Gallup Poll: Obama Ties Clinton

The latest USA Today/Gallup Poll (story here, results here) has Barack Obama at 30 percent and Hillary Clinton at 29 percent among Democrats and independents who lean Democrat. Without Al Gore in the race, Clinton is ahead of Obama 37-36, within the margin of error. This would be shocking if accurate, because many people still consider Hillary the prohibitive frontrunner.

There are reasons to be skeptical of this poll, however. It contradicts all of the other polling data we’ve seen, including last week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll that had Hillary up 12 points. Also, in mid-May, Gallup had Hillary up by 14 points (without Gore), so it’s hard to see what could have happened in the past few weeks to cause that much of a swing.

On the Republican side, it shows Giuliani gaining a few points and McCain dropping, meaning that Rudy reestablished a double digit lead 32-19. Romney also gained, and is now at 12 percent, his first double-digit showing of the year in the Gallup poll, perhaps ever. Fred Thompson was at 11 percent. Although, again, this is only one poll, at least on the Republican side you can point to events (Giuliani’s performance in the second debate, the immigration bill) that would have accounted for the results.

CNN Anti-GOP Bias?

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I found it amusing to look at this page CNN has up on its Website listing the current and potential presidential candidates in both parties. What’s interesting is that for the Republican candidates, it highlights their election losses or political setbacks, whereas its descriptions of Democrats are neutral or highlight their victories.

For example, on the GOP side:

Rudy Giuliani: The two-term mayor of New York City once ran for the U.S. Senate, but dropped out in 2000.

John McCain: The U.S. senator from Arizona ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, but lost to George W. Bush.

Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 1994.

Meanwhile on the Democratic side:

Hillary Clinton: The former first lady is now in her second term as the junior senator from New York.

Barack Obama: The former lawyer and state senator won a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois in 2004.

John Edwards: The former U.S. senator from North Carolina was the Democratic 2004 vice presidential candidate.

Al Gore: The former vice president ran for president in 2000 and now campaigns against global warming.

So McCain lost to President Bush, but Gore merely ran against him? Edwards didn’t lose in 2004? Romney’s Senate loss in 1994 is more relevant than his 2002 victory, but it’s irrelevant that Obama got crushed in a 2000 Congressional race?

Loose Democratic Debate Thoughts

There were a few other observations I had of the Democratic debate last night that didn’t make it into my column:

–John Edwards’ insistence on calling the War on Terror a “bumper sticker” reveals a desperation on his part, making it pretty clear that he won’t be the nominee. If you give the benefit of the doubt to Edwards, he is making the intellectual argument that while we do need to fight terrorism, categorizing it as a “War on Terror” can be used for propaganda purposes to justify all sorts of things. But in a political context, such nuances don’t get conveyed, and Edwards comes across as someone who doesn’t think terrorism is a problem. This gave Hillary Clinton the oppourtunity to establish herself as more hawkish by declaring that as a New Yorker (it’s been over six years and I still can’t get over that) “I have seen first hand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists.” Edwards’ progressive populism will win over a certain portion of the left, but in the end the party will go with a more mainstream candidate, just as Democrats ditched Howard Dean at the end to go with John Kerry.

–It’s been pointed out on other blogs, but for the second debate in a row, Bill Richardson bombed. I always thought Richardson would make a strong vice presidential choice given the fact that he is governor of New Mexico, which is a crucial swing region, he is Hispanic, and is the candidate with the strongest resume. I thought he’d be an especially great fit for the VP slot if Ovama were the nominee, because Obama would have to pick somebody more experienced than he is to reassure voters. So, I’ve been quite surprised to watch Richardson struggle through another debate. His answers were rambling and often off topic, and he was overly eager to tout his experience. He was at his most juvenile when after a question about Darfur, he said “I was there” about 83 times.

–Joe Biden evidently thinks that the candidate who yells the most looks the most presidential. He’s wrong.

Hillary’s Achilles’ Heel

“The differences among us are minor, the differences between us and Republicans are major,” Hillary Clinton declared during Sunday night’s Democratic debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Though any debate this early is unlikely to affect the outcome of the election, the second Democratic showdown provided a glimpse into Hillary’s biggest vulnerability in the primary.

The declaration was a continuation of Hillary’s so-called strategy of “muddying the waters” on the Iraq issue to make it appear that her position is, practically speaking, no different from those of her rivals. The strategy has included deploying Bill Clinton to criticize the press for portraying her as less anti-war than other leading Democrats and to argue that her vote to authorize the war wasn’t the same as voting for the war.

Last night’s debate became especially contentious when Edwards blasted his rivals for not being more outspoken before voting against the supplemental funding bill. “They went quietly to the floor of the Senate, cast the right vote, but there is a difference between leadership and legislating,” Edwards said. At the prodding of CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer, Edwards singled out Clinton and Barack Obama.

In a response that was uncharacteristically gruff, Obama fired back with his ultimate trump card: “John, the fact is, is that I opposed this war from the start. So you are about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue.”

But Hillary’s only recourse was to change the subject. “I think it’s important particularly to point out, this is George Bush’s war — he is responsible for this war,” she said. “He started the war. He mismanaged the war. He escalated the war. And he refuses to end the war.”

The fact that Obama’s public statements in opposition to the Iraq War in 2002 will continue to pay him dividends and that Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her vote to authorize the war will continue to cause her grief was made evident by Edwards’ response. He gave Obama credit for being opposed to the war all along. “You were right, I was wrong,” he said to Obama. But Edwards then implicitly criticized Clinton by saying that candidates needed to be honest and upfront with the country about their positions on the war.

Edwards may be forced to back off Obama as the campaign goes on. However, he has an interest in continuing to press Clinton to be contrite about her war vote. Given his own vote for the war, it’s the only way for Edwards to differentiate himself from her.

This will present problems for Clinton on more than one level. Beyond having to defend a vote that is highly unpopular among the Democratic base, her parsing of the issue will reinforce the image of her as a fake, calculating, politician — an image that is the root of her high negativity ratings.

She may still be the frontrunner in the polls, but Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability on the single most important issue to Democratic primary voters represents a fundamental problem in her bid for the party’s nomination.

McRomney Battle Heats Up

It’s pretty typical for political campaigns to send out “What They Are Saying” emails to highlight positive news coverage of their candidate, but today the McCain camp has sent out an email attacking a specific rival. Titled, “What They Are Saying: Mitt Romney on Immigration,” the email highlights negative articles about Romney’s recent statements on immigration.

Romney, who once called a McCain-Kennedy type solution “quite different” from amnesty, only to call the current bill “amnesty,” was in Iowa yesterday:

Asked his definition of amnesty, Romney said “it is such a loaded term and we probably ought to get a lawyer to say. And I understand that in some respects this (SB 1348) is not technically amnesty, because it does come with some penalty. It comes with a $5,000 penalty, so technically lawyers would probably tell us that’s not amnesty. On the other hand, it has one of the key features of amnesty — and one that I find not fair — that is, that everyone would be allowed to stay indefinitely. Whether or not that is technically amnesty, it is amnesty-lite, amnesty in form, and it is something which I don’t support.”

It’s hard to see who comes out of this back and forth better off, and in a way this feud highlights the vulnerabilities of both candidates. McCain is aggressively defending a position that is highly unpopular among the conservative base, and Romney is attacking that position, but his past statements impair his credibility in doing so. Either way, it should make next week’s debate more interesting.

Rudy and FedStat

To reduce crime in New York City, Giuliani instituted a program called CompStat that compiled detailed statistics on where crimes were occuring so that he could manage resources properly and hold people accountable. Now, he says he wants to apply the same approach to border security, terrorism, and government growth.

Via the Birmingham News:

“I’d establish a border stat program to measure our effectiveness in stopping people from coming over the border,” (Giuliani) said. “We have the technology to do it now. But we don’t have the accountability tools to measure it, the tools that tell us how many people are we apprehending, how many are getting over, where are they coming over, how do we deploy our resources to stop that. I could accomplish the same results on the border that I did in New York City.”

A similar effort aimed at combating terrorists and a bloated federal government would do the same thing, Giuliani said.

“I’d start a terrorist stat program to make sure we are collecting the right information about terrorist threats and make sure it’s being disseminated from top to bottom,” he said.

“I’ve promised I will not rehire 50 percent of the positions in the federal government that retire over the next 10 years,” Giuliani said. “It would save $23 billion if we did that. But, to do that, you need a program that measures what you are doing and what you’re accomplishing. We don’t have that now, and because we do not, we don’t have accountability in Washington.”

As the campaign goes forward and these ideas get fleshed out, they’ll be more scrutiny as to whether a CompStat type program can be applied to problems at the federal level. But this underscores the fact that beyond 9/11, Giuliani will run as a skilled manager who can make government function more effectively and efficiently.

King James

I don’t follow the NBA like I used to, but one thing I have been paying attention to is the development of LeBron James, and he just delivered a performance I haven’t witnessed since Michael Jordan’s heyday. For those who missed it, the Cavs just beat the Pistons in double overtime, and Lebron had 48 points, including the last 25 points the Cavs scored, and 29 of their last 30 points. It was practically a 5 on 1 game down the stretch, with LeBron doing it from all over the court: dunks, threes, fadeaway jumpers, and a beautiful layup to win it. No matter the sport, it’s always great to watch an amazing athlete with a passion to win get in a zone where they simply won’t be denied. I still doubt, even if they get past Detroit, the Cavs have what it takes to beat the Spurs. But LeBron will get his ring eventually, and it’ll be fun to watch.