the Middle East and in Africa who feel that the modern world offers them absolutely nothing? How do we reach them and give them an opportunity to climb out of hopelessness and into a better life just as we did here with the Marshall Plan after World War II?

National Press Club Policy Address

On the America we want to achieve in the next twenty years, I don't think the picture is hard to draw. It is an America where we are well on our way to ending poverty. It is an America where every American has health care coverage — not access to health insurance or other wiggle-word ways we try to describe something less than health coverage for every American. It is time. It is an America where businesses and working people thrive in a competitive and fair international marketplace. It is an America where everyone can join the middle class and everyone can build a better future than their parents had.

I want to live in an America free from dependence on fossil fuels, where our environmental policies reflect our pride in the blessings of a beautiful and abundant country and our commitment to preserve that country for our farmers, our fishermen, our children. Sacrifice, conservation, and innovation will be required.
I want to live in an America that has not sacrificed individual liberties in the name of freedom, where — in the fight to preserve the country we love — we do not sacrifice the country we love, where we don't make excuses for violating civil rights, though we understand the test of liberty is in the moments when such excuses almost sound reasonable.

I want to live in an America where we value work as well as wealth, because we understand that we are only strong because our people work hard, that we are made strong by our longshoremen and autoworkers, our computer programmers and janitors, and disrespect to any of them is disrespect to the values that allowed for America's greatness in the first place.

I want to live in an America where the difference in our best schools and our worst schools cannot be measured by Newsweek, where those who can teach are encouraged and rewarded and where the world of learning is opened to every child.

How do these values translate into play via Edwards' stance on the issues? Let's start with Iraq. If you can not get past the Iraq issue, you are nowhere. In a recent CBS News Poll 36% of Americans named Iraq as the most important issue. No other issue was even in double digits.

Like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards was in the Senate and voted for The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq. Unlike Clinton, however, John Edwards has acknowledged that he made a mistake. Edwards has been urging Congress to stand firm on ending the war in Iraq.

The president today asked for yet another chance. We can no longer afford to bet American troops on a chance. In fact, even members of the president's own party are running out of patience with the relentless pursuit of his failed Iraq policy. Why on earth would Congress make a concession to Bush when support to end the war may be climbing? Congress should stand firm. The only real power it has to end this war is to cut off funds. They passed a plan to support our troops and bring them home, and they should do it again. Nothing else will work. And if the president vetoes it, then it is his willful behavior alone that is standing in the way of what our troops need.

Edwards is alone among the top tier candidates to have rolled out detailed plans on the issues.

Edwards Announces Plan for Universal Health Care
Edwards Lays Out Comprehensive Proposal To Enact His Plan For Iraq
Edwards Announces Rural Recovery Act; Plan would restore economic fairness and help struggling towns
Edwards Announces College Opportunity Agenda

Universal Health Care, Iraq, Rural Recovery, College Opportunity. No other candidate has laid out in such detail their plans for these and other issues important to the voters. That gives Edwards a leg up in this department.

How does Edwards measure up in the fundraising department? He finished behind Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton in first quarter fundraising numbers. That's the bad news. The good news is that Edwards did raise enough money to execute his campaign plan. Here's what the Edwards campaign had to say about the first quarter fundraising numbers:

Edwards Campaign Raises More Than $14 Million During 1st Quarter
John Edwards for President Apr 1, 2007

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – The John Edwards for President campaign announced today that it raised in excess of $14 million during the first quarter fundraising period, far exceeding its budget and nearly doubling the amount Edwards raised during the first quarter in 2003. Americans from across the country and from a wide range of backgrounds supported Senator Edwards' campaign to start changing America today with big, bold ideas.
First quarter fundraising figures from the John Edwards for President campaign include:
More than $14 million raised total.
More than 40,000 contributors from across the country.
80 percent of contributions were $100 or less.
$3.3 million raised from online contributions.
Around $1 million raised in general election funds.

It remains to be seen if Obama and Clinton can continue their torrid fundraising pace into the second quarter. If they do, Edwards will have to pick up the fundraising pace to be competitive with the air time buys of the other two candidates.

John Edwards has assembled a first rate campaign staff. In Iowa, he has many of the same people who helped him to his stunning second place finish in 2004. The Edwards campaign just recently announced:

Joe Trippi Joins The John Edwards For President Campaign

Primary campaign strategy will either be Edwards crowning glory or his Achilles heel. Like a riverboat gambler, Edwards has bet the house on Iowa. In addition to assembling a superb staff in Iowa, he has been practically living there the last 4 years. So far, it is paying off. Edwards leads the polls in Iowa. Last cycle, John Kerry won Iowa and the rest was history. Will history repeat itself?

The Democrats have tweaked the primary schedule this year. Nevada follows Iowa with a caucus this cycle. Although recent polls show Hillary Clinton with a commanding lead, Nevada presents some interesting opportunities for other candidates to fare better than anticipated in the Nevada caucus. Nevada is heavily unionized and John Edwards has worked hard to be the favorite son of unions this cycle. Hispanics make up a large voting block in Nevada, something that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson hopes to capitalize on. Those factors could cause some surprises to people who only focus on the polls in Nevada.

Early momentum from Iowa and Nevada could make Edwards the apparent front runner heading into New Hampshire and South Carolina, Edwards birth state. Florida's recent legislation moving its primary up to January 29th has still to be figured into this mix. Also, John Edwards beats every other Republican contender in head to head match up polls.

John Edwards message and values reaches me. His call for One America, his stance on Iraq, and his ability to clearly communicate his values resonates with me. His very human reaction to his wife Elizabeth's struggle with cancer resonates with me. There is nothing I don't like about Edwards. OK, $400 haircuts don't excite me all that much. But that, aside, Edwards would be a nominee that I would be excited to support. And best of all, Edwards can win the White House in 2008.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Florida Primary Conspiracy Theory?

Blog Florida Blue

Matt Towery of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville has written a story titled Will Howard Dean step in GOP's Florida primary trap? He buys into the theory that moving Florida's Presidential Preference Primary to January 29th is part of some Machiavellian plot by the Florida Republican Party. Here's a sample:

The Republicans know the DNC is governed by hard-nosed and inflexible leaders who have managed to botch numerous presidential campaigns in recent years. Knowing that Dean likely will attempt to make a Jan. 29 Democratic primary meaningless, Republicans recognized the opportunity to be the only game in town.

But wait, it gets better. Towery displays his stunning knowledge of Florida election law thusly:

How does a party reeling from a loss of independent voters hope to win back those independents in Florida, the biggest state still up for grabs in the presidential election?

By holding its primary in a situation where independent voters can only vote Republican if they want their votes to count.

Here is Florida Statute 101.021 :

In a primary election a qualified elector is entitled to vote the official primary election ballot of the political party designated in the elector's registration, and no other. It is unlawful for any elector to vote in a primary for any candidate running for nomination from a party other than that in which such elector is registered.

The only way an independent voter can vote in a primary election is to change their registration from independent (or technically No Party Affiliation) to one of the political parties. A cursory review of voter turnout statistics reveals that there is no substantial evidence of massive voter registration changes and voting in primary elections by Florida's independent voters.

This kind of thing makes it hard to give credence to anything else Mr. Towery has to say on this matter. Having said all that, the Florida Legislature did put the Florida Democratic Party in a box. But that is the point, isn't it? This was an act of the Florida Legislature, not the Florida Democratic Party. Does it seem just to penalize Florida Democrats for the act of the Republican dominated Florida Legislature?

Doctor Dean, now is the time to remember how important the Florida Democratic Party was to your gaining the DNC Chair. Now is the time to ensure that the votes of Florida Democrats, of all people, get counted and counted fairly.

And, oh, bye the way, maybe now is the time to get that 50 state strategy cranked up in Florida so we are not put in this position by a Republican dominated Florida Legislature again.

Blog Florida Blue

Fred Thompson in Tampa

Fred Thompson says he's in no hurry to decide whether to run for president, even as his potential opponents traverse the country raising millions in campaign money....
The former Tennessee senator, who now plays a prosecutor on television's Law & Order, was in Tampa Thursday night [May 10] addressing the Hillsborough County Bar Association Foundation in an event that was closed to reporters. It had been scheduled before there was public talk of a presidential bid.
Thompson said in an interview afterward that he’s “ready to run” if he decides the time is right to do so, but not interested in a running mate slot.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tim Mahoney Stands Up Tall for Vets in FL 16

In 2006 Tim Mahoney (D) was elected in Mark Foley's FL district 16.

Tim Mahoney is proving a formidable new Congressman. On May 4 Bob Graham wrote to Karen Thurman regarding Tim Mahoney's support of veterans:
I am writing in regards to my friend Congressman Tim Mahoney’s hard work fighting for the veterans of Florida’s 16th District.Since he was sworn in to represent Florida’s 16th district, Tim has fought to ensure that our nation lives up to the promises we made to the brave men and women who served our nation.

President Bush failed our troops, our veterans, and our nation by not providing for the troops injured in war and chronically under-funding the Veterans Administration and the military healthcare system. In order to solve the problems created by the lack of funding, Congressman Mahoney fought to fully fund the VA, providing an additional $5.3 billion this year. This, the largest funding increase for veterans in history, will help ease backlogs on processing cases, address maintenance delays at VA facilities, and will allow the VA to generally provide better services to all of those who have honorably served our all of Bob Graham's letter in praise of Tim Mahoney

Meanwhile, Republicans roil in the district.
The Fix notes that Republicans are after the seat: Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Hal Valeche, Pittsburgh Steelers heir Tom Rooney, and state Rep. Gayle Harrell.
Rooney has hired Bill McCollum's campaign manager Phil Vangelakos. Rooney raised $139,655 for the first quarter. Randy Nielsen of Public Concepts noted that state Rep. Gayle Harrell raised $126,752 --more money from Floridians than either of her rivals. Top GOP fundraiser for the district was Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Hal Valeche with $180,315.

Mahoney's strength in this formerly republican district is shown by the fact that Mahoney outraised Valeche, Rooney and Harrell combined.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Blog Florida Blue

Last week, representatives from the Florida Progessive Coalition, Florida Net Roots and Florida Kossacks held a conference call with staff from the Florida Democratic Party. The topic of the call was upcoming opportunities for bloggers to interact with the FDP, particularly at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in June and at the FDP Convention in October.

What came out of the call, which went very well by the way, was something that could be far more powerful. It was a brand name for the online effort to bring Democrats back into control in Florida. That brand name is Blog Florida Blue.

I'd like to invite all Florida bloggers to adopt this brand name whenever they are blogging on the effort to elect Democrats and build the Democratic Party in Florida. Blog Florida Blue can be a powerful branding device linking otherwise disparate efforts from Key West to Pensacola.

These are exciting and hopeful times for Democrats in Florida. While we did not win the Governorship in 2006, we did elect Alex Sink as Florida's Chief Financial Officer. Bill Nelson was easily re-elected to the US Senate and the political career of Katherine Harris crashed and burned. Democrats also seated two new Members of Congress from districts previously held by the Gopers. I am betting that we will actually make that three before the investigations into the under vote fiasco in FL-13 are over.

In the Florida Legislature, we stayed even in the Florida Senate. Charlie Justice was elected to an open seat in the Tampa Bay area that was previously held by a Republican. We almost picked up another seat in the Tampa Bay area when exciting new candidate Stephen Gorham came oh so close against Rhonda Storms for the seat held by term limited Tom Lee. Unfortunately, we were not able to retain the seat given up by Rod Smith when he ran for Governor.

The Florida House was an entirely different story. Democrats picked up seven seats previously held by Republicans. We were also tantalizingly close in two more seats in the greater Tampa Bay area. So far this year we are one and one in Florida House special elections. However, we did pick up our eighth seat in the House when Daren Soto won in Orange and Osceola Counties for HD-49. Congratulations to Representative Soto, FDP Chair karen Thurman and all those who worked so hard to make that victory possible. We are going to have one more special election for the Florida Senate and a couple more for the Florida House as a result of Senator Nancy Argenzano being appointed to the PSC. So our friends at the FDP are going to have some more opportunities to apply the lessons learned from the HD-49 victory.

Stay tuned for more details about the exciting opportunities for bloggers to interact with the FDP. But start thinking seriously about attending the Jefferson Jackson gala in Hollywood on June 8th and 9th. Nancy Pelosi is the keynote speaker, and you may be able to inteview her if you apply for blogger media credentials. More details on that to come later.

And take every opportunity to use the power of the blogosphere to Blog Florida Blue.

Candidate Review Wednesday: Hillary Clinton

Last week, I outlined my plan to work my way out of my candidate selection funk. Today is the first stop in this process. I have decided to review the candidates in alphabetical order by last name. That means we start with Hillary Clinton.

For the Joe Biden fan out there, and I know there is one, I also made a decision to start with the so called "top tier" candidates. So despite Joe's great one word answer in the debate, I am going to wait to cover the "other" candidates out there. Next week, therefore, John Edwards will be on the block.

Follow me to see how Hillary Clinton measures up.

The two broad criteria I am using to evaluate the candidates are these:

The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their
ability to win the general election.

I am a true believer in values based decision making. Here are the values I have chosen to bring to bear on this particular process:

  • community
  • individual liberty and capacity for self-government.
  • equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.
  • thirst for innovation and civic duty.
  • insist upon new, viable means to achieve progressive ideals.

Here's the values Hillary Clinton has expressed in her speeches:

Foreign Policy

  • bipartisan consensus and; non-partisan competence
  • "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind"
  • we must value diplomacy as well as a strong military.
  • "Let us never negotiate from fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."


  • we can't be secure without a strong economy.
  • we cannot sustain our deepest values without an economy that rewards hard work.
  • fiscal discipline,
  • rewarding hard work,
  • investing in our people,
  • growing a strong middle class by giving everyone a chance to succeed.

Energy Policy

  • Energy we all know is essential to our economic security, and the trend lines are terrible.
  • our values demand that we be good stewards of the planet for our children and our children's children.
  • how will we get there? Two words: innovation and efficiency.

How does Hillary bring these values into play via her stance on the issues? Let's start with Iraq. If you can not get past the Iraq issue, you are nowhere. In a recent CBS News Poll 36% of Americans named Iraq as the most important issue. No other issue was even in double digits.

The albatross around Hillary's neck is her initial vote to authorize the war. She continues to exacerbate this by refusing to acknowledge that this vote was a mistake. Whether she can get away with this is still an open question.

Beyond the initial authorization of the war, Clinton has been a harsh critic of the Bush administrations' prosecution of the war. After Bush vetoed the supplemental approps bill, Clinton said this:

With his veto today, President Bush has made it clear that he is standing in
the way of ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home. The nation is
ready for the President to stop disregarding the will of the American people and
to work with Democrats on a funding bill that will enable us to begin
redeploying our troops.

Two days later, Senator Clinton:

announced that she and Senator Robert Byrd will introduce legislation to end
authority for the war in Iraq. The legislation will propose October 11, 2007 --
the five year anniversary of the original resolution authorizing the use of
force in Iraq -- as the expiration date for that resolution.

Is she doing the right things now regarding Iraq? Is it enough to overcome her initial vote and her continued refusal to admit a mistake?

Hillary has not made a lot of noise about the economy lately. At least not according to her press releases. As for health care, she seems to be taking an incrementalist approach. She is talking about expanding health care for children. Haven't seen anything from Hillary on Universal Health Care.

Clinton led the pack in fundraising in the first quarter of this year. However, she did not blow away the field as many people expected. The bigger news was that Barack Obama actually raised more primary money than Hillary. However, Hillary was able to transfer $10 million from her Senate campaign to her presidential campaign. It also remains to be seen if she can sustain this torrid fundraising pace.

Say what you will about James Carville and Terry McAuliffe. There is one thing they can say that most of the rest of us can not. They have won the big enchilada. They have been there and done that before. Between Bill and Hillary Clinton, there are a ton of folks out there that owe them favors, and they are putting together a first rate team throughout the country. Two knocks on the team so far:
  • They have been very ham handed in their fundraising efforts. People are giving, but they don't like their arms being twisted so much.
  • There is some concern that these guys think they are running the 1992 campaign all over again. This election is about the future, as all elections are.

Hillary's primary strategy seems to revolve around the inevitability of her nomination. She has been leading the polls from the outset. She has received the endorsement of Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack when he dropped out of the race.and thus gets the benefit of most of his Iowa organization. As the Senator from New York, she pretty much has favorite daughter status in New Hampshire. And Bill's huge popularity in the African American community give her a big leg up in South Carolina.

With all that she has going for her, I still am not feeling it from the Clinton campaign. She just does not get my juices flowing. Maybe she's too calculated. Maybe she still doesn't get it on Iraq. Whatever it is, she has not closed the deal with me at all.

One of the other things that I am trying to evaluate is the candidates ability to win the general election, should they be the nominee. I have the least comfort on this factor with Hillary. Here is probably the biggest reason why:

A new Gallup poll shows Sen. Hillary Clinton's approval rating in the net
negative territory
, with 45% having a positive view and 51% having a negative
view. This has dropped dramatically from the start of the year when her
favorability rating was 58% positive/40% negative.

This means that Clinton must convince people who already don't like her to change their minds. This is a much more difficult proposition than her primary rivals face. It is my biggest concern about her candidacy. And it put her on the bottom of the list of top tier candidates for me.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Florida Primary: How to Have Our Primary Cake and Eat It Too

The Florida Legislature has thankfully ended their regular session. I say thankfully, because it is harder for them to screw things up when they are not in session. But they are coming back in June for a special session since they could not get their act together on property tax "reform".

That's another whole diary in and of itself. Today, there is good news and bad news and it is the same news. The good news is the Legislature has voted to move Florida's Presidential Preference Primary to January 29th. The bad news is the Legislature has voted to move Florida's Presidential Preference Primary to January 29th.

Follow me to find out why this is both good and bad news and how to have our cake and it eat too.

The Florida Legislature limped to a close of its annual regular session with a whimper Friday afternoon. The list of the dids and did nots will provide fodder for many diaries in the days and weeks to come. Today, though, we are going to take up the topic of the Florida Presidential Preference Primary.

The Republican dominated Florida Legislature passed a wide ranging election reform bill this week. The most publicised news is that Florida is moving to voter verified paper ballots. Congrats to Pam Haengel, President, Voting Integrity Alliance of Tampa Bay (VIA Tampa Bay) and all the other folks who worked so hard to make this happen.

The other big news is that the Legislature also voted to move Florida's Presidential Preference Primary up to January 29th. This is before the primary "window" allowed by both the Republican and Democratic National committees. From the New York Times:
The national parties warned Florida that any state slating its contest earlier than Feb. 5 without express permission will lose half its delegates to the party’s national conventions in the late summer of 2008. In addition, Democratic Party rules stipulate that any candidate who campaigns in a state that has violated Democratic scheduling rules will forfeit delegates the state retains — in effect, shutting out the state altogether.

That sounds pretty draconian, particularly on the part of the Dems. Maybe Karen Thurman should call Howard Dean and remind him that the Florida Legislature is dominated by the other guys. A little help with the 50 state plan might be more in order than threatening us with punishment for the sins of others.

But there is another option that is entirely within the control of the Florida Democratic Party. Also noted in the New York Times:
DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said in a statement that the committee is hoping to work with the state to reach a solution. “This is not the first time that a state legislature has set its primary on a date outside DNC party rules,” Paxton said. “As with similar situations in the past, the DNC is working closely with the state party to look at the alternatives for proceeding in accordance with the rules on or after February 5th.”

Alternatives might include holding a party-run event such as a caucus, making the primary a non-binding event.

This may be the saving grace for for Florida Democrats. The FDP could choose to make the January primary non-binding. They would then need to create a mechanism for the awarding of convention delegates to the candidates. A caucus is one method that the FDP would totally control. The only real problem the FDP is going to have: Figuring out how to make it snow so the caucus goers will have to wade through the obligatory snow to get to the caucus locations.