Archive for the ‘Election 2008’ Category

Mighty Mac adrift in Michigan

June 20, 2008

Four years ago, a gaggle of grandmothers emerged from a University of Illinois building, breathlessly chirping about a U.S. Senate forum.

A cerise-scarfed lady spotted a placard for a hopeful and asked if he was The One.

“That’s not our guy,” she was told. “Our candidate is the one whose name no one can pronounce.”

I recall glancing at her “Obama for Senate” button. Good luck, this hard-bitten political reporter thought before hurrying back to the library to finish researching an obscure local history project.

Five months later, I watched Barack Obama unfurl his fabled ’04 Democratic National Convention speech in which he deftly defined the “hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.”

That was the first time I realized I’d underestimated Mr. Obama. Then came the Illinois senator’s upset win in lily-white Iowa in January, 11 straight victories after Super Tuesday and knockout blow on the last primary night, June 3.

John McCain needs to learn that lesson – stat. The Vietnam POW clearly disdains Obama, a showboating whippersnapper out to steal his maverick mantle from under him. Pay your dues, kid, McCain practically seethes every time he spits out his name.

But there’s another dynamic here – he clearly didn’t want to face Obama. Lying below McCain’s honey-coated praise for Hillary Clinton (and slams on the sexist press) was the stone-cold political calculation that she would shore up the right-wing base in a way he never could and be easier to vanquish.

Which is about right. Obama tops all the polls, even after Hillary bloodied him but good.

So one has to wonder if the Arizona senator was in denial about his inevitable opponent. Because what I want to know is: What was John McCain doing for the four months between when he clinched the GOP nomination and Obama sealed his?

And what’s he doing now?

McCain had a tremendous advantage. And as far as I can see, he blew it – especially here in Michigan. It’s a dream come true for a candidate to be able to define himself. To have the stage to yourself for months while your rival’s teeth are being knocked in daily by a member of his own party is like a nonstop ecstasy trip for politicians.

Instead, McCain puttered around the county here and there and flipped burgers for Mitt Romney and other vice presidential wannabes in Sedona. His less than breakneck stump speed did little to evoke an image of gusto and vigor the 71-year-old needs to convey, especially to combat an oratorical Adonis who hasn’t even broken a sweat after 18 straight months of barnstorming.

Since the Jan. 15 Michigan primary, McCain has done a couple of fundraisers and two events here, including a baffling May 7 speech on child pornography at Oakland University. On the list of top 1,000 issues for Michiganders, kiddie porn ranks about 1,263,000th.

The economy fills up slots one through 900 at least, as we’ve just hit 8.5 percent unemployment, a number we last saw when George W.’s daddy was in the Oval Office.

These are things the crackerjack Mitten State campaign team of Chuck Yob & Son should be telling McCain, but they’re too busy hurling nukes at state GOP Chair Saul Anuzis to care. The Yob Doctrine dictates that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose elections, but how many of your Republican brethren you can settle scores with by napalming them along the way.

McCain’s campaign consists of two generic TV ads, as he seems utterly determined to lose Michigan at any cost. He won’t even be back here until mid-July for yet another fundraiser.

In contrast, Obama, who completely ignored us for a year with our botched Democratic primary, has come back a-courtin’ with a hundred red roses in hand on three different occasions in the last month.

“I’m so sorry, baby,” the current Us Weekly cover boy croons to crowds, savvily hitting every sweet spot in the state from Troy to Grand Rapids. “I know the economy’s been so bad. Let me make it up to you with John Edwards, Al Gore and $150 million in research pork.”

As for the ground game, Obama is everywhere in the Great Lakes State, with 50 events last weekend from the U.P. to Downriver.

So there’s little surprise that Mighty Mac sunk 8 points among independents in Rasmussen Michigan polls over the last month and he’s trailing nationally, as well. He’s flipped on offshore and arctic drilling and called last week’s Supreme Court ruling upholding habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

How this crass pandering is supposed to snare Democrats and independents is beyond me.

Perhaps the strategy is to wait for Obama’s star to combust over the Rev. Wright or some other ghastly gaffe. Phenoms can’t last forever, after all. Slow and steady experience wins the race.

Which was pretty much what Nixon said about Kennedy in ’60. And we all know how that turned out.


How Hillary failed feminism

June 6, 2008

For the first time in my life, I felt embarrassed to call myself a feminist.

I realized that as Hillary Clinton gave her narcissistic non-concession speech Tuesday, which should have marked the end of a historic campaign for women everywhere. But I want to send out my heartfelt thanks to her, Geraldine Ferraro, EMILY’s List and New York NOW and Harriet Christian for doing what right-wing blowhards never could.

Lady Hillary sounded only slightly less sour and a smidge saner than dear Harriet, the Clinton supporter raving outside Saturday’s Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting made instantly famous on YouTube.

“The Democrats are throwing the election away! And for what? An inadequate black male?” Christian cackled, adding on Fox News that “99 percent of blacks don’t even know why they’re voting for” Barack Obama.

That kind of racism, once jaw-dropping, is now par for the course for cutthroat Clintonistas.

Harriet was only one of a motley crew of bitter white women screaming that Obama was a “socialist” leading an “anti-woman cult.” All the blind rage about “massive disenfranchisement” was over Clinton losing four whole delegates (two, since they were halved) from my state of Michigan.

I kid you not.

But it’s easy to say sayonara to reality when your candidate has. Most days, Hillz lavishes more praise on John McCain that Obama, whom she again declared less qualified than herself after he clinched the nomination Tuesday. Not that she would gracefully concede, as she probably banished calculators, as well as TVs in the Baruch College bunker she holed herself up in.

How ironic is it for the wannabe feminist-in-chief to have adopted the persona of “Math is tough” Barbie?

Clinton seemed determined to string out her self-immolated campaign, make Obama sweat and ding him even more, until boatloads of her Capitol Hill colleagues told her to hit the road Wednesday. True to form, she was shocked, still expecting her loyal subjects to fuel a last-minute comeback, as is the Clinton birthright.

Hillary never could own up to her own failings in her campaign – the arrogance, absurdly bloated adviser salaries and lack of strategy after Super Tuesday. And she certainly could never acknowledge Baby Barack’s strengths – superb organization, fundraising prowess and oratorical mastery.

No, it was sexism that got her in the end.

How is anyone buying this? Our heroine was the undisputed frontrunner as wife of a popular former two-term president who’s run the party for 15 years, with a $109 million personal fortune to boot. The primary system was cannily crafted by cronies like the aptly monikered Harold Ickes to ensure a swift Clintonian coronation.

And when she started to lose, she viciously bludgeoned Obama, aided by surrogates like Gerry Ferraro whose race-baiting rhetoric resembled that of toothless Southern hicks in the Jim Crow era.

Perhaps even more disturbingly, Clinton’s strategy came down to trying to nakedly engineer an Obama meltdown. She couldn’t just pray for another Rev. Wright; she had to show all those “hardworking white Americans” the colossal error they were making to go with the Kenyan-Kansan (and mess with the queen).

So when she let fly her musing on Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, it was a telling glimpse into her Machiavellian psyche that seemed almost wistful, as though a bullet in Barack’s brain was her only road to the White House.

It wasn’t ideal, but she’d take it. Politics is a bloodsport, after all.

And somehow Obama, that “skinny black guy with big ears and a funny name,” as he describes himself with the kind of self-deprecation Clinton is allergic to, defied all odds.

He went off script and beat her. Talk about historic.

As for Clinton, she mangled her moment in history. Feminism didn’t fail her; she failed feminism.

The melodramatic hand-wringing (“Now we’ll never have a woman president!”) is ridiculous and an insult to talented female politicians across the country, many of whom pointedly backed Obama.

We will. It just won’t be Hillary – not now.

Once upon a time, I counted Hillary Rodham Clinton a role model as a champion high school debater mulling law school. Having a first lady with a career was about three decades behind, I thought, never figuring out why she dropped the idea as quickly as her maiden name. In the end, I decided I hated money, hence my esteemed career as a writer.

And while I owe generations of women who came before me a debt of gratitude, I am profoundly tired of the identity politics wars that have decimated the left for a half-century. I am sophisticated enough to know the narrative of history is not gender (nor race); it is multifaceted and broad, terrible and triumphant.

If you don’t get that, you don’t get anything.

So when Clinton lauded herself Tuesday for launching a campaign that inspired parents to tell their daughters, “See, you can be anything you want to be,” I tittered at her trademark vanity at first.

But she’s right. May they grow up to be far more honorable leaders than she.

Obama checks McCain in Michigan

May 15, 2008

WARREN – John McCain left the door ajar in Michigan last week with a lackluster town hall – and Obama busted right through it with his own here on Wednesday.

Fresh off a walloping in West Virginia on Tuesday, Obama hit Macomb County to talk trade and jobs with those elusive Reagan Democrats. He’d obviously had a heart-to-heart with former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, the patron saint of organized labor who endorsed him last week and started a stampede of superdelegates.

By the end of the day, no one was mentioning the Mountain State and Michigan was on everyone’s lips. It was a brilliant tactical move.

For the presumptive Democratic nominee, Macomb is the mother of all political symbols, crammed with blue-collar workers aloof to his charm and even hostile after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal.

McCain blew his chance to shore up support in the Wolverine State on May 7 with a rambling speech on child pornography and human trafficking in Rochester Hills.

But Obama got that it’s all about the economy, baby.

He ditched the soaring rhetoric, long speeches and stadium crowds for an invitation-only town hall meeting for 200 at Macomb Community College.

Obama obliterated Hillary Clinton’s hokey critique that he’s “all hat and no cattle,” outlining detailed plans for jobs, energy, health care, manufacturing, trade agreements and education, like a $150 billion investment over 10 years in clean energy.

“People are anxious about the future and rightfully so,” said Obama, his barely-blue sleeves symbolically rolled up.

He even gave a shout-out to Michigan’s 21st Century Jobs Fund, saying we should “replicate that all across the country.”

He won over folks like Dave Sahlaney, a 67-year-old shuttle driver who was just laid off from St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital. The Warren grandfather of nine voted for Clinton in the primary and frankly says working-class and white voters have reservations about Obama. But he thinks the senator can win them over.

“He’s a real straight-talker; he hits on issues that affect all Americans,” Sahlaney said. “I’m disappointed he doesn’t go personal with Hillary Clinton’s attacks on him, but I respect him for it.”

Then Obama capped it off with rock-star rally for 15,000 in Grand Rapids, where John Edwards, the highest-profile “hardworking white American” (as Clinton recklessly described her base) flashed his trademark toothy grin and endorsed him. Bonior’s imprint was there again, as Edwards’ former campaign manager.

“I felt guilty about not campaigning here,” Obama grinned at the crowd, which started lining up more than 12 hours early. “… I decided that in my first full day in Michigan that I wouldn’t be fooling around, the same old thing.”

I couldn’t help but think of Clinton mocking Obama’s message of hope, back in February when people still took her and her campaign seriously.

“The sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect,” the empress brayed in a singsong tone.

And lo, that is indeed what appeared to happen to both Obama and Michigan this week.

It’s ironic that Obama, whose name wasn’t even on the ballot, is finally bringing a positive glow to the state, as opposed to the Democratic primary hatched by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell that only elicited ridicule. Maybe that’s why Dingell appeared so dour in Warren, but it could just be because the state party’s girl seems down for the count.

One thing is clear: If Obama wins Michigan after a yearlong absence, he’ll have Bonior to thank.

Let’s not forget that the frontrunner’s last foray here was an admirable but combative speech at the Detroit Economic Club on the Big Three’s obstinacy on fuel-economy standards. On Wednesday, Obama wisely pivoted, praising their strides in hybrids and vehicle quality while subtly slamming the Bush administration for throwing manufacturers to the wolves of the global economy.

Obama vowed to spend “every day in the White House fighting for you,” ending his Warren speech on a note of humility: “I hope you guys will give me the chance.”

His Michigan coming-out parties looked like Bonior checking Chuck Yob, McCain’s co-chair who’s consistently bungled operations here, starting with a 9-point primary loss. With the Democrats’ mangled contest, the state was the GOP’s to win, but Yob cares only about wooing the far right and West Michigan.

Obama, who sports the finest political operation since the Kennedys, didn’t even bother sending three scraggly college kids to keep hope alive here. That was a big misstep, which will cost him some Mitten State delegates. All that changed last weekend with his drive to recruit 1 million volunteers, including an electric event in Detroit.

Bonior acknowledged Obama has ground to make up, but assured me “he’ll be coming back on a regular basis.” Smart man.

If it comes down to Bonior vs. Yob in Michigan, I’d bet the farm the state stays blue.

McCain’s not-so-secret plan to lose Michigan

May 9, 2008

ROCHESTER HILLS – Say you’re running for president and dropping by the most economically ravaged state in the nation.

Your Democratic rivals are too busy butchering one another to campaign here, much less notice 7.2 percent unemployment, record foreclosures and skyrocketing demand at local food banks.

So naturally, you’d give a speech on child pornography and human trafficking around the world, right?

It’s not that John McCain’s 20-minute indictment of these heinous crimes at Oakland University on Wednesday wasn’t admirable.

But it was a speech you deliver outside the United Nations, not a few miles from Delphi world headquarters, which just emerged from bankruptcy after shuttering factories and slashing wages in half for many autoworkers.

In Michigan, it’s the economy, stupid.

Republican after Republican I talked to, including McCain’s most diehard supporters, were floored by the misstep. He has a great shot at winning the Mitten State thanks to a botched Democratic primary, but his advisers seem intent on blowing it.

Most of the 700 attendees stared at McCain with slack-jawed politeness before the town hall portion, in which they hungrily fired off questions about jobs, the Iraq war, fuel-economy standards and even his temper (to which he drolly shot back, “How dare you ask me that question”).

My man McCain, whom I proudly voted for in the Jan. 15 primary, is not a born orator. He gives a tired, rambling speech with the same awkward punchlines (“The French now have a pro-American president, which shows that if you live long enough, anything can happen”) he unfurled back in the start of primary season.

He also took a long layover in Panderville to appease a crowd more conservative than he, filled with party activists who voted for Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee and cried for days when Mighty Mac crushed them. McCain’s lines about trial lawyers, conservative judges, victory in Iraq and nuclear power won cheers; his straight talk on global warming was met with crickets.

Even the barebones traveling press corps seemed exhausted and cranky, perhaps knowing the A-Team was having a blast covering the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama smackdown. During the heat of the Michigan primary, I wanted to break out the popcorn as Time magazine columnists Joe Klein and Ana Marie Cox sniped over who got to cover McCain in Howell.

In Rochester Hills, the only person who looked like he wanted to be there was Michigan Co-Chair Chuck Yob, who held court at the jumbled affair for more than an hour before McCain arrived.

McCain has a window to define himself in Michigan. Democratic hopefuls have barely stepped foot here since National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell hatched her harebrained primary scheme that cost the state every delegate, a mess they’re still trying to mop up.

He failed this week. He failed when he turned down the keynote address at the influential Mackinac Policy Conference this month to do a fundraiser in Grand Rapids. McCain’s not going to get that many more chances before the Dems (finally) get their act together.

If you want to know why the virtually nonexistent McCain Michigan campaign is wheezing, look no further than Yob, a knee-jerk reactionary who miraculously hung onto his job after spouting off that women make fine secretaries of state “because they like that sort of work.”

Yob and his boy, John Patrick, launched a boneheaded West Michigan strategy (their only strategy) that handed McCain a 9-point primary loss. Keep in mind that McCain won a stunning upset here against George W. Bush in 2000, back when his campaign was headed by the brilliant former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz.

The Yobs are completely tone-deaf when it comes to Oakland County, which will be the key to a McCain victory in November. Where was iconic County Executive L. Brooks Patterson on Wednesday? Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop couldn’t even make it back to his district because the event was scheduled at the exact same time as session.

That’s who you want on stage, not state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, R-Kalamazoo, the sacrificial right-wing lamb praying to break 40 percent against U.S. Sen. Carl Levin this fall.

What’s best for McCain would be turning the Yobs loose to pursue their true passion, polarizing the party and making state Chair Saul Anuzis’ life miserable (sorry, Saul, I’m rootin’ for you).

When Chuckie was making noises about running for party chair in 2004, Attorney General Mike Cox adeptly surmised it would be disastrous because “he’s more concerned with party elections than with beating Democrats.” Cox went on to be McCain’s state chair, only to quit last summer after chafing with the Yob West Michigan mafia.

What McCain should do now is aggressively court powerbrokers like Patterson, Bishop and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller to be his ambassadors in Southeast Michigan. And he should give his old friend Joe Schwarz a call and beg him to run the show again, since he’s about the only credible moderate voice left here who could woo votes away from Obama.

That’s just good politics if you’re serious about winning Michigan. Your move, McCain.

Granholm adopts Clinton math, says MI key to her nomination

April 25, 2008

From my new Capitol Chronicles column and blog for

After Hillary Clinton’s dual victories this week in Pennsylvania and at Michigan’s district conventions, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said the Mitten State would be a key factor in her candidate winning the nomination.

“I think Michigan will be critical,” said Granholm, Clinton’s highest-profile supporter in the state.

On Saturday, Clinton won a quiet victory at the 15 Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) conventions, taking not just her allotted delegates but is likely to eventually gain a fair chunk of the uncommitted delegates the MDP officially said should go to Obama. Several labor members elected and uncommitted delegates reserved the right to vote for whomever their union endorses and most, especially the UAW, are thought to lean Clinton.

The rest of the 128 pledged delegates will be selected at the central committee meeting in May and Obama isn’t expected to fare any better with the Clinton-friendly bunch.

Granholm was upbeat about Clinton’s prospects for the nomination at a press conference about an overseas investment mission today.

“I think if you look at the popular vote, that’s one aspect for the super delegates can consider in deciding who would be the strongest candidate in the general election,” she said.

“If you look at all the citizens who have voted in the nation, she’s got more votes by citizens,” the governor added.

Granholm was on message. The Clinton campaign has been pushing the idea to the media, with some success, that after her 9-point win in Pennsylvania, she now leads in the popular vote. That includes Clinton’s votes in Michigan and Florida, which she won, but the Democratic National Committee (DNC) stripped them of their delegates for holding early primaries.

The official tally is Barack Obama has 14,417,619 votes to Clinton’s 13,917,393. With Florida and Michigan, it’s 14,993,833 for Obama and 15,116,688 for Clinton.

What’s most questionable about the Clinton camp’s accounting is that Obama wasn’t on the ballot in Michigan, although “uncommitted” was. The MDP officially said all uncommitted delegates should go to Obama. However, Clinton math doesn’t give him any of the 238,168 “uncommitted” votes. Counting those, Obama bounces back in the lead, 15,232,001 to 15,116,688.

“Even if you gave him all the uncommitted, she would still be ahead in the popular vote,” Granholm said.

When she was corrected by reporters, Granholm acknowledged, “I may be wrong,” adding she was looking at RealClearPolitics.

When asked why Clinton should be allowed to claim votes she didn’t campaign for, Granholm said, “She left her name on the ballot.” Clinton did reassure New Hampshire voters last fall that the Michigan primary wouldn’t count.

Granholm also blamed Obama for not consenting to a revote in Michigan, saying it wasn’t fair to voters.

“And it’s all nice to talk about the delegates and the super delegates and the party poobahs who are making decisions, but the people who actually voted and there was an effort to give people another chance to vote. Now is that fair?”

Interestingly, she cast Clinton as the champion of democracy and implied Obama was trying to win on procedural grounds. The roles have been flipped for most of the contest, as Obama does lead in delegates, states won and the popular vote and Clinton would have to win via super delegates or a convention fight. There’s great consternation amongst Democrats, and not just Obama backers, that a Clinton win would subvert the democratic process.

Granholm said she didn’t think the nomination would be decided until the last primaries on June 3.

The governor again called on the DNC to count Michigan’s votes and seat the delegation. She said she did expect the delegation would be seated (Chair Howard Dean has committed to that, however vaguely) and thought the decision would come before the August national convention in Denver.

“Nobody wants to see a fight,” Granholm said, flashing a grin at the media, “except for you all, probably.”

Susan J. Demas on NBC, NPR, Newsweek, RealClearPolitics sites

April 25, 2008

My Michigan is becoming Clinton’s secret weapon column in the Detroit News has sparked an interesting debate. It’s being discussed and linked at:


NBC News First Read

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Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish in The Atlantic

The Huffington Post

Daily Kos

My DD and in comments here

World and Global Politics

Outside the Beltway

Talking Points Memo and in comments here

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Obama ’08

The Clintonista Post

Election Bid 2008




Expressio Unius



US Democrat

Richard’s Blog the 411

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Michigan is becoming Clinton’s secret weapon

April 24, 2008

Susan J. Demas
The Detroit News

If you punched your ballot for “uncommitted” in Michigan’s Jan. 15 Democratic presidential primary to back Barack Obama, your vote might have essentially gone to Hillary Clinton anyway.

While all eyes were locked on Pennsylvania for the last six weeks, Clinton was quietly amassing delegates in the Wolverine State. And she was rewarded this past weekend with a significant victory at the district conventions.

This development naturally has been overshadowed by her big win Tuesday night in Pennsylvania. But the race for the Democratic nomination wasn’t decided then and won’t be by the remaining contests — not North Carolina, Indiana or even Guam — because the real fight is over delegates. And Michigan remains a key battleground.

On Aug. 25, Clinton will march into the national convention in Denver stronger than most people realize, thanks to her aggressive ground game in Michigan.

Buoyed by party elder support, Clinton seems likely to capture more than 60 percent of the state’s 128 pledged delegates, according to an analysis by the Michigan Information & Research Service. Including the 28 superdelegates, which lean heavily in the New York senator’s favor, she could win upward of 70 percent of delegates, provided that they’re seated with full voting power.

That depends on the Democratic National Committee, which punished Michigan for leapfrogging the primary schedule. There is no deal yet to seat the delegation. But the Clinton camp is working overtime to ensure the elected slate is sent. Keep in mind that Clinton won 55 percent to uncommitted’s 40 percent since Obama wasn’t on the ballot. He has pushed for a 50-50 percent delegate split, but that proposal hasn’t gained traction.

It’s becoming apparent that Obama should have consented to a revote here. He certainly wouldn’t have lost by 15 percentage points or more; polls have pegged the pair in a dead heat. But Obama seemed spooked that Clintonites put forth the plan and the money, so he quashed the do-over last month.

Now Obama is paying the price in delegates, starting with the Michigan Democratic Party’s 15 district conventions on Saturday. The Clinton battle plan was flawlessly executed with an eye toward a contested convention. Their delegate roster is crammed with big names like former Gov. Jim Blanchard and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

“We wanted to pick people who would be loyal to Hillary, who would commit to her through multiple ballots,” Blanchard says.

Michiganders for Obama, a ragtag group of new volunteers, triumphed in turnout Saturday but were steamrolled by the Clinton machine. Obama has proved to be a master of organization, but he made a tactical error not to plump up his skeletal apparatus in Michigan.

As a result, he will almost certainly fall short of the 36 uncommitted delegates selected. Volunteers argued that only Obama supporters should be uncommitted delegates, but they were outmaneuvered. About half of the uncommitted delegates reserved the right to vote for Clinton, depending on whom their unions eventually endorse.

While union officials flatly deny they’re in the tank for Clinton, Obama supporters point out that United Auto Workers Legislative Coordinator Nadine Nosal was elected in the 8th District as an alternate Clinton delegate. That underscores the fact that Obama’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club last year, calling for higher federal fuel economy standards, went over with labor leaders like a lead balloon.

In May, the party’s labor-heavy, Clinton-friendly central committee chooses the remaining 45 delegates, setting up a scenario of more uncommitted delegates switching to Clinton.

Given her narrow path to the nomination, Clinton and her aides have argued that pledged delegates are fair game to flip. Although they’ve since backed away from such statements, the Michigan delegate conventions show the Clinton delegate strategy is being set into motion. What this could mean is four very interesting days in Denver. Although the odds still favor Obama — who leads in delegates, the popular vote and states won — he has to be a bit rattled over two losses in one week.

If Clinton comes out on top in a floor war, we might well look back at the Michigan m�l�e as the turning point.

Did Clinton Forces Infiltrate "Uncommitted" Delegates at Michigan Dem Convention?

April 24, 2008

by Susan J. Demas

Buzzflash Guest Contribution

If you voted “uncommitted” in the Michigan primary to support Barack Obama, your vote might have essentially gone to Hillary Clinton anyway.

The Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS) has learned that some of the 36 uncommitted delegates chosen at Saturday’s district conventions say they’re staying uncommitted and not backing Obama. That seems curious, because there are only two candidates left in the race and those backing Clinton could have caucused for her.

Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Mark Brewer gave those exact instructions to those attending the 15 sites. But Obama supporters say they might not have been heeded to give Clinton even more than the 55 percent of delegates she won on January 15.

This could be a harbinger of what is to come. A MIRS analysis of superdelegates shows most favor Clinton (See “Advantage Clinton In MI Super Delegate Hunt,” 3/19/08). The central committee will choose another 45 pledged delegates, and party elders are largely pro-Hillary. When all is said and done, Clinton likely will walk away with more than 60 percent of Michigan’s pledged and superdelegates, perhaps more than 70 percent.

That is if the delegates are seated with full voting power. Negotiations are still ongoing with the Democratic National Committee, although it’s not clear what the makeup would be. Obama has proposed splitting them 50-50. So there’s a chance more chaos could ensue down the road, although MDP spokeswoman Liz Kerr said they’ll cross that bridge when it comes.

Clinton, by and large, had the establishment on Saturday. Former Governor Jim Blanchard, who didn’t attend the 9th District, but was elected a delegate, said the Clinton forces were well organized with an eye toward a contested convention. “We wanted to pick people who would be loyal to Hillary, who would commit to her through multiple ballots,” said Blanchard.

There was Michiganders for Obama, an upstart group trying to organize but it was behind the curve since the candidate never campaigned here.

Some Obama supporters were especially suspicious on Saturday of the “unity slates” made up of members of the UAW, which hasn’t endorsed a candidate. Attendees said there were shouting matches and massive confusion at the 9th District convention. UAW member Catherine Martin was elected as an uncommitted delegate and plans to stay that way until the union endorses.

State Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi (D-Farmington Hills), an elected Obama delegate, points out Martin was elected by an “overwhelmingly Obama crowd.”

The problem is the perception that the UAW backs Clinton. Nadine Nosal, legislative coordinator for the UAW, was elected in the 8th District as an alternate delegate supporting Clinton.

The UAW flatly denies it’s pro-Clinton. Nosal said the union put delegate candidates in both caucuses because it’s neutral. As for the Obama supporters’ criticism, she said, “I don’t perceive it to be what they’re saying.”

The Clinton campaign has been unusually quiet about the Michigan conventions. Clinton and national advisers have said that Obama’s pledged delegates are fair game to flip, although they’ve backed away from statements afterward. Still, Clinton is making an aggressive behind-the-scenes push with superdelegates and to massage the nominating process to ensure she gets the nomination, even if she’s behind in the delegate count, popular vote, and states won.

The MDP hasn’t released an official list of the 83 delegates and 15 alternates. Kerr said it hasn’t been policy to do so in past years until a few days before the national convention.

The remaining 45 of the 128 pledged delegates will be selected at the central committee meeting in May.

Derrick Johnson is an uncommitted delegate from the 15th District who supports Obama and also is head of the Washtenaw County Board of Elections. He said he’s heard from Obama backers in other districts who were concerned they were outmaneuvered by Clinton supporters.

“If you’re uncommitted, our message is that you shouldn’t be uncommitted now. There are only two people left. If you support Clinton, there’s a process for her delegates. Uncommitted should be for Obama,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t a problem in our district, but I think we had a different culture there than in some others.”

Vagnozzi said there were four times as many Obama supporters than Clinton backers in the 9th, which seems to fit the statewide pattern. But the MDP doesn’t have attendance numbers yet.

When asked if that was surprising, given the fact that Clinton won the primary, Vagnozzi said, “I think it shows the election wasn’t an accurate reflection. Obama wasn’t on the ballot. Clinton was.”

He said the most important thing is for the delegation to be seated, because a Democrat will never win the White House without Florida and Michigan.

Vagnozzi acknowledges that scenario doesn’t favor Obama.

“It might, but it’s much more important to seat Michigan than any downside to it.”

Nosal said it was her “hope and prayer” that the Democrats rally around the nominee whenever that’s decided. “We need to come together. We need to elect a Democrat — I feel so strongly about that. Otherwise, we’ll have four more years of what we’ve already had eight years of.”

The sad, short political life of John Edwards

April 4, 2008

John Edwards stood before me, cradling an angelic 11-month-old popping a pacifier with the serenity only a father of four has.

His now famously $400-coiffed hair was shaggier then, his powder-blue Oxford collar unbuttoned and his cauliflower eyes less crinkled. There was an ease to the then-freshman senator on that sultry August day in 2003.

Speaking to a gathering of 40 university-types in a sprawling Iowa City backyard, Edwards relished his sunny, upstart campaign, much like Mike Huckabee did this time around.

The expert litigator didn’t unfurl a fiery speech, as would become his trademark in 2008, nor did he spend much time on labor issues, save for his “son of a millworker” spiel. He deftly touched on the death of his oldest son, Wade, which propelled him into politics.

But in spite of his paper-thin political r�sum� (far skimpier than Barack Obama’s), he looked presidential in a Hollywood sort of way. And he definitely had the kissing babies part down.

So I wasn’t particularly surprised that he scored second place in the Iowa caucuses in ’04. Nor was I by his repeat performance this year.

The difference was, after moving to the cornfields for a couple years, coming in No. 2 again was the death-knell of his campaign. I had my suspicions even back in August 2007 after talking with Edwards strategist Joe Trippi.

In the spin room after a Chicago debate, Trippi refreshingly didn’t fall over himself to invent all the ways his guy won. He wisely said the field was winnowing to three, lumping Edwards and Obama together as the reform candidates.

When I asked if Edwards would hold a fundraising and organizational advantage over Republicans, Trippi replied, “Whoever the Democratic nominee is – whether it’s Edwards or someone else – will inherit a much better operation.”

When your communications guru stops painting you as an invincible superhero, you’ve got problems. Even Dennis Kucinich kept hope alive by adorably telling audiences, “When I’m president . . .”

There was a surrealist melancholy to Edwards’ second run, as his wife, Elizabeth, wilted from a recurrence of incurable breast cancer. Both of them seemed itching for a fight – and who could blame them?

But for a former political Pollyanna, Edwards’ newfound anger seemed off-key and his love affair with unions (after previously sitting on his hands in right-to-work North Carolina) came off contrived.

His worst moment came at that Chi-town debate, when a disabled steelworker who could barely stand at the microphone pled with candidates about universal health care.

“What’s wrong with America?” Steve Skvara asked, neck pulsating in pain. “And what will you do to change it?”

Edwards blithely dispensed vague promises of reform, before proclaiming himself to be the true workers’ candidate.

“Who was with you in crunch time?” Edwards grinned ingratiatingly at the crowd.

It was a truly chilling exchange, which his campaign didn’t get, instead trumpeting the footage on YouTube. I wondered how a man whose wife has metastatic stage four cancer could respond that way.

After a string of dismal showings before Super Tuesday, Edwards quit. He never captured the limelight he felt he’d earned as a former vice presidential nominee, usurped by Hillary Clinton primping herself for coronation and by the superstar status of the silver-tongued Obama.

(“We can’t make John black; we can’t make him a woman,” Elizabeth Edwards had once scowled on the stump).

As the increasingly bitter Democratic brawl drags on, attention is turning to party elders to inject some sanity. But although a steady drip of superdelegates have come Obama’s way, Edwards has stayed mum.

The conventional wisdom was that Edwards would endorse the frontrunner. They’d both ganged up on Clinton as the corporate candidate, who defended taking boatloads of lobbyists’ cash because they “represent real Americans.”

The golden boy hasn’t and is now said to favor Clinton, whom he respects as a fighter, underscoring his resentment of Obama’s successful healer-in-chief campaign.

The Edwardses are, not surprisingly, passionate about health care and prefer Clinton’s blueprint to Obama’s. This has always been a bizarre argument amongst the Dems, who all sport strikingly similar plans that are miles from John McCain’s and the status quo.

There’s a legitimate debate to be had over mandates (Obama doesn’t have one for adults) but it’s really just academic. Plans are just a starting point for negotiating with Congress (which Clinton blew big-time in 1993).

Four years after that Iowa City garden party, I’m still not quite sure who John Edwards is.

What is it that he wants? Does he want attorney general, terrorizing Wall Street a la Eliot Spitzer (sans the hooker mess)? It seems doubtful that he covets a second crack at veep. And he seems too restless to settle back down at the admirable anti-poverty organization he founded.

I don’t think he knows.

He appears to be a man adrift in the face of losing his rock of 30 years. Grief and ambition drove him into politics. Sadly, it’s now become a circular quest.

Clinton stacks the deck for re-vote

March 14, 2008

Saturday Night Live� is clearly in the tank for Hillary Clinton, but here�s what you might not know: so is the Michigan Democratic establishment.

That�s the disingenuous backdrop to the frenzied debate over a do-over primary in the Great Lakes State after Clinton�s comeback last week.

She�s locked up Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former Gov. Jim Blanchard and Sen. Debbie Stabenow. And let�s not forget House Energy Chair John �The Truck� Dingell, whose wife, Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell, (not coincidentally) engineered the botched Jan. 15 primary to be Clinton�s firewall.

So much for that.

There�s also Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Mark Brewer, who swears on a stack of Bibles that he�s neutral. But everyone knows he was a big fan of fellow labor guy John Edwards and jumped to Clinton after he dropped out.

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Who�s in Barack Obama�s camp? Rep. John Conyers, Teamster President James Hoffa and a smattering of state legislators, which means the Clintonistas hold most of the cards in the battle over a re-vote.

By now, the world knows Michigan�s primary was a bad joke straight out of SNL. Unlike Florida, Clinton was the only major candidate on the ballot; Obama and Edwards yanked their names off as soon as the Democratic National Committee erased the state�s delegates for brazenly flouting party rules.

Last fall, even Clinton called the contest meaningless.

She only mustered 55 percent against no one (a.k.a. �uncommitted�) in the race for zero delegates, which Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell cleverly spun on Sunday�s �Meet the Press�: �You run against uncommitted, that�s the toughest election to win.�

Yeah, right.

As it stands, Obama has stingily hung on to his 100-plus delegate lead, even with Texas (which he won anyway in delegates) and Ohio.

That means the Clinton camp needs to reset the electoral math equation to win. And voila! Michigan and Florida have reemerged as the battleground.

Problem is, Clinton still can�t catch up unless Obama nets zero delegates in some contests. Enter Blanchard, who proposes �all-or-nothing� primaries in the two states in a last-ditch attempt to give a Clinton nomination electoral legitimacy.

If you don�t like the rules, change �em. Worked for the Soviet Union.

Granholm has been less blatant, casting an eye to the federal bench or a cabinet post with either candidate, though her heart belongs to Hillary. (When Obama was on a winning streak, the gov notably was one of the first to glom onto the �dream ticket� scenario).

So Granholm�s thrown out the idea of a �firehouse primary,� a scaled-back contest on a Saturday.

Of course, it�s still murky how the Mitten State � which just hiked taxes to plug a $2 billion deficit � can afford another primary after shelling out $10 million for a worthless one in January.

One solution you�re not hearing about is a less-costly caucus � which the state party has traditionally held in presidential years. But caucuses have favored Obama�s hustle and organization, and thus have been deemed �undemocratic� by Team Clinton.

That surely will come as news to first-in-the-nation Iowa.

Sen. Carl Levin, who doesn�t have a dog in this fight and thus has moral standing, backs a mail-in re-vote. Sounds sensible, especially from a cost perspective, but there�s no way to snuff out the stench of becoming a banana republic.

The truth is, there aren�t any great solutions here.

But Brewer wants his delegates � he�s staked his reputation on this fight. The staunch Granholm ally is negotiating furiously, insisting the outcome will be fair to Obama, since the MDP, DNC and both campaigns all have to sign on.

Many Obama backers would leap at the chance to vote for him for the first time. But Brewer�s promises ring flat – kind of how the Arab world scoffs at the idea of the United States as an honest broker in the Middle East peace process.

Let�s be clear – nobody is pure in this. The Obamaniacs want their guy to win and some are willing bend the rules accordingly. State Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, for instance, wants to split Michigan�s delegates 50-50.

The difference is, he�s in absolutely no position to make that happen. The Clinton cabal has stacked the deck.

What they don�t realize is ultimately, their strategy is a house of cards.

The most ominous sign for Clinton is her crushing defeat in Detroit, where uncommitted pulled 70 percent of the vote. Our biggest city � which is economically decimated and 82 percent black � already feels disenfranchised.

Clinton could irreparably alienate the party�s most dependable voting block – and racially explosive remarks by supporters like Geraldine Ferraro don�t help.

After all, how does a Democratic presidential hopeful ever carry Michigan? Stockpile big margins in Detroit to offset outstate returns.

Yep, Hillary can win this hand. But I�ll bet she still loses in the end.