With almost six weeks until the next primary, now seems as good a time as ever to have a nice, long, probing discussion about race. Might as well throw in gender too — we've got time. With the Geraldine Ferraro controversy having reached its uneasy conclusion, talk now turns to how exactly the candidates are using and responding to issues of race and gender, and the larger role of voter biases. Is Obama being too sensitive? Is his blackness actually the crux of his appeal? Or is it just the cherry on top of his three scoops of awesomeness? And when can we get back to talking about health-care mandates? Okay, nobody's saying that last thing. But some people are already wondering when the pattern of racist-sexist accusations will peter out for good.
America's first female vice-presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, has resigned from Hillary Clinton's campaign in disgrace after she said that Obama "would not be in this position" if he were a white man. Except, according to her, there's no disgrace at all. In fact, she's owed an apology. After a liberal blog and media feeding frenzy over her comments, she stepped down from her position on the finance committee — but she refused to apologize for the flap. "If anybody is going to apologize," she said defiantly, "They should apologize to me for calling me a racist." She said she's stepping down only so the campaign can move past this issue. Obama himself stopped short of calling her racist, but Hillary aggressively attacked her. "I rejected what she said and I certainly do repudiate it." She rejects and repudiates? She's making sure all her bases are covered. She's also putting Ferraro in the same box as Louis Farrakhan. Ouch!
Ferraro Quits But Offers No Apologies [Campaign 08/Nation]
As you probably already know, but perhaps haven't been much thinking about, Barack Obama won the Mississippi primary last night. It was a big win, something like 60 percent to 37 percent. Clinton didn't make much of an effort in the state, so she probably didn't take the loss too hard — for a woman who claims to want to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations so that every Democratic voter can feel like he's been listened to, she's certainly been ignoring a large amount of them. But the exit-poll numbers indicate a few surprises. For one thing, Hillary Clinton received the lion's share of crossover votes (Republican voters who vote in the Democratic primary), which is a first — every other time crossover voting has been included, Obama has trumped her with this group. But this time, Hillary took them 3 to 1. Obama took 90 percent of the black vote, and Hillary did better than usual with the white vote, which Politico's Ben Smith chalks up to the attitudes of southern white voters. And finally, Obama won either five or seven delegates more than Hillary did last night, depending on who is counting. This effectively erases any ground she may have gained after her big wins last Tuesday.
We will now return to our round-the-clock Eliot Spitzer hookapalooza coverage.
Mississippi Crossovers [Talking Points Memo]
Mississippi Delegates [Politico]
The Magnolia State Stats [Stumper/Newsweek]
Obama Wins In Mississippi [NYT]
Geraldine Ferraro apparently hasn't paid attention to how the offensive-comment cycle has worked this election: Surrogate X says something offensive about candidate Y. General outrage ensues. Surrogate X backtracks, apologizes, and/or vanishes. Ferraro, a member of Hillary Clinton's finance committee, is not backing away from her statement (to Torrance, California's Daily Breeze) that "If [Barack] Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." Obama's people charged it furthered a Clinton pattern of race-baiting; Clinton only said she "disagreed" with Ferraro. And Ferraro has refused to back down. Yesterday on Fox News she even claimed to be the victim of reverse racism, saying, "I really think they're attacking me because I'm white." And judging from what she told the New York Times, Ferraro has no intention of quietly slinking away. "If they think they’re going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don’t know me," she told the Caucus blog. Who else isn't shutting up? The punditry, of course.
Dream ticket? Dream on. That was the message delivered by Barack Obama in Mississippi yesterday when he shook off the notion — recently planted by Hillary and Bill Clinton — of a joint presidential ticket led, naturally, by Clinton. Obama characterized the suggestion as a shrewd plan meant to "hoodwink," "bamboozle," and "okey-doke" the voters. After putting away his Thesaurus of Funny-Sounding Words and Phrases, 3rd Edition, he then questioned how Clinton could claim he's not qualified to be commander-in-chief and then kinda-sorta offer him the veep slot. A lot of other people have been wondering the same thing.
Last week a national Electoral College poll pitted Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama separately against John McCain in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The numbers will obviously change between now and the general election, but the poll shows both Clinton and Obama defeating McCain with combinations of states that shake up the familiar red-blue divide of the past two presidential elections. And though they win with different states, the fact that the poll gives both Obama and Clinton an advantage fails to help resolve a main point of contention in the Democratic primary: Who is more electable? And so, as always, we turn to the pundits.
Remember when there was all that hullabaloo about the Clinton campaign's making Barack Obama look blacker than he is in one of its ads? The campaign dismissed the claim, but we know enough about political advertising to be aware that not one single second of any spot isn't agonized over. (Case in point: The idea that the famous "floating cross" in Huckabee's Christmas ad was anything but planned is ridiculous.) But maybe we were too quick to judge: Last Thursday we noticed that Clinton isn't the only one with trouble nailing down Obama's exact facial characteristics. The Wall Street Journal's crack team of stipple artists (led by Noli Novak) couldn't quite get it right, either. Instead of Obama's trademark dark brow and big open eyes, we got an image of a man who looked, well, a little bit like a generic black dude. That's weird, right? But maybe we should just chalk it up to the limitations of the medium. And in that case, let us say that said limitations are kinder to Hillary. When was the last time you saw her looking that joyful and young?
Clinton, Obama Go on Attack as Superdelegates Hold Key [WSJ]
Last night, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi sat down to discuss the Democratic primary with New York's John Heilemann from his home on the eastern shore of Maryland. The architect of Howard Dean's 2004 primary insurgency, most recently a senior adviser to John Edwards's campaign and a leading advocate for the "bottom-up" style of campaigning, which eschews big donors in favor of grassroots organizing and small donations fueled by the Internet, shared his thoughts on the current Clinton-Obama deadlock. Read on to find out why this won't be resolved before the convention, a Clinton-Obama ticket is likely, and the end of the writers' strike was a key moment in the race.
JH: Let's start at 30,000 feet. As of right now, what's the probability (out of 100) that Obama will be the Democratic nominee?
JT: I would give Obama a probability of 70 out of 100 that he will be the nominee, but Clinton could still pull this out.
“[Barack] Obama has won the small caucus states with the latte-sipping crowd,” an anonymous aide to Hillary Clinton told the Times of London over the weekend. “They don’t need a president, they need a feeling.” —Times Online
If there’s one piece of partisan analysis that has hardened into conventional wisdom about the 2008 Democratic campaign, it’s that Obama is an uptown guy compared to Clinton’s downtown gal. The argument has been made elegantly, as when Rutgers historian David Greenberg wrote in Slate that Obama’s “real precursors … are the educated, middle-class reformers of the Gilded Age known as the Mugwumps … liberal professionals and gentlemen of the late 19th century who tried to transform both the economic arrangements of the industrial age … and the machine-dominated political system … forebears of the Progressives … but also elitist.” And it’s been made crassly, as when machinists-union chief Tom Buffenbarger called Obama supporters “latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust-fund babies.” The meme is out there, and it’s sticking: To paraphrase Archie Bunker on Harry Belafonte, Barack Obama’s just a good-looking Adlai Stevenson dipped in caramel.
Barack Obama's Tuesday losses were like splash of cold water on a campaign too comfortable with its recent dominance. But is the problem now going to be one of the campaigns becoming too aggressive? Yesterday, in an ominous sign, Obama adviser Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a "monster" (read our take on that). But while that smear was immediately condemned by Obama, his political team clearly believes that he has to be more aggressive, especially in the face of stepped-up Clinton attacks that include comparing Obama to, yes, Ken Starr. Many commentators are already warning Obama to be careful as he wades into the muck.
Barack Obama's foreign-policy adviser, Samantha Power, went negative on Hillary Clinton to the The Scotsman yesterday. Like, really negative. While traveling in the U.K. to promote her book Chasing the Flame, about U.N. representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Pulitzer winner lamented the Ohio primary — "We fucked up in Ohio" — and kinda let loose about Obama's rival. "She is a monster," she told the paper, before quickly trying to pull the statement off the record. (The paper was having none of it, noting that Power was promoting her book and it had been established in advance that the interview was on the record.) Regardless, Power's on-the-record statements weren't much gentler. "She is stooping to anything," she said of Clinton. "You just look at her and think: ergh … The amount of deceit she has put forward is really unattractive." All right then! Now tell us how you really feel. Power later apologized and Obama "decried" the statement (wonder whether Hillary will call him out on not "rejecting" it instead?). We also learned today that Hillary's team is trying to slap Obama with the Ken Starr name tag, but let's be honest — "monster" is much more catchy.
Inside US poll battle as fight turns dirty for Democrats [Scotsman]
Update: Power just resigned, issuing the following statement: "With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an adviser to the Obama campaign effective today. Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor and purpose of the Obama campaign."
It's been one thing after another in the Democratic primaries, from hand-wringing over superdelegates to confusion over the Texas "primacaucus" process. Another headache is now moving to the forefront: With the race so tight, what to do about Florida and Michigan, whose delegates the DNC refused to seat after the states were warned not to schedule their primaries so early? Yesterday, DNC chair Howard Dean laid out two ideas: The states can submit a plan for a new selection process or they can wait until the summer and ask the party's Convention Credentials Committee to resolve the dispute. And so the wrangling begins in earnest.
If Katie Couric had a real Facebook page, one that just her friends could see, for the past couple of years you could just imagine that it would have this constant status update: "Katie Couric is disappointed." After her ratings at CBS News slumped and the network became less supportive of her, you might imagine that she's sort of just generally a little disillusioned all the time. So you almost forget that there might be specific things that she's disappointed about. Like presidential primary debates, for example. Today, we learn from the Observer that she wanted to host one (as anchors tend to do — Anderson Cooper alone moderated, like, fifteen), but for various reasons a CBS debate never materialized.
Woooo! Hillary won! Things are going to be exciting now. She's back in it to win it. Or is she? As the confetti settles from last night, pundits have begun repeating their long-practiced warnings: In order to really capture the nomination, Hillary still has to pull some political moves that will tear the Democratic party asunder. Whether it's a continued onslaught of attack ads, a bid to seat Michigan and Florida delegates, or a last-minute coup of the election by superdelegates, many are still afraid of what Clinton's actions might mean for the party base.
• Jonathan Alter does the math using Slate's Delegate Calculator (predicting generous Clinton victories), and still thinks she can't win without superdelegates, even if she gets a rerun in Michigan and Florida. [Newsweek]
• Charles Hurt, who called Hill the "strife of the party," warns that if superdelegates actually do give her the nomination despite overwhelming demand for Obama, "many of his supporters — including the party's crucial bloc of black voters — will desert the party." [NYP]
As John Heilemann explains, that “kitchen sink” Hillary Clinton threw at Barack Obama turned out to be pretty effective. Despite polls showing Ohio residents believed by wide margins that she attacked him unfairly rather than the other way around, Hillary spanked Obama by double digits in Ohio and eked out a popular-vote win in Texas. But it wasn’t just her red phone ringing at 3 a.m., kvetching about back-channel NAFTA assurances, and pushing the media to interrogate Obama about Antoin Rezko.
So Hillary Clinton did what she had to do yesterday to earn a tomorrow for her candidacy: She won Ohio (decisively) and Texas (by a hair in the popular vote, though Obama is likely to win the caucus portion of that state’s weird-ass system). It’s true that a few weeks ago, this would have seemed no great feat, so great were HRC’s leads in the opinion polls in both places. But in the face of Barack Obama’s monthlong, twelve-contest winning streak, of being massively outspent on the air and out-organized on the ground, of two debates where she did no better than battle her rival to a draw, of a slow and seemingly inexorable drift of superdelegates (and not just any superdelegates, but John Lewis, for chrissakes) to Obama — in the face of all of that, Hillary’s achievement was inarguably considerable.
"Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years." Once again the immortal words of LL Cool J somehow perfectly apply to an American political trend. Tuesday was indeed Clinton's comeback night, and she owes it all to whites, Latinos, women, the working class, late-deciders, the elderly, the moderately educated — just about any demographic group that can possibly be identified and analyzed through exit polls. But the numbers alone don't tell the whole story — here are some of the more interesting takes on last night's exit polls.
Hit with phone attack ads, scrambling to explain mysterious NAFTA meetings with Canadians, and pelted by a suddenly awakened press corps, Barack Obama is on the defensive for the first time since the days after the New Hampshire primary. Polls show Hillary Clinton widening her lead in Ohio and reclaiming enough lost territory to make Texas a dead heat. But this late in the ball game, math is at least as important as momentum. And the latest delegate numbers show Obama, despite all the recent headlines, heading for a tipping point in securing the Democratic nomination.
Barack Obama must be wondering how the worst press he’s received practically all campaign season came down just before today’s primaries — his chance to close the deal. He can look inward for answers. The big story, of course, is the meeting an Obama advisor, Austin Goolsbee, had with a Canadian official about NAFTA. After Canadian TV reported that Goolsbee had assured the Canadian official that basically all Obama’s tough talk on NAFTA was political maneuvering, the Obama campaign denied the meeting ever took place. Then, on cue, a Canadian memo surfaced confirming that the meeting did take place. The Obama campaign’s evasive answers and qualified denials have failed to placate a press corps determined to prove they’re holding Obama accountable. At the same time, a former Obama supporter, Antoin Rezko, begins his trial in Chicago for influence peddling. While nothing unethical or illegal has been proven about Obama’s relationship with Rezko, the fact that new details are still emerging raises doubts about Obama’s previous claims that he has divulged everything about their association. None of this meshes well with Obama’s claim to be running on a new kind of politics, and, from looking at the polls showing a Clinton rebound, voters are taking notice.
A day before the latest all-important primaries, in Ohio and Texas (and oh, Vermont and Rhode Island), the expectation game has taken on even more significance than usual. Weeks ago, the pundits were saying Clinton needed a blowout win; Bill Clinton admitted they needed to take both Ohio and Texas. With the polls showing a tightening race, people are beginning to wonder what Clinton will do if tomorrow's results are muddled — which, given Texas' ridiculously complex primary-caucus hybrid, is a very real possibility.