Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bush and Economy Sinking Together

The Fed is expecting slower growth, higher unemployment, and more inflation. The announcement today comes on the heels of two approval polls showing the President with (you pick 'em) 65% or 77% disapproval ratings, driven mainly by extreme displeasure with Bush's handling of the economy.

Well, at least the Repugs have nominated a candidate with strong economic cred . . . oh, wait.

A mere 19% of Americans approve of the way that the Despicable Cretin is handing his job, according to an American Research Group poll released today. (h/t to Spork in the Drawer)

The ARG Poll of 1,100 was conducted by telephone between February 16 and 19. The economy seems to be driving the numbers even lower, as only 14% or respondents approved of Bush's handling of the economy. (And, that was before the Fed said that things are about to get a whole lot worse.)

A Gallup Poll also released today says that 65% of respondents disapproved of the way Bush was handling his job. That poll was conducted by telephone of about 1,000 adults between February 11 and 14.

McCain must be feeling pret-ty good about now . . . .

Superdelegate Anxiety

Last night, Obama convincingly punctured the coalition of women, blue collars, older voters, and the non-college-educated, which had formed the core support for She Who Must Be Nominated. As Obama threatens the "inevitable" Clinton nomination, attention shifts to the automatic delegates -- the unpledged party regulars who make up about 20% of the convention delegates.

Last evening's results make it certain that the neither Obama nor SWMBN will secure the delegates needed to win the nomination through the primary system. It is also apparent that Obama will march into Denver in August having won more states, ahead in the popular vote, and with more pledged delegates than Hillary. The perceived threat is that the "superdelegates" would support the "designated" candidate of the party establishment and "overturn" the choice of the rank and file.

Nonsense. The 2008 convention can not be a rerun of 1968.

In 1968, when less than 30% of the public supported an unpopular war, the party bosses handed the nomination to a candidate who supported the war policies and had not only failed to win a single primary, but who had secured less than 5% of the popular vote.

But, back then, candidates didn't need the primaries to win the nomination. In 1968, only about a dozen states held primaries. In the remainder, the party delegates were mostly selected by the state committee and their votes controlled by one, or sometimes a small number of, party bosses.

After the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the leading anti-war candidate was Gene McCarthy, who had won more primaries than any other candidate and was leading all candidates in the popular vote. But, before the convention, Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's vice-president and a supporter of the war policies of the Johnson administration, had secured enough delegates to obtain the nomination and didn't have to participate in the primaries. At the time of Kennedy's death, Humphrey was leading in the delegate count despite having ignored the primaries.

In 2008, when every state has a pre-convention delegate-selection process, the ability of the party bosses to select a nominee despite the outcome of the primaries is virtually eliminated. The superdelegates become relevant only where, as this year, no candidate comes to the convention controlling a majority of the pledged candidates and at least two are within about 800 votes of majority.

The superdelegates are party regulars, there are hundreds of them. Unlike 1968, when literally a handful of party bosses controlled the majority of the convention delegates, no one of them controls a significant number of votes. Instead, these party regulars and long-time party activists, are relatively free to make their own decisions.

They will, and should, make their decision based on their personal evaluation of which candidate would be best for the party, and the country. Essentially, one can reasonably expect their votes will go to the candidate that they believe is best positioned to lead the party to the overwhelming November victory that is apparently in the grasp of the Democrats.

If the nomination is not decided by the time of the convention (which is unlikely), the superdelegates are going to do the politically expedient thing -- go with the candidate who strides into the convention with the greater momentum, with the greater national support, with the greatest chance of taking back the White House. And that is exactly what they were designed to do -- they were not meant to be a modern-day equivalent of the party bosses who handed the party a disaster in 1968.

So, make yourself easy. It is unlikely that the superdelegates will be called on to decide this thing (in this little corner, we think it can be decided before the Pennsylvania primary). If they are, remember that they are lifetime Democrats and political activists. Their imperative is to put a Democrat in the White House and not one of them is going to vote for a person who they don't believe can do that.

(There's a pretty good list of the current status of the superdelegate endorsements at the 2008 Democratic Convention Watch blog.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MLB's Glass Ceiling -- Woman Ump Tossed

Back in March of last year, MLB was all about promoting the fact that they were "permitting" long-time minor league umpire Ria Cortesio to work the final major league spring training game of the year. Dutifully, your inconstant correspondent reported, not without a little sarcasm, the announcement.

As we noted at the time, normal umpire progression would have seen Ria in the bigs by the 2007 season. Her seniority placed her next in line for a AAA position, which is under the jurisdiction of Major League Baseball. But, MLB made sure that wouldn't happen -- to her slight surprise, she was released soon after the World Series.

Her mask made it to the Hall of Fame, but MLB apparently has no interest in seeing women invade their turf -- even as umpires. Wouldn't do for Roger Clemens to get squeezed by a woman, now, would it?

Photo Credit: Ria Cortesio, from her Friendster Photo Album.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Preview of a Hillary Presidency?

I hope not.

Whilst idling away my life and not contributing here regularly, I've been thinking about Hillary. Now, as anyone left who still regularly checks in with this spot is aware, I have never been a big fan of Bill or of She Who Must be Nominated. That said, over the last couple of months she has caused me to soften my attitude towards her. However, the recent shuffling of her campaign hasn't helped me shed the nagging notion that she remains something of a mirror image of what we've been looking at for the last seven years. It is a theme I've babbled about before.

Think of the history of the Despicable Cretin's Administration and what comes to mind? Well, many things, I admit. But high up on any list is mediocrity at best, incompetency at worst, in nearly every agency and key administrative post. Bush's fear of anyone who doesn't "owe" him, who hasn't proved their loyalty to him, his use of appointments to reward loyalists and friends, has given us a goivernment that prizes ideological consistency, personal loyalty to the Despicable Cretin, over talent, insight, and ablility.

Show me a failure, large or small, from Katrina to the books selected for sale at the National Parks, and I'll show you a friend of George.

Hillary, too, has a penchant for keeping her friends close around her, and rewarding their loyalty with key positions. While it is important that the campaign leadership have a close working relationship with the candidate, the candidate who allows friendship, loyalty, and a desire to reward, blind her to merit, talent and performance, runs a risk of failure.

And, the Hillary has seen its share. They were organizationally unprepared for the caucus states, they failed to budget to the point that, despite enjoying an historic war chest, their funds were so depleted that the candidate had to loan the campaign five million bucks to survive January. Not to mention that the campaign message changes faster than the specials at the diner that Hillary visited the other day when the campaign had no backup plan in case the February weather in Wisconsin interfered with their plans one day.

The campaign has been unable to solve Obama; has let Bill Clinton marginalize himself because they had no clear strategy for using him -- suddenly pressing him into service only after the Iowa loss. They seeming had no strategy in place after February 5th, when (as they have been telling everyone for over a year) they expected to have this thing wrapped up. As a result, they've backed themselves into a Guiliani-like corner by making Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania must-win-bigs.

The vaunted (and over-rated) Clinton political machine has had a seat in the center ring as the "neophyte" Obama organizations has run its rings about her.

One hopes that Hillary, if she is the eventual nominee (and it still looks like hers to lose from this little corner), takes a lesson from the failures of the campaign and concentrates on quality, experience, demonstrated talent, when it comes time to fill all those appointed slots in 2009.