THE GROFF/ELLISON POLITICAL REPORT

On the hype called political polling …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 27, 2008

We’re hoping at some point, perhaps upon serious examination in the post-mortem election analysis, somebody will poll the pollsters.  Much stock is put into polling, and we roll the numbers off like casino dealers, the fast-talking horse-race announcers parsing the latest figures.  But, we never ask that fundamental question: where and who are these cats polling?

Hence, the need for some sort of quality assurance check on those infamous polls.  To date, we – personally – have never received that call.  Yet, we suspect a predominant share of our White neighbors, co-workers and colleagues get that call all the time.  It’s slick how major cable networks fail to regularly get into an analysis of where this polling data is coming from, since they frequently cite them for certainty.  We catch that.

Recent polls suggest a deadlock between the two Presidential candidates, with several percentage points shaved off the Democratic nominee’s numbers.  It makes good copy and headline to suggest that the race me be tighter than any seen before, we get that.  This also fueling the ongoing speculation that half of Sen. Clinton’s primary voters (a vast amount of them disgruntled White women) are either undecided or steady on voting for Sen. McCain.  But, what we don’t get is why newer and younger voters fail to get polled, driving our suspicion that these polls might not be as tight as media sources claim.

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Obama v. Clinton: Hype?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 26, 2008

The one conversation that appears to dominate Democratic convention coverage is the sense of a major rift between the two former primary opponents, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY). It’s unprecedented, on some levels, to watch the losing primary candidate able to dominate much of the coverage of their party’s nominating convention. Additionally, less is said of the party’s platform or the policy recommendations and much is made of convention drama in Mile High city. The most recent aspect of that rift that is being highlighted is the pick of Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) as Obama’s running mate, many media reports suggesting some Clinton supporters feeling the New York Senator was “disrespected.”

A question that arises from this is whether this is driven by Clinton supporters or, perhaps, a media tendency to “hype” or “exaggerate” the extent of that tension between the two camps. Obviously, Democratic officials and party die-hards are downplaying it; although, we are seeing our fair share of White women (primarily) walking around downtown Denver with Hillary buttons as though the primary is still happening. But, the media continues reporting on it as the top story, and there are accusations of this being “overblown.” Is it?

Maybe – but, it is clear that there are some Clinton supporters are feeling somewhat dissed and maligned. Still, Hillary Clinton’s speech tonight will be key in addressing those concerns, and it will be incumbent on her to make it as sincere as possible. It can’t be phony; the Senator from New York and the once presumed presumptive nominee can’t get caught in a fake-the-funk-on-Obama moment, serving a platter of empty platitudes in an effort to simply fill time and placate. She will have to plead the case in such a way that appears authentic, in such a way that sends a clear, crisp message of support and a sense that she’s moved on.

The Michelle Factor …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 26, 2008

Upbeat, positive characterizations abound regarding Michelle Obama’s Monday night love-fest for her husband and Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. The overall mood in the Denver Pepsi Center is festive and nostalgic, particularly following Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) sudden appearance, which was to a degree a surprise given the current state of his health (confirming whispers throughout Denver since this past Saturday however of a Sen. Kennedy visit to Mile High). On a quick note, putting the Kennedys at the top of the prime time evening line-up may have helped mend differences within the Democratic Party. Additionally it sends another implicit message of yet another prominent, larger-than-life, White old school politician further validating the African American Senator.

The Senator’s brief Kansas City appearance put a nice topping on it, complete with impromptu Sasha Obama “Hi Daddy” plugs. This was the moment to bring a somewhat down-to-earth appeal to the candidate many have perceived as somewhat aloof or arrogant. The interesting thing here is that the candidate who, on the face of it, provides a scene of middle-class family nirvana is the one who is being pegged as “elitist.” Hence, the critical need for Michelle to offer something more than ultra-scripted political rhetoric. Indeed, for at least one night, she may have closed much of that perception gap.

Blackpolicy.org in the Convention

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 26, 2008

That’s what’s up, folks.  We are now officially in the house, inside the Pepsi Center each and every day of the Democratic National Convention.  From watching some of Denver’s finest in blue roll tough with the full riot gear to watching, perhaps, the most massive gathering of federal, state and local Black elected officials ever assembled since … any annual Congressional Black Caucus event.  And so, it’s on. 

We’ll provide daily, routine thoughts and coverage while in Denver.  Stay tuned.

The Biden Factor …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 24, 2008

Barack Obama’s pick of Sen. Joe Biden goes on to prove that the Senator from Illinois continues defying the political wisdom of the day.  This is a very strong ticket, a mix of youth wonder and elder statesman; a balance between the old and new; a solid compromise between outer America and inner Washington, D.C.-Beltway.  Obama, first and foremost, has to pick that individual that older White voters, 65 plus can relate to.  Biden can vouch for Obama with that critical elder vote – this is the guy you want campaigning for you in Florida, reeling in old retirees who are the most reliable voters.  Additionally, Biden is sure to annihilate any of Sen. McCain’s potential running mate picks during the Vice Presidential debate. 

Obviously, Biden also brings foreign policy and military affairs gravitas – a perceived weakness for Obama, who can now relay on the Senator from Delaware to be his public expert on issues concerning the Middle East and the situation in Georgia.

Of course, there is the problem called Biden’s mouth.  Some Democrats are cringing for an infamous Biden gaffe; some Republicans are already salivating at past Biden comments, ready to use them for campaign fodder.  But, ultimately, Biden’s mouth may be one major reason Obama picked him.  Obama’s smart; this is not an off-the-cuff decision.  He didn’t just wake up one day and say: “let’s pick Joe.”  Here is a guy that already has a reputation for loyalty, for “looking out,” so to speak, so Obama can be confident that Biden will have his back.  Two: Biden loves to scrap, loves the fight and is very sharp as a rhetorical boxer.  In Biden, we saw, perhaps, the best debate performances during the primary.  He’s concise, to-the-point, crisp – you know where Joe Biden is coming from since Joe Biden keeps it real.  Obama needs this: a person who on one hand can keep it real with the public since that’s what Americans want right now and a partner who, on the other hand, can be straight up with Obama in private and tell him  what  he’s doing right and what he’s doing wrong. 

Biden will be the campaign’s public bulldog, the guy who will say what the nominee won’t say; as long as the message is disciplined (which the Obama campaign is famous for), Biden will be very effective and respected on the campaign trail.  He’s also the perfect campaign distraction, the decoy who can take heat off Obama if used correctly.  While Republicans scramble to respond to every Biden comment, Obama can rise untouched and unscathed because “Joe will handle it.”

The other problem is Biden’s perceived arrogance.  The GOP may try to have a field day with this – two Democratic candidates seen as arrogant and aloof, especially one who was elected at the age of 29.  And, even though that might be somewhat problematic for Democrats, I would caution against underestimating this ticket.  Republicans should not take this pick lightly. Right now, McCain is still employing conventional political tactics against Obama’s out-of-the-box strategic thinking.  That thinking, mixed with legendary operational discipline, is very likely to win this election.

1, 2 Step

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 19, 2008

The Politico reported today that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain will announce his Vice Presidential pick one day after his fall opponent Sen. Barack Obama accepts his party’s standard before an anticipated crowd of 80,000. 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plans to celebrate his 72nd birthday on Aug. 29 by naming his running mate at a huge rally in the battleground state of Ohio, Republican sources said…The campaign has begun building a crowd of 10,000 for Dayton, Ohio, according to an organizer. McCain is scheduled to appear with his running mate at a large-scale event in Pennsylvania shortly thereafter.

The McCain event has to be designed in part to step on the bounce that Obama may get out of Denver after his convention.  Most candidates enjoy a brief increase in the polls and media attention after a nominating convention.  But since the GOP is holding their party’s soiree just four days after the Democratic party the bounce period for Obama was shortened anyhow.  The McCain campaign is wise to step on the bounce and draw some attention away from Obama with their own massive rally, patriotic images and major announcement.

The Ohio rally and Pennsylvania follow up (maybe the nod will go to former Keystone Governor Tom Ridge after all) will draw a great deal of media attention and may dampen what the Obama effort hopes will be stunning pictures, images and speech less than 24 hours before.   

If something goes wrong in Denver and McCain is flawless in Ohio and Pennslyvania it will be a tremendous boost for the GOP going into Minneapolis.  There is certainly an enthusiasm gap between the two parties as the conventions begin and it seems everyday as if a Republican Senator saying he has decided not attend the festivities.  So any created advantage for the McCain camp going into Minnesota makes sense and for them that is the beauty of going second.

New Dance: The Virginia Head Fake

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 19, 2008

About 48 hours away from an Obama running mate announcement and, at least, one of us in the G/E crew wants to go against the grain on the choice.  Call it gut instinct.  And, yeah, call whichever one of us a fool – like so many others taking a stab at it – when he announces on Wednesday, but money should be put on Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE).

Why?  Isn’t that the white-hair, Delaware, old-school white guy who misspoke and tripped on a pre-primary spin and called Obama articulate during a not-so-pretty and subtly racial gaffe?  So what: it’s a bunch of old white guys who make racial gaffes on the regular. Nothing new about that.  But: isn’t he the guy who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut?  Sure: but, he sure showed a lot of discipline on the campaign trail.  You can have a lot of fun shooting from the verbal hip when you’re a Senator of a small state where everybody knows everybody, but Biden isn’t stupid: when you go national, you learn to keep the pie hole closed.

Everybody wants to say it’s Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.  Unconventional lack-of-Beltway wisdom says: not.  What does Kaine bring to the table besides electoral dreams of a purple state win?  He hasn’t done much in his two years as Gov., frustrated by lack of movement on state transportation funding.  Plus, who’s to say Virginia will get a Democratic replacement for Kaine if Obama gets elected, especially with someone like retiring moderate centrist Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) floating about the state and looking for a gig.  Plus, you pick Kaine, you are basically thumbing your nose at older voters and making them seem irrelevant.  Obama’s camp mentions Kaine just to see how much resources the GOP really dumps into VA.  And Bayh: do you hear the crickets chirping?

Biden brings a lot of pluses to the table.  For one: you automatically get that old, 65+ white vote that can’t stand the fact that you’re young and black.  Get an old, straight-shooting white cat to relate to grumpy, tanning retirees in Florida who watch 20-something video vixens sun-bathe on South Beach all day.  Old white folks will trust a cat like Joe Biden.  Two: you get Delaware locked, obviously.  But, you’re also guaranteed at least half of neighboring Pennsylvania, which thinks Delaware should be annexed into it.  You also get a slice of Southern New Jersey, which can relate to Delaware.  Then, you get a piece of Northern Maryland, Chesapeake Maryland and, yeah, maybe a piece of Virginia by the Bay with Northern Virginia locked.  They all know Biden.  Who doesn’t vote for you in Virginia had already made their mind up back when they forgot the Civil War was over.

And, Biden is not as old school Beltway Insider as we think he is.  He’s always said what everyone else doesn’t want to say, always kept it real when others got shy.  He’s the vernacular boxer of the Senate, a likable guy who also knows when to give you his finger at the right time.  Obama will do what people will least expect him to do – which is how he’s operated throughout this campaign.  He wants to show that he can be out of the box, but that he’s also an out-of-the-box politician who can be above the fray. “So what if the guy called me ‘articulate’.  My peoples call me that all the time.  That’s the only good thing they know to say about brothers,” says Obama. “I like Joe, anyway.  Joe is cool as …”  and the rest is history.

Money is on Biden. The pluses outweigh the negatives.

The Disappearance of the Domestic Agenda

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 17, 2008

A lot of people thought this year’s presidential election might concentrate on domestic issues and begin a new conversation about some the dramatic issues that have taken hold in American life.  But as we inch closer to election day there has been basically no discussion about domestic issues, policies or problems. 

That lack of attention has caught the ire of New York Times writer Bob Herbert who wrote a pointed article today about the absence of a domestic discussion.

“…What we haven’t had is a deep exploration of problems here at home that are threatening the very vibrancy of the nation, including: the dismal employment picture (there are many more Americans out of work than the official statistics show); the terrible toll that the housing and mortgage crisis is taking on families from one coast to the other; the tens of millions of Americans who are without health insurance coverage; the stunning high school dropout numbers; and a demoralizing problem with violent crime in several parts of the country…”

Herbert is absolutely right and his discussion about the aging infrastructure is also right on.  The collapsing of I-35 West in Minneapolis last year revealed a massive problem not only in Minnesota but across the country with our dangerous and creaky infrastructure.  The tragedy last July forced states and cities to take a real look at how unstable our infrastracture was and found that many of their bridges and overpasses were also structurally deficient, the same grade as I-35 West. 

Herbert mentioned the lack of sexiness of transportation and infrastructure but it is those issues that are the nuts and bolts of an American recovery and until America realizes that those are the real policy concerns and that they in their own way are more sexier than Paris Hilton.

Hmmm…Kaine…Wednesday

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 16, 2008

We might as well throw our guess in as well.  Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama will name Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as his runningmate on Wednesday, maybe. 

Like everyone else, we’ve been trying to read the tealeaves and figure out who, when, where and why.  But maybe some clues have been revealed in the announcement of convention speakers, Obama schedule and Kaine’s decisions. 

The moderate Governor of Virginia– a swing state in which Obama is very competitive — canceled a townhall meeting scheduled for Sunday and within the past couple of weeks rumor had it that Kaine was given a tour of Pepsi Center and Invesco Field at Mile High the venues in Denver for the Democratic National convention. 

At the convention of course big names will speak throughout the week in high profile times and positions. This past week the convention planners announced the featured speakers for the week. On Monday night Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO), the next night spotlights Governors Kathleen Sebelius (KS), Janet Napolitano (AZ), Ted Strickland (OH), Ed Rendell (PA), Brian Schweitzer (MT) and former Governor and current Senate candidate Mark Warner (VA) joining Senator Hillary Clinton. Wednesday evening highlights even bigger names.  New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Senators Evan Bayh (IN) and Joe Biden (DE).  It is Wednesday night that the Vice Presidential nominee will speak. 

Notice in that list of speakers every name of recent rumored Obama number two spot has been given a night and theme, as each night has a specific policy area of focus, to speak on, except Kaine.  

It was also reported late this week that the Obama advance team was preparing an event for Richmond, VA for Thursday.  The announcement could be made that day, but you would think that maybe the choice would be announced in another swing state, move through Virginia the next day and have the Obama-Kaine team make their way through other swing states on their way to Colorado.  While we believe Obama is preparing for an event in Virginia on Thursday is no scheduled event for Wednesday. 

Put it all together and you get…well a guess that maybe it is Kaine on Wednesday or maybe this all is a giant sized NBA head fake and maybe the pick is someone slated to “speak” already but what purpose would that serve?

None. 

Piecing together announcements, schedules, rumors and hunches it seems to us that it could be Kaine on Wednesday.  But we’ll see soon enough.

McCain-Romney? Not So Fast My Friend

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on August 15, 2008

While presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama is getting alot of attention about who he might pick as early as next week to be his running mate, probable GOP standard bearer Sen. John McCain is also looking. 

Many names have surfaced for McCain but it seems as if former Massachusetts Governor and presidential aspirant Mitt Romney always floats to the top.  Whether alone or mentioned with others Romney always rises to the top of the short list. 

That rise has made some Republicans very uncomfortable.  Romney never was able to endear himself to the evangelicals because of his faith, he’s Mormon, and his switching around on key issues like abortion.  Despite that disconnect, which McCain shares with the Religious Right, Romney continues to get serious looks from McCain and the party as a whole. 

Romney would bring a Rolodex of potential new funders, a hugely successful business career and enough political acumen to win the governorship of a traditionally blue state.  Beyond those pluses, in a race that will come down to a handful of states including Colorado and Nevada Romney could help keep those two states red ironically because high Mormon populations.

Despite those strengths, the evangelicals remain unsure, uncomfortable and uncommitted to Romney and are now saying so out loud.  Lead by former Arkansas Governor and presidential contender Mike Huckabee the faithful, literally, of the GOP have blasted the idea of Romney.  In a piece on CNN.com Huckabee ripped the idea of a McCain-Romney ticket “…suggest[ing] the former Massachusetts governor is distrusted among many social conservatives.

“I think the issue is that, you know, in many ways, Mitt Romney has had very definite swings of position, not just on one or two things, but on many of the issues,” Huckabee said Thursday on Fox News.”

McCain and Obama strangely enough find themselves in similar situation where parts of their base are not pleased with them or potential running mates.  The question in this election come down to which base is pissed off more and are they willing to lose the White House to prove their point?