Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Clinton Really Ready to Work Hard from Day One?

To answer the question: Not if this campaign is any indication. The Clinton campaign is characterized above all by laziness. They assumed that they would win big on Super Tuesday, because they assumed that name recognition and big early votes would swamp any challenger. They were so assured that they didn't bother to put significant organizations in place in any of the caucus states that day. They also didn't bother to put organizations on the ground for the next ten contests in February, believing that nobody would pay attention after her victories on Super Tuesday, and she could coast through to Ohio and Texas for the final coup de grace. The amazing thing is that but for 3% of the NH vote, this would have been over weeks ago. It's been good for Obama, actually, as his political chops have improved over the past 8 weeks.

Meanwhile, the Obama camp has been carefully and vigorously organizing every state. Professional political operatives (the mainstay of the Clinton camp) laughed when Obama opened an office in Anchorage, Alaska. Nobody campaigns in Alaska. He did, and won nearly 3-1. Same in Idaho. He made a point of winning bigger in Illinois than she did in New York, netting delegates. Nothing ever taken for granted. She also thought she could coast on big donors; he has aggressively reached out to smaller donors, now with over one million. Now word (the impetus for this post) has come that in Pennsylvania, she didn't even bother to file a full slate of delegates for each district. Governor Rendell, HRC supporter, actually extended the deadline just for her campaign, but they couldn't be bothered. They will still get to nominate delegates later, so it won't have any electoral impact, but it's another sign of laziness. It means there is no local organization that needs to be rewarded (or wants to be) with delegate slots. They'll have to find loyalists after the coronation, I guess went the thinking. If I were undecided, I would wonder about Clinton's constant references to her desire to "work hard" and be ready "from day one." I see, instead, a lazy campaign that was overly self-assured and hoped to coast into a early nomination based on name recognition and the support of big-time donors and long-time party operatives.

If this campaign is any indication, Obama has both the energy and organizational skill to wage a vigorous 50-state campaign for his legislative agenda from day one, and Clinton does not. On Day One she would just sign a bunch of longed-for executive orders, introduce a bold legislative agenda far too aggressive to pass Congress (but ideologically satisfying, like the call for universal health care right away), and watch it stall out in the Senate for four years, perhaps sooner if she lost the midterm elections to the GOP in 2010.


Raised By Republicans said...

A few weeks ago I suggested that the choice between Obama and Clinton was not just one of the candidate themselves but also the intended strategy in November.

Clinton's Big State strategy suggests to me that she would try to go for a Blue State strategy. That is she would base her campaign on getting out the base and not contest states where Republicans were stronger.

The comments got bogged down in an argument about details while the main point of my posting was lost.

I was making exactly the point that LTG now makes. Clinton did not intend to contest every state because she didn't think they mattered. This puts her at odds with the results we saw in the Congressional race in 2006. In that race a 50 state put the Republicans on the defensive across the country.

Obama's campaign is set up to wage a 50 state campaign. Clinton's simply is not set up that way. A 50 state strategy would really put the Republicans back on their heals especially if (as appears to be the case) they aren't raising as much money as they are used to. Obama's approach would force the Republicans to play defense in places like South Carolina and Virginia. Clinton's approach on the other hand would allow McCain spend more of his relatively small budget on places like Ohio, Florida and Missouri.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Clinton did collect several times more money for use in the general campaign than Obama did. She positioned herself politically with more of an eye toward the general election than for the primaries. She did not anticipate a primary contest anything like this. Given what she expected, conserving resources for the general election seems to me more like a strategic error than laziness. And certainly until a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses, most pundits would not have thought that strategy was an error.

Obama, on the other hand, has run a brilliant primary campaign. He brewed up the perfect storm for Hillary. But I wonder if this strategy will work in the general election. Odds are, we will find out.

Raised By Republicans said...

I'm sorry guys, I don't want to get into a quibble match about whether Hillary is lazy or not. I think it's fair to say that compared to "Grandpa Fred" Thompson, Hillary and Obama are two of the hardest working candidates from either party.

I DO want to discuss whether Hillary's plan all along was to concentrate on big states and states that were a sure thing for her (or at least expected to be) and not contest large numbers of states.

If she were to apply that kind of strategy to the general election it would mean not challenging the Republicans in any red states?

If that's what we think her primary strategy suggests she would do, how do we think that would play out?

If we think that Obama's primary strategy suggests a "50 state strategy" in November, how do we think that will play out?

Dr. Strangelove said...

At this point, it looks like Obama will win the Democratic nomination with a new coalition. He initially relied some traditionally fickle or unreliable groups: independent crossover voters, young voters, and urban African-American voters. But then he also was able to attract affluent white voters. Now After some initial uneasiness, the Democratic blue collar base appears to have shifted to accept Obama as the new inevitable nominee. His remaining weaknesses within the Democratic party are among the traditionally powerful white elderly white contingent, and with white voters in the Oklahoma-Ozark-Appalachia belt. (We will try not to call them racists.)

Hillary would have pursued the Southwest strategy--trying to win Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico based on her connections to the Latino community. She would also have had a fair chance at recapturing the Ozarks and Appalachia--Missouri, Kentucky Arkansas, and Tennessee--where her husband had done well. She would have been competitive in the Rust Belt--Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Her strength among white, elderly women and Latinos would have helped her in Florida. Basically, she would have been trying to replicate her husband's 1996 victory. Look at a map: it's pretty much exactly these states.

Obama's strategy does not lend itself to these states. He has no particular rapport with Latino voters yet (but this could change!) and none at all with the aforementioned white voters in Ozarks and Appalachia. McCain would have made Hillary's Southwest strategy difficult, and might make it impossible for Obama.

But if African-American voters will really turn out for him, Obama can go after different states. He can make inroads into the South: Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana. Maybe even the Carolinas. He has also shown surprising strength among the Plains states, and might take Kansas or Nebraska. Epecially if he picks Kathleen Sebelius for VP. (In fact, a "Hillary substitute" like Sebelius might help quite a bit.)

If Obama takes the Democratic nomination, I think the 2008 general election will be one for the record books. Hillary would have tried to win with (not surprisingly) the same Clinton coalition that Gore and Kerry also sought. Obama will try to forge a new coalition for the 21st century. Especially if he can add fiscal responsibility as a key point--that would win a lot of moderate Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. Basically, if his strategy works, he'd leave the Republicans with only the racist coalition in the South and Rocky Mountain states. I think he can only win big or lose big.

Dr. Strangelove said...

As they did with Carter in 1976 and Kerry in 2004, Iowans defied conventional wisdom and anointed someone other than the perceived front-runner. Let us hope the third time's the charm.

Dr. Strangelove said...

With the exception of the LBJ anomaly of 1964, no Democratic Presidential candidate has won more than 50.1% of the popular vote since Roosevelt. And that 50.1% belonged to Carter--not to Truman, Kennedy, Clinton, or Gore. If Obama can re-write the rules and win the first truly solid majority since Roosevelt... Well, that's the audacity of hope, is it not?

Raised By Republicans said...

To be fair, Dr. S. we really don't know the source of Obama's popularity in the Plains. As LTG and I have pointed out HRC didn't even TRY to campaign in those states outside of Iowa.

I think Dr. S's comment about the risks of a new coalition and broader campaign in more states (all except the Ozark-Appalachia zone). By spreading himself thin he risks losing by a little in a lot of states. That's exactly what the Clinton people are trying to avoid by avoiding so many states.

But here is the kicker...we also have to think about what the other side is doing/can do. McCain is in serious financial trouble and may also have trouble rallying Republican activists to do things like donate money, knock on doors and get out the vote on election day. The RNC in general is also less well off financially than they are used to and as has been mentioned in other posts, the Republican Congressional campaigns are being out fundraised by their Democratic counterparts.

This means that a Democratic nominee that doesn't enrage Republicans and that has genuine cross over appeal to independents could be a huge boon "down ticket." It would force the Republicans to spend money where they normally take winning for granted. As Dr. S. pointed out that could leave them with little left than the racist fringe and the folks I call "Bigots for Jesus." There was a time when that could win you elections but happily those days are long gone.

2008 could be the first year of an era in which the Democratic party is seen as the "natural party of government" by a plurality of Americans.

Raised By Republicans said...

By the way, if the Republicans are in financial trouble, the ONLY way they can win is if the Democrats don't force them to play defense. If Democrats reason, "we'll never win Georgia so we shouldn't campaign there" it will serve to let the cash strapped Republicans off the hook and let them shift money from the Atlanta TV market to Florida, Ohio and Missouri.

Pombat said...

All this talk of voter turnout has me wondering about a hypothetical - how do you think US politics, particularly large elections like the upcoming presidential one, would be altered (if at all) by the introduction of compulsory voting, as they have in Australia?
I'm thinking of both the actual balances of power, and all this campaign craziness (and spending!).

I'm pretty convinced it would alter UK politics a lot, not sure entirely how though (the BNP wouldn't win another seat I'd hope) - so many people are apathetic about voting there now (myself included now I'm overseas I'm afraid - postal votes are too much like hard work, and I have no intention of living in the UK again anyway), that it's mostly only those who passionately support a party who bother voting. And that group doesn't really represent the population as a whole.

Raised By Republicans said...

Good question. Unfortunately, I can't give you definitive answer. There is A LOT of research on compulsory voting. I'm not that familiar with it - but in a couple of monthes I'm going to start a project that will require me to bone up on it.

My best guess now would be that compulsory voting would effect US politics quite a bit. Elections lately have been very closely contested and voter turnout tends to correlate with party identification. That is turnout is highest amoung the most conservative demographics. So we would expect that compulsory voting would shift the median voter to the left.

Just the fact that we have a viable African American candidate has change turnouts for that demographic.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I would not have thought Obama to be a viable candidate if he had not done so well on Super Tuesday (and afterward--but by that time the point had been made.) His ability to win against Clinton does, as LTG and others said, mean that my fears of him floundering in the general election are not well founded anymore. I still like HRC better and think she would do the President thing better. But Hillary's negatives with some vvoters cannot be denied. I have heard so many moderate/conservative people say they would not vote for Hillary but would vote for Obama... that it is starting to sink in, what LTG and RBR have been saying. I hope they are all correct.

The Law Talking Guy said...

A comment on compulsory voting. The first politician to suggest it would discover what happens when you force angry voters to the polls. Compulsion is un-American.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The Obama campaign is not short of cash. McCain is woefully short. The fundraising possibilities for Obama are also quite large, while McCain's Republican donors are tapped out and tired, not interested in backing a loser. So a 50-state strategy makes some sense. No danger of being spread thin. Dr.S is correct that Obama has a harder job in NV, AZ, and NM than HRC might have, but the big prize (AZ) is gone anyway with McCain, and NM can be his if Richardson delivers. Colorado, I believe, is more Obama country than Clinton country anyway. The Hispanic population there is not that large, and the Democratic trend is being driven by the white middle class, not unions.

Obama, however, has a big advantage in Iowa and Missouri, two swing states crucial to the Dems (if Kerry had won both of those, he'd be president). He can also threaten Virginia and make the GOP spend money in places it never thought it had to. McCain will be spread very thin.

Mark my words, there will be four battlegrounds of 2008: (1) the mountain west (Colorado, NM, and NV); (2) the Mississippi Valley (Iowa, Missouri, Minnnesota, and Wisconsin), (3) Virginia, and (4) Ohio. This is Bad News for the GOP, because the Dems need only win one of them, or split a couple, while - the GOP needs all four. With the exception of Wisconsin and Minnesota, all the battlegrounds voted for Bush in 2004.

But Obama will also threaten in the south (Florida, Kentucky, Tennesee, and possibly even North Carolina and Georgia) and even in Alaska (seriously - the Ted Stevens thing is a mess up there, plus the at-large rep may be going down too).

The Law Talking Guy said...

"Clinton did collect several times more money for use in the general campaign than Obama did. She positioned herself politically with more of an eye toward the general election than for the primaries."

Dr.S- all this means is that Clinton raised money from the same donors for both the primary and general phases, maxing out each. It wasn't about "saving."

Dr. Strangelove said...

Effort used to attract money for the general election could have gone to attract money from others for the primaries. It is not a one-to-one proposition, but still a trade-off.

Raised By Republicans said...

Not that it's a big deal now but I think LTG is right about Clinton's fund raising.

Analysts have been saying all along that while she had lots of money, most of it came from big doners who had max out their contributions. If you are a big Clinton booster and you've maxed out the primary giving level, the only way to keep giving is to target it to the general election.

A much higher percentage of Obama's doners were giving small amounts. But this larger group of smaller doners would poney up another $50 or so every time they thought he needed it - note the spikes in his fund raising after he LOST in New Hampshire. Obama supporters feel personally connected to this campaign. That's unusual. It's also not the case with McCain supporters and might have been the case for a smaller proportion of Clinton fans.

Pombat said...

LTG - why the assumption that compulsory voting would make voters angry? My personal assumption was that politicians already know what happens when angry voters go to the polls - getting people angry about what you're doing (as their politician) makes people vote against you (see your last election for a demonstration).

And "compulsion is un-American"? Every society has 'compulsions', which are (almost!) entirely accepted as the way to ensure that society runs in an appropriate manner - I believe they're called 'laws' aren't they?

By-the-bye: just wanted to make you aware that the phrase "un-American" tends to come across to people such as myself as a pompous judgement call - there's almost an implied "well, YOU people might have that, but WE're much better than you, and so WE don't". I'm sure it was unintentional - just thought you'd appreciate an alternative viewpoint on how it can sound to others.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I used the phrase "Compulsion is un-American" very deliberately. That is precisely what opponents of compulsory voting would say here. I have no doubt that there would be broad agreement here that compulsory voting is contrary to American values. I wanted to be mildly provocative and point out that the idea of compulsory voting would be viewed by most Americans not so much as bad policy (we wouldn't even get that far) as simply culturally offensive. As Justice Brennan wrote, "liberty means nothing if not the right to be let alone." I'm not sure at all this sentiment (which he thought of as obvious, and that strikes a huge cord with his countrymen) is so obvious or resonsant elsewhere. I wanted to convey just HOW BAD the idea of compulsory voting would come across here. This isn't just an assumption, it's basically a political fact. Honest to God, people would say the whole idea is "communist" - which is basically a synonym for un-American.

This isn't some random assumption I'm making - it's based on everything I know about our political culture. There is a very strong libertarian streak in American political culture of all stripes. Note that in the current presidential debate, the only big difference between Obama and Clinton is whether they would require all Americans to purchase health insurance (an "individual mandate"). Obama wouldn't; Clinton would. No matter how much she tries to disguise it, Clinton's compulsory health care it is a politically difficult sell. I seriously doubt it will ever become law.

Yes, all societies have laws, but American political culture has long distinguished between negative and affirmative proscriptions. There is a big difference here between "thou shalt not" and "thou shalt."

For another example: foreigners may be surprised to learn that most American states now prohibit the "closed shop" - a union contract requiring that only union members be hired (or: that all employees join the union). Although it's something unions need and bargain for, the GOP did a great job of selling Americans on the "right to work" (that's what it's called) that bans such "closed-shop" contracts. It was too easy to do. "Whaddya mean, I gotta join a union!? Go back to Russia!" And so forth. Most pro-union politicians have dropped the issue as a loser. In fact, the big issue now is whether a union can use union dues for political activism, or whether a union member can "opt out" of providing funds that get used for political activism. In the context of most democracies, this is a crazy notion. Not here, not when it's viewed as "compulsory giving." American states even allow parents to "home school" their children (or, basically, to opt out of any real education for their kids) because compulsory education, even allowing for private schools, even after nearly 150 years of practice, is viewed with enormous distrust.

Sorry for the long answer, but your comment, Pombat, merited a significant response. This is just a bedrock difference in political culture that is hard to overstate. It's also something that many Americans are proud of. You may have seen the revolutionary-era flag, still very popular today, of a rattlesnake on a golden field with the words "Don't Tread on Me."

For this reason, also, Americans are often baffled at the success of such unthinkable policies in Europe or Australia.

Pombat said...

LTG - thank you for your 'significant response', it's appreciated - your first, exceptionally brief comment, rather gave the impression that it was your personal view that you were stating (much like our misunderstanding on Dr.S's gay marriage thread, where I believed *you* personally thought gay marriage would diminish marriage as a whole), as opposed to you stating what you see as the general view of the American public. It also didn't point out the bad policy/culturally offensive issues that you have raised in this comment.

I can entirely see how the general public would react in such a way to a major change such as this, just as I can see how they would react badly to compulsory universal healthcare - it's a change, we're not sure we're going to like it, therefore (or a similar, but shorter, word), WAAAAaaaahhhh, it's un-American. FWIW, I think it's utterly amazing that there's no compulsory healthcare contributions scheme in the US, as both the UK and Australia have them*, and the US healthcare system seems to need help. But, as you say - political suicide for any politician that tries to introduce them. Doesn't make them a bad idea though.

As for the unions example - not at all surprised actually - the unions aren't that strong in Australia (although they still exist), and of course I grew up in Maggie's Britain - say what you like about her politics, but anyone tough enough to break the '80s unions is someone I ain't arguing with. So, in fact, foreigners from UK/Aus would be quite shocked at the concept of 'closed shop' existing nowadays (used to) - someone being turned down for a job on the basis of non-membership of a union would have a good case against the potential employer, ditto forced joining of a union.

* The two countries I've lived in for an extended period, as opposed to just visited. The UK have automatic deductions from salary - income tax, and 'National Insurance', the NI being the health bit (that the employer also contributes to), which in theory funds the NHS (National Health System). Australia have Medicare, which covers less things than the UK's NHS, and is thus more affordable for the Government. Medicare's a 3.5% levy on income (I believe), you can also purchase additional health insurance. Once you're over 30, your Medicare levy goes up if you don't have other insurance (can't remember exactly how much by etc, but increases annually for a while at least - details on their website if anyone really cares!). Everyone's happy enough with it all.

Dr. Strangelove said...

As both Pombat and LTG indicate, it matters how you frame the issue. We certainly do have compulsory expenditures in the US, but they all have little exceptions that seem to make people OK. For example, automobile insurance is mandatory--but cars are considered a privilege, not a basic right--so extra regulations are acceptable to most people. And enforcement is straightforward, at least in principle: if you fail to pay, you lose your privilege to drive, simple as that.

Health insurance is a different matter. Health care is not a "privilege" you can really do without, and no compassionate society would enforce the requirement to buy health insurance by withholding medical treatment. (Actually we withhold treatment for not paying under the current system, but this is because health care is treated as a purchased service rather than a fundamental right.)

Taxes, however, are the one exception. They are purely compulsory and people just accept it... Which is why I think the UK and AUS approach of treating health care premiums as automatic deductions or levies makes good sense. Just tack it onto the tax bill.

As for voting, I think the lesson here is that it might be possible to sell compulsory voting to the public if it were clearly and reasonably tied to some other privilege. For example, it might be acceptable if the law said you could only run for public office if you voted in the previous election for that particular office. (Constitutionally this does not work, but I am just throwing out ideas that might feel acceptable.) Of course, that's not much of an inducement or punishment. But at least it is germane to the voting idea. Or maybe college students could not claim "residency" in a state (and thus get lower tuition for that state's schools) if they did not prove their participation by voting. That's more of a stretch, of course.

Anyway, as LTG said, it's hard to see how compulsory voting would be accepted here. But then again, it is equally hard to imagine we would ban all alcoholic beverages. Yet of course we did just that. So attitudes can change.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The poll tax law would probably make it impossible to impose any condition on voting (tying it to any privilege).

Dr. Strangelove said...

Voting would not be subject to any conditions that might discourage it. (In fact, it would be required.) What I was talking about was making other privileges contingent on voting.

Pombat said...

Car insurance - nice example Dr S, I hadn't thought of that one. Another UK one - television licence: about GBP160 per year, got to have one if you have a television in the house capable of showing the BBC channels (i.e. any television). If you don't buy one, you get lots of letters saying "grrrr, your address doesn't have a licence, buy one!", followed eventually by a hefty fine, in much the same way as unregistered Aussie voters get "grrrr, you're not registered to vote, go register!" (I received a few of these in my first eighteen month stint here - they stop after you write to them saying I'd love to vote, but I'm not resident).

Any other ideas for how required (sounds nicer than compulsory) voting could be sold to the public in the way Dr S is talking about? I'm not sure if there are any privileges attached to being a registered voter in Aus - will have to point Spotted Handfish at this thread, see what he comes up with.

My one thought about if voting was required/compulsory, is that it would make it a damned sight easier for everyone to vote - no more of this gerrymandering nonsense like putting (students') polling stations a seven mile hike from the university (like in Prairie View, Texas).