Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog

1.30.2008

Florida Launch

By Shawn Healy
Sen. John McCain's slim, yet decisive win yesterday in Florida provides him with the necessary momentum to all-but-close the deal for the Republican nomination next Tuesday, Feb. 5. He beat former Gov. Mitt Romney 36% to 31%, with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani finishing a distant third at 15%, just ahead of former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 13%, and Rep. Ron Paul at the back of the pack with 3%.

McCain won his first closed primary, one where only Republicans can participate, riding a coalition of Hispanics, military veterans, seniors, and moderates to victory. Romney prevailed amongst only conservatives, and even lost to McCain among those who considered the economy of the top issue. Romney, McCain and Huckabee effectively split the evangelical vote, and the Romney camp claimed that Huckabee is helping deliver the race to McCain by staying in the race. Some polls contradict this contention, however, as Huckabee voters tend to list McCain as their second choice.

Giuliani's disappointing finish in the state he pinned all of his hopes will lead to his withdrawal from the race later today. He is expected to endorse McCain in a ceremony preceding tonight's California debate at the Reagan Library and Museum. Rudy's late-state strategy proved misguided, and now the former Mayor will direct his troops to help good friend and fellow moderate John McCain clinch th GOP nomination.

Romney, despite outspending McCain 8-to-1, vows to fight on with 21 Feb. 5 contests in mind, and will likely sink further into his own personal fortune, $40 million of which he has already spent. While his prospects of catching McCain are diminished in light of last evening's results, he will make a case that he is the candidates conservatives can rally around. Other than Utah and Massachusetts, however, there are few states on the Super Tuesday map one can circle definitively for Romney.

Expect McCain to dominate in the Northeast, Massachusetts excepted, while also competing strongly in California, Illinois, and even Georgia. With Huckabee remaining in the race, he may block any sort of southern strategy that Romney pursues for a comeback. In sum, this is McCain's nomination to lose, and I expect him to start consolidating party support even among conservatives in the week ahead. It is likely that one week from today we will consider McCain the presumptive nominee.

Turning to the Democrats for a moment, Sen. Hillary Clinton claimed a decisive, if hollow, victory of Sen. Barack Obama in Florida, besting the junior IL senator 50% to 33%. Former Sen. John Edwards, who finished with 14% of the vote, withdrew from the race this afternoon. He did not make an endorsement.

Clinton flew to Florida last evening to proclaim success in a state where none of the Democratic candidates campaigned. Even though she was awarded no delegates, she can hold up the fact that she won more votes than McCain in an important swing state, at least slowing Obama's momentum from Saturday's South Carolina victory and successive Kennedy endorsements in the two days that followed.

Edwards' exit provides no immediate clues as to how it will impact the remaining Democratic candidates. He pitched a message of change similar to Obama, yet appeals to the traditional blue-collar base of the party. My guess is that it helps Obama nationally, but Clinton in southern states where the vote divides along racial lines as it did in the Palmetto State.

As for Feb. 5, Clinton will pursue a big state strategy focusing on the Northeast, including her home state of New York, California, and of course dispatching Bill to Arkansas to make some southern inroads. Obama has chosen a more unconventional "red" state path, seeking to capitalize on his campaign's effective turnout machine in caucus states like Minnesota, North Dakota, Kansas and Alaska. He'll also try to roll through the South, with Missouri and Georgia as the largest prizes.

I predict that Clinton emerges with more delegates, but Obama competes toe-to-toe with state victories. This contest will last well beyond next Tuesday as both candidates have the organizational and fundraising capacity to fight through the convention. My money remains with Clinton, but Barack may very well steal the nomination at the finish line.

I'll return with a Tsunami Tuesday prediction next Monday. Until then, tune into our latest podcast, recorded this morning, summarizing the latest developments in the presidential race. For those of you in the area, come to our first Smart Mouth program next Wednesday at the Freedom Museum (click on "events and information") where I will sit on a panel with three other guests to discuss the results of the 24 state contests slated for a single day.

1.28.2008

Song of the South

By Shawn Healy
The four major early state contests (IA, NH, NV and SC) are now in our rear-view mirrors and the big state contests begin tomorrow in Florida followed by the 24 states set to hold primaries or caucuses for either Democrats, Republicans or both on Tsunami Tuesday, Feb. 5. What follows is a wrap-up of Saturday's Democratic primary in South Carolina followed by predictions for tomorrow's pivotal GOP primary in Florida.

As I predicted on Friday, Sen. Barack Obama won the South Carolina Democratic primary in blowout fashion, besting Sen. Hillary Clinton by a 55% to 27% count, with former Sen. John Edwards once again pulling up the rear with 18%. He did it on the backs of a record turnout that exceeded even the GOP primary a week earlier. Remember, this is the reddest of states. Obama capitalized on the predominance of African-American voters in this first southern primary, beating Clinton 4-to-1 among black voters and also captured 25% of white voters who otherwise split between Clinton and Edwards.

The impact of Obama's win cements him as a contender for the nomination arguably even with Clinton as the campaign turns to the Feb. 5 primaries on Tsunami Tuesday a mere eight days away. It forces the Clinton's to second-guess Bill's role in the campaign. Exit polls showed his attack dog antics played an important role in late decisions among voters who trended away from the NY senator. Look for him to return to positively touting his wife's record without lambasting the junior senator from IL.

The victory and Clinton's antics also opened the door to Camelot for Obama who received an editorial endorsement from JFK's daughter Caroline yesterday. Sen. Ted Kennedy came on board today with a ringing endorsement at American University and a vow to campaign vigorously for Obama throughout the West and Northeast in the coming days. The impact of these endorsements remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have the most prominent name in Democratic Party politics in your corner as Obama takes on the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats do face off again tomorrow in Florida, but they have pledged not to campaign there on account of the state being stripped of delegates for moving their primary before the Feb. 5 threshold. Hillary Clinton holds an expansive lead there in the polls, and is expected to tout her victory tomorrow evening in Florida as the first big state affirmation of any Democratic candidacy. The reality is that the race now moves to national channels as Clinton and Obama calculate separate battle plans of how to accumulate delegates. Momentum is key here, and for the moment, regardless of what happens in Florida, it's back on Obama's side.

The GOP standoff in the Sunshine State is of greater consequence. A pitched battle between former Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain has ensued, with former favorite Mayor Rudy Giuliani falling to the wayside and former Gov. Mike Huckabee running on fumes as a distant afterthought. The GOP stripped the state of half its delegates, leaving 57 for the taking in a contest restricted to Republicans only. This seemingly favors Romney as McCain's wins can be attributed largely to support from independents. Mitt's emphasis on his reputation as an economic turn-around agent has resonated here, and he has again spent large sums of money creating an elaborate turnout operation for tomorrow. Depending on the poll you consult, Romney or McCain have the lead, most within the margin of error.

McCain, on the other hand, is celebrating the endorsements of Sen. Mel Martinez on Friday and popular Gov. Charlie Crist on Saturday, not to mention his continued accumulation of newspaper endorsements in Florida and across the country (Giuliani went so far as to tout the fact that he was spurned by all of the "liberal" newspapers). McCain is hopeful that the Cuban-American population (10% of the GOP electorate) will come on board as a result of the Martinez nod, and that his national security credentials resonate with the large military population (active and veterans) in the state.

As of this weekend, I was predicting that Romney would eclipse McCain narrowly in the Sunshine State and move into Feb. 5 with the much-desired momentum, but the Crist endorsement brings this race back to at least toss-up status and perhaps even a McCain victory. The outcome is also dependent upon how far Giuliani falls as his moderate conservative message and emphasis on national security seems to cross over most with McCain supporters. Rudy was also expected to perform well with the Cuban-American community.

Another variable is the wave of early voters who have already made their decisions. The Giuliani camp wisely placed a great deal of emphasis on this, as his campaign has fallen on tough times on the heels of a string of early defeats. Nearly 1 million Floridians have already marked and sealed their ballots, so late-breaking polls may fail to capture these early tendencies. I'll save my analysis of what a distant third place finish means for Giuliani, but you can imagine that it appears as if we're nearing the home stretch with what looks like a two-horse race, and Rudy isn't even on the lead lap.

Check back here on Wednesday for a wrap of tomorrow's Florida results and a look in the crystal ball for what lies ahead with Tsunami Tuesday approaching at a deliberate speed. Nathan and I will record another podcast that day (check out our last several here), and I'll announce the release of a Freedom Museum report on the 2008 election.

1.26.2008

Where's the Good News?

By Eran Wade
Most of what I’ve written about in my experiences in Colombia have been serious and/or contemplative writings. I’d like to emphasize the hope, joy, and laughter the people have in the middle of the conflict/struggle for peace. I guess this is a fitting entry considering that today is my birthday! The leaders of our group gave me a cake, broke open the wine, sang, and had a little party for me this morning.

It’s not just my birthday celebration where I notice the smiles. It was also evident when we visited the displaced families. One of the men said they wanted “seguir adelante,” which means, “to continue forward.” He said they didn’t want handouts, they wanted a new future. My partner—who is the main translator on this trip—took their words to mean the people have hope for the future even though their life as been upset by the conflict in their country.

Another positive story happened the other day when we went to visit a small group of displaced people. About 20 people showed up and there were youth on up to grandmothers. One of the ladies wanted me to take a picture with her 3 year old son. For her, it meant so much that I would do that, because I was honoring and valuing her family. It reminds me of a talk given by John Boyle, a pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, "The Power to Bless." I hope it doesn't come across as a case of myself feeling like a superior person (i.e. white man from the U.S. spends time with poor child in Colombia), because their love and happiness blessed me just as much. The lady told her son to give me a, "besso," a kiss. The whole experience meant so much to me. What really makes me emotional is that I found out later that the boy has Down syndrome. I could tell something was different, but I didn't know exactly what it was. The people have so much love for others even though their life is so difficult. This hope to continue forward is so inspiring.

And finally, one huge example of joy and laughter are the festivities surrounding Carnaval in Barranquilla. Even though the country faces many political and military challenges, there are parties, parades, and gatherings all over this costal city. Everyone takes a break to celebrate life and each other.

As I blog about serious issues in Colombia related to human rights, I hope the story of the people’s optimism can shine through as well.

1.25.2008

Palmetto State Picks

By Shawn Healy
Saturday brings the second edition of the South Carolina primary as the Democrats face off in the fourth early test on the road to the party nomination. I handicapped the race in my Tuesday post, and little has changed over the course of the week, so I'll spare you the endless pontification and move quickly to my predictions for tomorrow.

South Carolina is a state that Sen. Barack Obama needs to win badly to remain competitive with Sen. Hillary Clinton as the campaign assumes a national flavor after Tuesday's Florida Primary (Note: the Democrats are not campaigning here so a likely victory for Clinton will be discounted in similar fashion to her Michigan win. Florida was denied all of its Democratic delegates by the party for leapfrogging the Feb. 5 deadline imposed on all but four states: IA, NH, NV and SC.). Polls show that the Illinois Senator retains a double-digit lead, so Obama is my surefire pick to click.

The battle for second place is between Hillary Clinton and native son John Edwards. The former NC senator is running a strong third in the polls in a state he defeated Sen. John Kerry in 2004, and remains a long shot for the overall nomination. He does continue to collect delegates, so should Obama and Clinton continue to divide delegates roughly evenly where neither garners a majority, Edwards could stand as the kingmaker come August. This is not just wishful thinking from a political junkie, mind you, especially if Edwards upholds his promise to remain in the race through the convention.

Expect Clinton to edge Edwards in a battle for second place and the corresponding delegates. Edwards' rationale for remaining in the race will be questioned from here on out where he will be encouraged to join Dennis Kucinich and other early dropouts on the sideline as spectators in this historic matchup.

Unfortunately, this contest has assumed a starkly racial flavor. While African-American voters support Obama overwhelmingly, white voters split their allegiance by similar counts between Clinton and Edwards. Some have suggested that this is a strategic calculation by the Clintons who would love Obama to become the proverbial "black candidate" with a narrow base of support nationally, when Obama sought to shun this label from Day One. He has arguably embraced it conveniently in South Carolina, but this could spell trouble come Feb. 5.

A large quantity of ink and chatter has been devoted to the devolution of this contest into personal attacks leveled by the Clinton's at the junior senator who has been calling for an end to political polarization. He woke up one morning recently and found himself in an alley fight instead, and he's responded with some violent counterpunches of his own. Obama remarked that he's not certain who he's campaigning against, Hillary or her husband. The correct answer is both.

Is Bill's verbal sparring with Obama representative of conduct unbecoming of a former president? He's served as Hillary's surrogate in South Carolina this week and the state's voters will weigh in on this tomorrow. My guess is the jabs hurt Hillary here, but may seal the deal in later contests as the largely untested Obama is clearly battered. Come fall, whoever wins the nomination may come to regret the child play of the past couple of weeks. Rest assured that Republicans are sitting back with puzzled amusement and eager anticipation.

Political Scoundrels: Managing Political Scandals

By Winnie
From Governor Romney’s spat with Glen Johnson, an Associated Press Reporter, who accused Romney of having lobbyist, such as Ron Kaufman, running his campaign to Senator Barack Obama’s smear email, claiming that he was a Muslim, who attended the Wahhabi school in Indonesia and planned on destroying the United States, as a president from within. Are these scandals enticing enough to derail a campaign and tarnish the reputation of a candidate?

The Live with Dan Abrams show on MSNBC also discloses the top five dirtiest tricks pulled in the current presidential campaign to date. Selecting the accusations by the Vietnam Veterans of Senator John McCain’s nominal collaboration with the enemy during his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, as number one of the top five dirtiest scandals currently.

The program, The Political Scoundrels: Managing Political Scandals speaks to the methods in which presidential candidates can employ to manage pesky rumors and scandals while keeping the spin in his or her favor. The program incorporated guest speakers, Craig Fuller, a public relations expert, who served for eight years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for cabinet affairs and then as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush and is currently the executive vice president of APCO’s International Advisory Council in Washington, D.C., and Rick Pearson, a political reporter for Chicago Tribune and an award winning journalist, who in 2000 and 2004 extensively covered George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns.

Craig Fuller in discussing political scandals in the current primaries talks about the dirty tricks or scandals that are common in political campaigns. These generally involve secretly leaking damaging information to the media or trying to feed an opponent's team false information hoping they will use it and embarrass themselves. He doesn’t assert whether he approves or disapproves of these tactics but he does affirm that he thinks it fair for candidates to compare and contrast their opponent’s credentials via ads; he calls it ‘Comparative Advertisement.’ Fuller contends that in “managing scandals, candidates before running for the presidential election need to think deep about what might be exposed and plan how to handle the question if it is exposed.” He also notes that it is judicious for Candidates to get the accurate facts of the scandal that was reported and resolve it as soon as possible. He gives the example of Former Vice President to George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, the Vice Presidential nomination scandal and how they managed that scandal and came out on top.

Rick Pearson, on the other hand, compares the GOP presidential today's primary scandal in South Carolina involving Sen. McCain to the running scandal in 2000 of Sen. John McCain supposedly fathering an illegitimate child. Pearson also discusses how the new media has advanced via the internet and how candidates have to be very careful in addressing and managing those types of scandals; he confers the “Barack Obama is a Muslim email.” Pearson also states that most often, the attempt to cover up a scandal by the candidate becomes the real scandal.” He notes that in managing scandals, “the best way for candidates to handle pesky rumors or scandals is for the candidates to respond quickly and accurately to the accusations and get in control of it.”

A great deal of the discussion involved Craig Fuller and Rick Pearson discussing the significance of giving a ‘spin not a lie’ to reporters. Fuller offers the example of Vice President Dan Quayle scandal; when a reporter asked Fuller, “If Quayle should be dropped from the Vice Presidential nomination ticket due to the scandal that surrounded him?” Fuller answered with a spin, stating that “Vice President has not considered it.” Fuller states that, “you can choose what to say, but you better chose carefully or it could cost you….”

Pearson and Fuller then responded to the question on whether this process of electing a president in the United States serves our society well… how do American citizens make the intelligent decision in choosing the right president when the media relies less on the substance of the candidates and more on scandal. They both answer by stating that voters can choose a candidate by the way the candidates handle the issues or rumors and the perceptions they get from the candidates. They both note that substance matter less in comparison to the way candidates handle things.

Pearson emphasizes retail politics as providing voters with substantive candidates who speak about substantive issues. He notes that retail politics involves more of an interaction with voters and less on how much money you have. He offers the example of Huckabee winning in Iowa due to the retail politics that was involved in Iowa.

Craig Fuller and Rick Pearson conclude by stating that the compression of the primaries and caucus allow fewer opportunities for the candidates to be more substantive… that when the field narrows, candidates would then be able to discuss issues that concern voters the most.

The program was delightfully pleasant. I enjoyed and learned a great deal at my first event at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum!!!

1.22.2008

Politics Ain't Beanbag

By Shawn Healy
What a weekend it was! Sen. Hillary Clinton wins the Nevada caucuses (as I predicted) and Sen. John McCain claims the South Carolina primary (likewise).

Rep. Duncan Hunter exits the race with barely a whisper, and the vaunted candidacy of former Sen. Fred Thompson ends unceremoniously with a distant third place finish in the Palmetto State.

Former Gov. Romney claims the Nevada caucuses on the Republican side, but places 4th behind Thompson in South Carolina despite a $4 million ad buy.

Former Sen. John Edwards admits he "got his butt kicked" in the Nevada caucuses, but vows to stay in the race through the convention.

Finally, the Clinton's (Bill and Hillary) continue a sparring match with Sen. Barack Obama throughout the King Holiday weekend.

Need I remind you that the general election is more than 9 months away? What follows is a wrap up of Saturday's results and a forecast for what lies ahead in the coming week.

Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the Nevada caucuses 51-45%, but they may emerge with the same number of delegates on account of funky caucus math. Clinton won the Latino vote in the Silver State over Obama by a 2-1 margin as members of the Culinary Workers Union that endorsed the Illinois Senator abandoned ship and went with Hillary. African-American voters, on the other hand, sided with Obama by a 4-1 margin! Edwards finished with only 4% of the vote, sending him spiraling into his native South Carolina in need of some home cooking.

Unfortunately for the former NC Senator, this appears once more as a two-horse race with Obama poised to win if he replicates his success among African-American voters in a state where they comprise half of the Democratic electorate. Obama leads Clinton anywhere from 6 to 13 percentage points in recent polls, and the NY senator is largely conceding this contest, instead focusing on more winnable Feb. 5 states in the West like AZ, CA, and NM. Edwards' presence in the contest further dilutes white support for Clinton, but this may play into her hands as the race moves to Florida should Obama be cast as a candidate appealing only to his racial peers.

Mitt Romney won the Nevada caucuses with 51% of the vote, besting Ron Paul (14%), John McCain (13%), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (8%), Fred Thompson (8%), and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (4%). Romney was the only candidate to campaign seriously in the Silver State, and he benefited from the almost unconditional support of Mormons (94% voted for the former Massachusetts governor) in the state, along with voters concerned about the economy and illegal immigration.

Romney's moment in the spotlight was shortlived as John McCain claimed victory in the Palmetto State hours later. McCain bested his closest challenger Huckabee 33-30%, with Fred Thompson (16%), Romney (15%), Paul (4%) and Giuliani (2%) pulling up the rear. McCain won once more on the backs of independents and moderates within the Republican Party, although he competed with toe-to-toe with Huckabee and others among church regulars, evangelicals, and conservatives. The victory comes with more than a little vindication 8 years after his bitter defeat at the hands of George W. Bush, and installs the AZ senator as the favorite for the GOP nomination in a state who has picked the nominee correctly in every election since Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The GOP race turns next to Florida, with a closed primary scheduled for Jan. 29, one week from today. Remember, this is where former frontrunner Rudy Giuliani has staked his late-state fortunes. Anything less than a top-two finish would send the former NY mayor back to the Big Apple. Mitt Romney also figures to finish in the top three fresh off victories last week in Michigan and Nevada, along with a more fine-tuned message focusing on his economic credentials and a personal fortune he has already tapped to the tune of $20 million. McCain heads south with a breeze at his back and threatens to steal Rudy's thunder amongst moderates and defense hawks. Huckabee will only dab his toes in the state's balmy waters, hoping to keep his name in the mix as Tsunami Tuesday nears with several southern contests on the map.

Early polls show the lead alternating between McCain and Romney, with Rudy in a close third and Huckabee fading fast. Most projections are within the margin of error, so this is a statistical tie with one week to go in a contest critical in building momentum for the threatening tsunami. With major ad buys by the three frontruners, newspaper endorsements and divided establishment support, the complexion of the contest is certain to change in the next seven days.

I'll return on Friday with SC predictions for the Democrats, and will do the same for both parties in Florida on Monday. Click here to listen to the latest Freedom Museum podcast recorded this morning where Nathan Richie and I analyze the current state of the presidential race.

1.19.2008

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms

By Eran Wade
Today we went with some human rights workers to visit a community of displaced people. I braced myself for what I thought might be a shocking scene. I’ve visited Cook County Jail in Chicago. I’ve visited the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany. I’ve visited the old Caprini-Green housing projects in Chicago before many were torn down in the 1990’s. When I started this trip to Colombia I wasn’t sure what I would find when visiting the group of displaced people.

We traveled quite a ways outside of the main city. We came to a small city where the streets were dirt and the families were just sitting outside (of course it is Saturday). We picked up some people from this small town which reminded me of a small border town in Mexico. From there, we continued down a dirt road which grew worse and worse. We passed through a couple of gates including one that was made primarily of barbed wire. The land and climate reminded me of Wyoming where my grandmother used to live—dry, hot, sunny, and yellow. This was where the displaced people lived and had their “farm.”

The human rights workers who we were with were young lawyers. We talked the whole way there, and my Spanish is starting to improve. We were not able to talk much about the situation with the displaced people although we got along very well. When we arrived, we came to a structure of tree supports and a roof. The roof was lower than I was used to and later would bump my head on it entering. At one point there were 40 displaced persons—women, children and men. More continued to come as the day went on. We were told there are 120 families that live in this community. They told us that it is very difficult and they are simply looking for a future and an opportunity. I noticed chickens and roosters pecking at the ground near my feet. I noticed a bag hanging from the roof which had chicken’s legs sticking out with the rest of the chicken hanging in the bag. I had never seen such a rural looking group. I grew up in Wisconsin, in the town of Racine. Farm life was 10 minutes away, but it never looked this primitive.

They took us on a tour of the farm where we saw them growing watermelon, beans, and corn. However, in the dry, arid climate, the crops looked rough. Nothing like the tall golden corn I’ve seen in Wisconsin. We came to a trickle of water that led to a small basin. This was their well. It was quite small and dubious looking. Back near the shelter, they showed us some good sized turtle-like animals. They were quite spectacular—possibly something I would see in a small zoo. The children picked them up, played with them, and scared their siblings with them.

We talked with the group and someone was recording their names and where they were from. The workers from our group talked with the people and told them what they were here to do. They told them that they could help them to request help from the government. In the U.S. we sometimes perceive those requesting help from the government. These people in Colombia have been displaced because of the armed conflict which seemed nothing to do with an idea of lack of motivation.

The main point I want to share is not that this group of people are poor. It is not that the people have been displaced from the conflict. It’s not that the current living situation for this group seems so hopeless. I want to share the point, which may not be readily known, that the human rights workers are targeted as terrorists. These human rights workers who try to help the displaced people—their lives are on the line for the work they do. Why is this? It’s because their work upsets the current political situation. I don’t quite know all the details and it is very complex, but this is the situation. As someone here told me, if the church were just giving food and clothes to the people, that would be fine. But the workers are not just giving food and clothes. They are helping the people with their rights for speech, for food, and for a decent life.

Before I left Chicago, I was trained at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum on giving an artifact tour. One of the artifacts we have is a magazine with a Norman Rockwell picture on four freedoms— freedom from want, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom of worship. The displaced people are interested in each one of these and are trying to have these freedoms themselves. They themselves are not being intimidated. It is now the lawyers and human rights workers who try to help them with their freedoms that are threatened.

Click here for previous post about Colombia

1.18.2008

Spooning the Silver State

By Shawn Healy
I'm back with my final forecasts for this weekend's early season presidential showdowns in South Carolina and Nevada. On Wednesday, I assessed the muddy state of the GOP race, and will turn my attention to the equally rancorous, but more limited Democratic contest centered in Sin City.

The chief controversy in the Silver State this week centered on a lawsuit filed by the state teachers union. They contested the nine casinos that will serve as at large caucus sites on Saturday, arguing that these voters will receive preferable treatment in comparison to their counterparts across the state. Democratic voters who work within 2.5 miles of these sites may participate regardless of their place of residence.

The sticking point here is that these casinos are staffed by workers from the culinary union who endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton has many supporters of her own in the teachers union who filed the suit, even though former Pres. Clinton dismissed any connection between Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign and the challenge. At this juncture, these arguments are moot as a U.S. District judge determined that the Democratic Party is free to administer their caucuses as they choose. Obama 1, Hillary 0, if you're keeping score at home.

The second element of intrique entering tomorrow's Democratic contest is the tendencies of Latino voters. They represent a substantial portion of Nevada's Democratic electorate, although many cannot vote on account of age or citizenship. Moreover, Latino turnout has historically lagged significantly behind that of whites and African-Americans. Clinton benefits from her husband's popularity amongst Latinos and his record and appointing them to cabinet posts (Cisneros, Pena). Obama must contend with racial tensions between Latinos and African-Americans. The wildcard here is that many members of the aforementioned culinary union are Latinos. That said, this is Hillary's vote to lose, and I'm betting she wins it. Hillary and Obama tied at 1 apiece.

Speaking of race, the contest assumed an ugly tone last weekend and during the early part of this week. It centered on comments that Pres. Clinton made last week before a group of college students in New Hampshire. He contended that Obama's positions on the Iraq War were nothing more than a fairy tale. Hillary added to the mix by suggesting that despite all of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s efforts, civil rights legislation didn't become law until the savvy, experienced Lyndon Johnson entered the White House.

Both jabs were interpreted by the Obama campaign and some members of the African-American community as racist, and the Clinton's rushed quickly to emphasize quite the opposite. Obama and Clinton buried their hatchets on Tuesday during a Las Vegas debate, but the animosity in this close contest is probably only budding. No winner here, so the score remains tied.

What about endorsements? Hillary sealed up substantial establishment support before the campaign moved into high gear, but Obama has come back with some significant supporters of his own. In addition to Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Obama was endorsed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Moreover, Obama received editorial endorsements from the Las Vegas Review Journal and the Reno Gazette Journal. As a result, he's earned a least a tie with the NY senator. Clinton and Obama tied at 2.

In a close contest we must turn to dreaded polling data. The numbers are limited here and turnout is a huge wildcard in a state without the caucus experience of Iowa. These caveats aside, four polls have been conducted since the New Hampshire primaries, and all but one show Hillary Clinton with at least a slim lead over Obama. Averaged together, Clinton comes in at 37%, Obama at 33% and former Sen. John Edwards at 20%. Edge: Clinton 3, Obama 2.

With that I predict, with more than a slight degree of hesitation, that Hillary Clinton will win tomorrow's Democratic caucuses. Obama places a close second, and Edwards a distant third. The former NC senator is seemingly enabling Clinton to hold off Obama, and the longer he stays in the race, the more likely it appears that this nomination battle will go down to the wire without a clear frontrunner.

I'll be back on Tuesday with a summary of Saturday's results, and will also record another podcast that afternoon. Hang on tight, because Tsunami Tuesday is just around the corner. Things are just starting to get interesting.

1.17.2008

Religion and Politics

By Eran Wade
Can politics mix with religion? There’s the old saying not to discuss religion and politics in polite company. Both topics are personal and deeply held beliefs. On this trip to Colombia, I am exploring both facets. I am on this trip as a result of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. Does going with a church group automatically make the project suspect? Can the church get involved in human rights and do it in an honest, objective, and effective way? It makes sense that the church would know about freedom of religion, but what about freedom of speech and other human rights?

A number of months ago, a friend and I were talking about the dangers of mixing religion and public policy. We both agreed that faith can motivate us to advocate certain issues, but using faith to advance a particular agenda could be dangerous.

A few nights ago I had a party with my friends to talk about this trip. I spoke for a few minutes to share with them about why I was going to Colombia. I said that even though the trip was not without some nice benefits—my interest in international public policy, being immersed in a second language, and getting out of Chicago during the coldest temperatures of the year—the impetus behind my going were the stories of courage I read about in preparation for the trip. I read stories of children of pastors who are nearly killed and then sent home with a warning for the parent. I read stories of people who had to flee their homes for helping the displaced and homeless. On and on they go. Does it matter that the pastors are of one particular faith? Is courage a member of one political party? Is speaking out only for those in the Presbyterian denomination? Does social justice live only at the nearest archdiocese? I told my friends at the party that these stories of courage made a deep call on my heart. I told them that this project is bigger than any political party or agenda. This project is bigger than any religious denomination. This project is about human rights and I can’t see too many more important causes to get behind.

If ever there was a chance to be motivated by my view to focus on the issues rather than a partisan agenda, this is it. Helping workers who are advocating for human rights for the displaced is not a Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Libertarian, or Independent cause. It’s not a value that the Baptists, Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, or atheists have cornered in the marketplace of ideas. Sure I have a certain faith and certain political affiliations. But while these values may fit into any or all of these groups; at its core, this project endorses a human cause. That’s why I’m here.

1.16.2008

Michigan in the Mitt

By Shawn Healy
Three major Republican contests down, and three different winners emerge. First Mike Huckabee claims Iowa, then John McCain rekindles the 2000 charm and takes New Hampshire. Yesterday Mitt Romney cast aside his two "silvers" and claimed gold in his home state of Michigan. Romney's win serves to only further muddy the GOP picture to the delight of Rudy Giuliani and his late-state strategy. What follows is an analysis of last night's results and a preview of Saturday's contests in South Carolina and Nevada. I'll stick with the Republicans here for the most part, returning on Friday with my take of the Democratic field heading into Saturday's Vegas sweepstakes.

Mitt Romney won his home state comfortably, besting John McCain 39-30%. Mike Huckabee finished a distant third with 16% of the vote, and Paul (6%), Thompson (4%), and Giuliani (3%), none of whom contested the state, finished at the back of the pack. As I said previously, this was a must-win for Mitt who spent lavishly for second place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. He did the same here, doubling McCain's advertising budget by pulling from his own deep pockets, and the bargain paid off handsomely. His campaign bounces on to Nevada, a state mostly overlooked by the rest of the field, but home to a friendly, and sizable Mormon population.

Romney emphasized his empathy with Michiganders crippled by the forces of globalization, and offered to be proactive in maintaining and restoring jobs in Detroit's beleaguered auto industry. According to exit pulls, Wolverine State Republicans bought the former businessman's sales pitch: 4-in-10 supporters who listed the economy as their chief concern picked Mitt, and only 3-in-10 went to McCain. Romney also capitalized on his ties to the state (his father was a former governor), as those who thought this important favored him over McCain by 41%.

McCain failed to replicate his 2000 victory in Michigan because independents didn't turn out in the GOP primary in the same numbers. Their percentage of the vote declined from 35% to 25%, and McCain's 10% lead among this group wasn't enough to overcome Romney's 16% lead among Republicans. This brings to the fore McCain's greatest weakness as a candidate: he's more popular among independents, even some Democrats, than he is among Republicans. This could doom his campaign in South Carolina and other states that hold closed primaries.

Huckabee's distant finish has to be a major disappointment given the fact that 40% of GOP voters were self-described evangelicals. Unlike Iowa, they broke to Romney 35%-29%, and sent him reeling to the Palmetto State in urgent need of southern life support.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton claimed 55% of the vote, besting 40% of voters who chose "undeclared," most of them Obama supporters. Dennis Kucinich finished third with 4%, and Mike Gravel failed to beat Chris Dodd who exited the race two weeks ago. Since none of the candidates campaigned here and no delegates are at stake as of now, the outcome did nothing to separate the frontrunners, if only to emphasize that 45% of Michiganders voted against Clinton even though she was the only legitimate contender on the ballot.

Back to the future. Saturday's GOP contest in South Carolina is critical for at least three candidates: McCain, Huckabee, and Fred Thompson. This may be Thompson's last stand as his bus touring the state is running on fumes. He needs a top-three finish to justify continuing on to Florida and Feb. 5, and polls show him in a close contest with Romney for third. Huckabee returns to home cooking and another significant swell of evangelical voters. Although he trails McCain in most of the recent polls, he is within shooting distance and needs a win to prove that he wasn't a one-hit wonder in Iowa.

The same can be said about McCain. He remains king of the Granite State, but most conquer the Palmetto State where he met his end in 2000. The state has crowned every GOP nominee since Ronald Reagan in 1980, so the importance of winning here cannot be overstated. McCain has racked up significant establishment support in a state that could hinge on turnout operations, and the largest percentage population of military veterans and active servicemen in the country shouldn't hurt.

I predict McCain beats Huckabee in South Carolina by a single-digit margin, and Romney uses his Michigan bounce and late-hour ad buy to eclipse Fred Thompson and end his candidacy. Nevada is more difficult to project given limited GOP attention and sparse polling data. I'll take Romney ahead of McCain, with Huckabee edging Thompson for third place. Regardless of what happens Saturday, Rudy awaits the winners in the Sunshine State.

1.15.2008

Primary Previews: MI, NV, and SC

By Shawn Healy
Click here to listen to our latest podcast concerning this week's pivotal presidential contests in Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina. With Nathan Richie, the Director of Exhibits and Programs at the Freedom Museum, I address today's Michigan primary, along with Saturday's Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina GOP primary. I'll break down today's results on Wednesday right here, and Nathan and I will record another podcast early next week recapping this week's developments and looking ahead to Florida and Tsunami Tuesday, Feb. 5.

1.14.2008

Motown Showdown

By Shawn Healy
The frantic pace of the presidential race has slowed a bit after a frantic five days including the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The split decisions for both parties opens the door to pivotal contests this week and next, with Florida's primary on Jan. 29 and Tsunami Tuesday on Feb. 5 waiting in the wings. For the sake of simplicity, I'll set the stage for the week ahead, then delve into the Michigan primary taking place tomorrow.

This week offers three compelling contests, the Michigan primary tomorrow, the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, and the GOP primary in South Carolina on the same day. One week later, the Democrats have their own primary in South Carolina on Jan. 26. The month winds down with a Florida primary three days later, and the quasi-national primary on Feb. 5 to follow one week later. More campaign obituaries are sure to follow, perhaps even this week. What we know now is that both parties are arguably without a definitive frontrunner at this juncture, and these contests will likely provide us with at least one.

Turning our attention to Michigan, this is a contest with only three participants: Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee. Democrats have forgone campaigning there with no delegates available for the taking (The DNC punished Michigan for moving their primary earlier than the Feb. 5 deadline, IA, NH, NV and SC excepted). Hillary Clinton is on the ballot along with longshot Dennis Kucinich, and she should win overwhelmingly, attracting at least 50% of the vote. A substantial percentage of Democratic voters will choose "uncommitted," mostly to reflect their allegiance to the other frontrunners, Barack Obama and John Edwards, who are noticeably absent from the ballot. Disaffected Democrats and Independents are the true wildcards in this race, for as in New Hampshire they can cross over and vote in the GOP primary.

Speaking of the GOP, Mitt Romney and John McCain remain in a pitched battle for the graces of the Wolverine State. Romney is playing the part of native son and leads in most polls, although all recent measurements remain within the margin of error. He is emphasizing his understanding of the state's economic "DNA," namely automobiles. In promising to bring jobs back to a depressed region, Romney is taking on McCain's contention that many of these positions will never return. McCain offers "straight talk" and a promise that he will work to train displaced workers. Lost in the shuffle is Mike Huckabee's appeal to evangelical Christians, a sizable presence in the western part of the state. Huck is poised to finish a solid third.

Short of a sizable crossover from Democrats and Independents to McCain, I see Romney winning his home state in a close shave. Polls sway from Romney to McCain, but Ann Selzer, the queen of Iowa polls in 2004 and 2008, has Mitt with a 5-point lead. A caveat is the large number of uncommitted voters who could decide the race if they break decisively to any one candidate.

McCain did win the Wolverine State in 2000, his last gasp in a two-horse battle with George W. Bush, and a bounce from New Hampshire is possible here. He has certainly gained nationally, as polls now reflect that he has displaced Rudy Giuliani as the GOP frontrunner. Like college football in 2007, this appears only a precarious honor, as #1 remains ripe for the picking among a pool of contenders (besides Romney and Huckabee, don't count out Fred Thompson or Giuliani just yet).

Thankfully for McCain, he need not win Michigan. Should he pull off a surprise victory over Romney, the former Massachusetts governor may exit the race. Either way, McCain turns his attention to South Carolina, the site of his undoing in 2000. Recent polls have the Arizona senator ahead, with Mike Huckabee his most formidable foe. A win for Romney in Michigan probably doesn't equate to similar success in the Palmetto State as he has pulled his ads and placed all bets on tomorrow's outcome. Same is true in Florida where Rudy Giuliani waits for the South Carolina winner.

If any one candidate runs the table in these three contests (MI, SC and FL), however unlikely it may be, he will enter Tsunami Tuesday as the prohibitive favorite. Short of this, I expect the first true southern test, South Carolina, to be pivotal to the GOP contest. The same can be said for the Democrats, and I'll have more on this Friday. Check back here for a podcast tomorrow providing a snapshot of the state of the race for the White House, followed Wednesday by an analysis of Tuesday's Michigan results.

1.11.2008

Saving Face at the Polls

By Shawn Healy
While the rest of the nation, myself included, was dissecting the results of the New Hampshire Primary, the Supreme Court was in the middle of oral arguments considering what could end up being a landmark voting rights case. At issue is a 2005 Indiana law that requires voters to show a government-issued ID in order to receive a ballot. The Indiana Democratic Party and the ACLU challenged the law on its face, arguing that it was an outright infringement on the right to vote. The state, and the Solicitor General, thought otherwise, the latter going so far as to argue that the facial challenge should be dismissed outright.

An explanation of a facial challenge is warranted here, followed by the underlying subtext to a controversy that has also surfaced in Georgia and across the nation. A facial challenge seeks to strike down a law as unconstitutional on its face, meaning the statute is never employed. An outright poll tax, for instance, would be struck down on its face as an unconstitutional violation of the 24th Amendment. By comparison, most cases require an actual case and controversy, meaning a voter would have to show actual evidence that his or her voting rights were denied or infringed upon.

The conservative wing of the Court seemed unsympathetic to the facial challenge of the Indiana law, setting the stage for a sweeping ruling that could alter the legal landscape as partisans rush to amend state voting practices.

This battle takes place in the context of a bitterly divided partisan climate. Republicans charge that voter fraud is prevalent and mandatory ID laws are a measure to stifle it. They argue that one cannot write a check or board an airplane without a government-issued ID, so why should the right to elect our political leaders have a lower threshold.

Democrats, on the other hand, contend that charges of fraud are entirely unsubstantiated (a recent study supported this claim). Moreover, by denying suffrage to voters without accredited ID's, the burden falls disproportionately on Democratic constituencies: the poor and minorities, also, the elderly. Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Court of Appeals rejected this claim, suggesting that partisan impact is not a sufficient reason to nix a law.

Also, the Indiana law allows unaccredited voters to cast a provisional ballot, and then furnish proper identification at their county seat within 10 days of the election. Democrats contend that this is a substantial burden, particularly in rural areas, though Chief Justice Roberts, a native Hoosier, suggested that county seats are readily accessible across the state.

In an era of an evenly divided national electorate in terms of partisanship, this decision could have an enormous impact on the outcome of the 2008 election and beyond. True, Indiana and Georgia are so-called "red" states, but with mandates of a Real ID in the works, similar laws could shift "purple" states to bright hues of red.

1.09.2008

A Firewall Made of Granite

By Shawn Healy

I'm back bright and early with a wrap on the New Hampshire primaries. What follows is an analysis of the factors propelling Clinton and McCain to victory in the separate Democratic and GOP primaries here, along with a look up and down the ticket as the campaign moves to Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina.

Hillary Clinton pulled off the improbable with a narrow 39% to 37% victory over rival Barack Obama, with John Edwards, who polled 17%, placing a distant 3rd.. Bill Richardson ran 4th with 5% of the vote, and Dennis Kucinich finished 5th with a mere 1%. Mike Gravel was actually beaten by Joe Biden, who withdrew from the race last week. In a record turnout here, 276,000 strong, 57% of the electorate was female, and unlike Iowa, they broke to Clinton over Obama by a 12% margin. She also did better with voters younger than 30, gaining 28% of their support as opposed to 11% in Iowa. Obama, by comparison, won 51% of this younger age bloc.

Independents, as expected, broke for Obama over Clinton by 10%, and a significant income rift also emerged, with Clinton winning working class and lower income votes, and Obama middle to upper class support. As for issues, not only did Hillary better her husband's comeback kid performance in the Granite State, she did best among voters who listed the economy as the top issue. Echoes of 1992, "It's the economy, stupid," abound.

On the Republican side, John McCain edged Mitt Romney by a 37% to 32% margin. Mike Huckabee finished a distant third, unable to translate his Iowa victory into significant support here, earning only 11% of the vote. He was followed by Rudy Giuliani with 9%, Ron Paul at 8%, Fred Thompson at 1%, and Duncan Hunter with a mere 1,195 votes. In comparison to 2000 when McCain won New Hampshire on the backs of independent voters, he did equally well with this bloc as he fared with Republicans, a good sign for a candidate eager to earn the establishment's support as the race moves forward.

Moreover, McCain's victory cannot be explained by his issue positions, but instead his personal qualities. Voters here valued his experience, and the fact that he says what he believes (see video below). He did win voters who listed the Iraq War, the economy, and terrorism as their top issue. In a sign of his lingering vulnerability moving forward, among voters who listed immigration as their top issue he lost to rival Romney by a 3-to-1 margin.

Before I begin prognosticating about what lies ahead, it is important to revisit why the late polls so poorly predicted the Democratic outcome. At the top of the list may be the fact that they overestimated Obama's support among voters who never made it to the polls. Additionally, many of the independents that he counted so heavily upon took Republican ballots and voted for McCain and other candidates. Moreover, voters who made up their minds the day before the election or sooner were probably undercounted in any poll. The order that candidate names were listed on the ballot (see picture above) may have even been a factor. They were placed alphabetically, and Clinton's name preceded Obama's. Some experts suggests that with a celebrity name like Clinton's atop the ticket, she would enjoy a 3% advantage for such a placement. In the end, believe it or not, this may have been the decisive difference.

Clinton's win was the firewall she sought long ago. Iowa is in exclusive company with Mississippi, standing as the two states to never elect a female governor of congresswoman. The gender gap shifted in her favor yesterday, and her new signs of personal vulnerability may help soften her image in the states ahead. As for Obama, he remains in a strong position moving forward, his momentum only temporarily derailed. He expects to receive an endorsement from the Culinary Workers Union in Nevada today, a critical organizational arm in the coming Nevada caucuses on Jan. 19. The true battle will lie one week later on Jan. 26 in South Carolina, a state with a significant African-American population in stark contrast to Iowa and New Hampshire. Accounting for half of the Democratic base there, Clinton and Obama will wage a fierce battle for African-American women as both seek barrier-breaking nominations.

Edwards promises to contest the nomination through the convention, and right now he helps Hillary as he splits the anti-Clinton vote with Obama, handing her a win here in New Hampshire as a result. He did win his native South Carolina in 2004, so look for him to fare better there than he did in the Granite State. It remains difficult to see an opening for an underfinanced candidate in what will soon become a national contest. If he couldn't win on the retail scale, it's hard to see him coming back in what will soon become a "megastore." Bill Richardson will stay in the race at least through Nevada. The Silver State is in the same region as his home state of New Mexico, and it also holds a significant Hispanic population. Richardson is Mexican-American. As for Kucinich and Gravel, their candidacies were pipe dreams from Day One, so there is no reason for them to abandon their hopeless crusades now.

On the Republican side, the attention shifts immediately to Michigan (Jan. 15) and South Carolina (Jan. 19). Michigan will be contested by Romney, McCain, and Huckabee, with Giuliani also positioned to at least "show." Michigan is the home state of Romney and is also they place where his father served as a popular governor. McCain won here in 2000, and with the Democratic contest aborted there, independents could cross over once more and provide additional fuel for the Straight Talk Express. Both candidates need to win this state badly, and this could be a final death blow for Romney should he lose. Remember, he counted on Iowa and New Hampshire as the early one-two punch to propel him to the nomination. No matter how he spins it, he vastly outspent Huckabee and McCain in these two initial contests, and lost by decisive margins nonetheless. New Hampshire is adjacent to Massachusetts, a state he governed for 4 years. Yesterday was a humbling blow to his hopes, but he can continue to draw from his vast personal fortune to save his staggering campaign.

Mike Huckabee will stake his homes of regaining momentum in South Carolina, home once more to a large evangelical Christian population. Remember their importance to last week's win in Iowa. Fred Thompson heads south to rescue a campaign in dire financial straits, beginning an 11-day bus tour across the Palmetto State. A poor showing here will pull Fred from the race, but either way he can help his good friend McCain, by either splitting the vote several ways here to provide an opening for the Happy Warrior, or by delivering the long-sought endorsement and seemingly inevitable withdrawal. Rudy Giuliani essentially skipped the first four contests, though he did visit New Hampshire nearly 40 times in the last year. He lingers in the Sunshine State, banking on a Florida win to provide the necessary momentum for a big day on Tsunami Tuesday.

With Iowa and New Hampshire in our rear view mirrors, and my own visits to the sites of these preliminary contests considered, I have to conclude that these two small states play a vital role in our presidential selection process. What I witnessed in Iowa and New Hampshire was democracy in action. Citizens seeking out candidates, and vice versa, comparing messages and resumes, and selecting who they think is the best candidate to lead this great nation. Volunteers traveling from across the country to these tiny nothern hamlets for causes and candidates they so passionately, sometimes eloquently, defend. The news media, criticisms aside, bringing the results into our living rooms from the front lines of the campaign. Democracy, my friends, is alive and well in the Hawkeye and Granite states. The rest of the country should be so privileged to play a similar role, and given the up-for-grabs nature of both contests on this day, Jan. 9, 2008, many of us will soon have an opportunity to do our part.

So long, New Hampshire. Thanks to all of you for following my exploits these past couple of weeks. Stay tuned for what lies ahead, and please play an active role in a campaign soon coming to your neck of the woods.

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1.08.2008

Comeback Kids

By Shawn Healy

John McCain rescued his campaign from the dead this past summer, winning the New Hampshire primary for a second time by a decisive margin over Mitt Romney. His fellow Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, pulled off a stunning comeback herself as polls suggested that rival Obama would win by as much as a double-digit margin, besting him in a race too-close-to-call for most of the evening.

I just returned from the John Edwards campaign headquarters, where the third place finisher promised to take his message to the remaining 48 states (see the photo posted above). Barack Obama is making his concession speech as I write, and his coronation is apparently at least temporarily derailed. Spin it as he may, Clinton is ahead in most of the states set to vote in the next month, and her status as the frontrunner was restored. New Hampshire was to serve as her firewall all along, and tonight, it served its purpose. Like her husband in 1992, she is the comeback kid!

McCain placed all of his marbles in the Granite State, and he turned back the clock to 2000 and hurdled to the front of the race for the GOP nomination. The campaign now shifts to Michigan, Romney's home state, but also a state claimed by McCain in 2000. Then, it's on to South Carolina, where the party's southern base makes its voice heard. Look for Huckabee to do well there, and for McCain, Romney, and Thompson to fight for win, show and place. Any of these candidates, with Giuliani also added to the mix, could claim the nomination. Michigan beckons.

As for the Democrats, they head next to Nevada for caucuses there on Jan. 19. One week later, South Carolina will prove as a pivotal test for the Dems too, with black voters forced to decide between nominating the first female or African American candidate for president. Native son John Edwards will also be in the mix.

In the end, the late polls released in New Hampshire proved fallible. Although mostly accurate on the GOP side, they erred badly in the Democratic column, and they have pies on their face, not to mention the pundits who prematurely crowned the upstart Obama. The intrigue of this 2008 contest only grows. So on to the Silver State, then the Palmetto State. Before long, Tsunami Tuesday lurks.

The message delivered by New Hampshire voters was "Stop the press!" Allow the American people to select their own candidates. Premature predictions and prognostications must await the word of the people.

I'll be back tomorrow with a wrap on New Hampshire on both this blog and in another podcast. Until then, goodnight from the Granite State. I leave you with footage from Ward 1 of Manchester where voters flocked to Brookside Congregational Church until the polls closed at 7pm.

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Manic Manchester

By Shawn Healy
















Just back from a few hours of taking in all of downtown Manchester's sights and sounds on a warm and sunny primary day. Beyond the Ward 3 polling place, I strolled Elm Street, encountering snowmen, more canine surrogates, a media circus, celebrity endorsements (Desperate Housewives' James Denton for John Edwards), even a candidate. No sooner did I turn the corner near Dennis Kucinich's campaign headquarters than did I stumble upon the candidate himself and his beautiful bride.


In the process, I recorded a postcast with the Freedom Museum's Director of Exhibits and Programs, Nathan Richie. It is posted at the Freedom Museum's Audio Presentation Archive.

The anticipation of the closing of the polls at 7pm Eastern is simply exhilarating, with a long night of celebration, sorrow, and yes, more prognostication to follow. Check back here for a full wrap-up tomorrow, along with another podcast. Tune in to WGN this evening at 6:11pm for my report from Manchester on the Steve Conchran Show.

Early Returns

By Shawn Healy















Dixville Notch voters, 17 in all, went to the polls early this morning and delivered the preliminary verdict in the New Hampshire Primary. Barack Obama bested John Edwards and Bill Richardson, 7 votes to 2 and 1 respectively for his opponents. John McCain won on the Republican side with 4 votes, better than Mitt Romney's 2 and Rudy Giuliani's single tally.

I made my own journey to a polling location in Nashua this morning, a virtual suburb of Boston and the site of a heated Republican contest between Mitt Romney and John McCain. Both candidates visited Ward 1 at an elementary school at separate times, and their supporters blanketed them in droves, not to mention the ever-present press pool. Judging by the turnout, McCain has the upper hand, and Ron Paul once again turned out his own legion of compatriots.

The atmosphere here in New Hampshire is nothing less than a political three-ring circus. "Flip Romney," and man dressed as a dolphin to characterize his likeness' alleged flip-flops on a number of issues was on hand, as was a busload of students administering exit polls to voters, along with a cohort of former POW's for McCain. A lone bulldog even showed up to support his man Mitt.

Inside the polling location, voters entered to declare a party if they had not already done so, then received the appropriate ballot and entered a private booth to make their voice heard. New Hampshire is famous for its plurality of independents, and voters who declare a party upon entrance may switch back to independent status upon leaving.

According to the secretary of state, record turnout is expected today, at least 1/2 million strong, nearly half of the state's population, eclipsing the 396,000 voters who came out in 1992. By comparison, this is nearly 200,000 voters more than caucused in Iowa last Thursday in a state less than half its size.

I plan to return to the polls this afternoon, reporting this time from Manchester. I'll record a podcast there, then head back to Nashua for more candidate rallies before returning to Manchester to attend a couple more. Once again, tune in to WGN AM 720 in Chicago this evening at 6:11pm to listen to my live report in New Hampshire on the Steve Cochran Show.

1.07.2008

Between Barack and a Hard Place

By Shawn Healy










Greetings from the Granite State, and welcome to political paradise! I spent the entire day on the trail, traveling across the state from Manchester to Concord to Derry and finally Portsmouth, before returning back to my home base. In the process, I saw Sen. John McCain speak before the statehouse, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani conduct a town hall meeting in an opera house, and Gov. Bill Richardson lead a get-out-the-vote drive at a local watering hole.

Like Iowa, the airwaves are once again cluttered with campaign ads, this time from candidates of both parties. Different are the yard signs stacked in nearly every snow bank at intersections and along major highways, representing all of the candidates still in the race, not just the frontrunners (yes, Rep. Duncan Hunter and former Sen. Mike Gravel are in the house). Also evident is the tremendous influx of interest groups from across the eastern seaboard. Within seconds of parking my car in Concord I encountered a student dressed as a snowman, on hand to elevate the issue of global warming at a McCain rally. Also present were many critics of the Iraq War, including veterans, and an anti-immigrant group critical of McCain's so-called "amnesty" bill.

I even encountered a group of women from Arkansas, 75 strong, who knew Sen Clinton from her time there when her husband was Governor, and traveled here to help her in the fight for her political life. The overwhelming presence of Rep. Ron Paul surrogates at every candidate rally and their storming of media outlets is difficult to dismiss, as was the airplane flying overhead with a Paul banner. Paul is even on the air with radio spots contrasting his tough stance against immigration with those of his GOP rivals.

My day began once more in Chicago as my flight sat on a runway at O'Hare awaiting the landing of Airforce 1 and the arrival of President Bush. I was more than a little frustrated, eager to land in Manchester and race to see the men and women who want his job. Arriving more than an hour late, I missed my chance to see Huck and Chuck, the tag team of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and aging action hero Chuck Norris. I made it to Concord just as they departed, leaving their sign-waving surrogates on the street corner as I made my way to the longest-serving statehouse in the nation.

John McCain arrived more than a half-hour late to an impressive crowd on the statehouse steps as the Straight Talk Express pulled up to chants of "Mac is Back." He reiterated his typical slogans about fiscal discipline and the "transcendent challenge of our time, Islamic terrorism." He did depart from his playbook at one point, embracing the cause of climate change and promising immediate action on the issue. His Concord stop was one of seven today, typical of the vigorous pace set by a man set to turn 72 by inauguration day. Polls show him clinging to a single-digit lead over Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, an attempt to reprise the magic of 2000.

Rudy Giuliani was also late and attributed his tardiness to traffic across New Hampshire, a product of campaign caravans canvassing the state. Outside were two protesters with megaphones critical of the abortion and gay marriage positions of America's Mayor. Inside Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry, Giuliani stuck to his talking points or his "Twelve Commitments" to the American people. Tax reform, school choice, and free market health care and social security reform were among the themes stressed, but being on "offense" against terrorism remains the linchpin of his campaign. Rudy made a last-ditch effort to save face in a state seemingly sympathetic to his socially moderate positions, but he may finish behind Paul once more, with anything better than 4th place seemingly out of reach.

I ended the evening with a drive to Portsmouth, seeking out Bill Richardson at the Portsmouth Gas Light Company Restaurant. Richardson displayed an impressive knowledge of a plethora of policy areas, from education to energy to diplomacy. He pledged to end No Child Left Behind, to increase our reliance on renewable energy sources, and to bring all troops home from Iraq within one calendar year. He also challenged his supporters to help him make the case to the press and the nation that this race is far from over, and that it includes candidates beyond Senators Obama and Clinton. The proof is of course in the pudding, and Richardson is likely resigned to a consecutive 4th place finish. Tomorrow might be the end of the road and a ticket back to Albuquerque, as Richardson awaits a potential VP nod or cabinet post.

A mere hour separates us from the first voting in the New Hampshire primary. 17 residents of Dixville Notch, NH, will flock to the polls at once to make their voices heard and kick off the first-in-the-nation primary. What follows are my predictions for the top five finishers of each party, acknowledging that I was dead on in Iowa for the GOP, but badly misjudged Obama's surge of the Democratic side of the aisle.

As the saying goes, "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." In that spirit, it's hard to dismiss Barack Obama's boost from his stunning Iowa victory. Some are suggesting a double-digit victory, especially as independents trend his way. Hillary Clinton had her well-documented breakdown today, and a loss tomorrow would be even more devastating. While the nomination will be far from clinched, Clinton will have to adopt a late-state strategy similar to her New York counterpart in the GOP, Giuliani. Former Sen. Edwards' angry populism has yet to find a substantial audience in the Granite State, so a distant third is a given. With Richardson claiming 4th, expect Rep. Dennis Kucinich to edge out Mike Gravel for 5th in a battle for relevance.

The GOP call is more difficult. With independents trending Democratic, former Gov. Mitt Romney has a shot to overtake McCain. He has spent twice as much money on advertising as his chief rival, and once again has superior organization, although this failed to overtake Huckabee in Iowa. Recent polls reveal a slim McCain lead here, and given his past success with these fiercely independent New Englanders, I expect McCain to rekindle the fire of 2000, at least for one evening. Romney finishes a close second, with Huck in a distant third, just ahead of Paul and Giuliani.

The balance of the state votes from 6am to 8pm tomorrow, and I'll visit the polls throughout the day to speak to voters and monitor the results. Later, I hope to attend candidate rallies and return to my hotel to sort it all out when the lights go out on New Hampshire. Check back here for periodic updates and another podcast, and also listen to WGN radio at 6:11pm tomorrow evening when I speak live on the Steve Cochran Show.

1.04.2008

New Hampshire or Bust

By Shawn Healy

I may be the only non-Iowan still in the Hawkeye State as the campaigns and the press pool covering them wasted no time hoisting their wheels to the sky in pursuit of votes in New Hampshire. Before leaving, however, I will deliver a few parting shots, including a more in-depth analysis of last night's proceedings and what it means for New Hampshire next Tuesday and beyond.

It is often said that Iowa does not crown winners, but is effective at eliminating also-rans from the race. Exiting last evening were Democrats Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. Wounded were Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, even John Edwards. This was a state Edwards needed to win given the time and resources he devoted to the state on a shoestring budget. He heads for New Hampshire without the organization he developed here over the course of the past 5 years, and hamstrung by federal matching fund limits that are based on state populations. Clinton and Barack Obama both raised more than $100 million each over the course of 2007, and they will use this for the media campaign to follow as the race moves from retail to superstore politics. Edwards will stay in the race through South Carolina on Jan. 26, but I see little rationale for him competing beyond the Palmetto State short of a surprising victory.

Clinton was the presumptive frontrunner heading into the 2008 campaign, and this mantle was severely tarnished with a third place finish in Iowa. New Hampshire has been her firewall all along, and she must win the Granite State before the race heads to South Carolina where 50% of the Democratic electorate is African-American and ripe for Obama's crowning. The road will not be easy in New Hampshire, however, as independents dominate there, and Obama appeals to them as the authentic candidate of change. Hillary maintains a slight lead in the polls there, but expect the gap to close as Obama gets an Iowa boost.

Romney bet his fortune on the one-two punch of Iowa and New Hampshire. He lost round one to Mike Huckabee, and is vulnerable in the second contest to John McCain, not to mention the rising Huck. Short of a win on Tuesday, he returns to his home state of Michigan wounded and vulnerable to a second consecutive defeat to McCain who also won there in 2000. Mitt may be all but eliminated by the time the race heads to South Carolina, McCain's Waterloo in 2000, and Huckabee's first chance to enjoy the graces of his southern bretheren.

Giuliani's distant 6th place finish behind Ron Paul is certainly no surpirse given the fact that his campaign wrote off Iowa early on. He remains out of the top tier for New Hampshire and the primaries that follow, hoping for a mixed outcome that allows him to return to the fore with a late-state strategy starting in Florida on Jan. 29 and carrying onward through Tsunami Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Elsewhere in the race, Fred Thompson and John McCain are still battling for the third spot in the Iowa Republican field with 5% of the vote still mysteriously outstanding. Thompson has pledged to campaign onward in New Hampshire where he is polling outside the top five. Expect him to stay on through South Carolina where voters will weigh in on who best fits the mold of the southern base of the party.

Bill Richardson finished a distant 4th in Iowa and also plans to forge ahead in New Hampshire. I contend that this is now a two-horse race between Obama and Clinton, and Richardson may be lingering only for a VP nod or another cabinet post come 2009.

Carnage aside, time to explain the Obama and Huckabee victories in Iowa. Obama (picture from his Wednesday Cedar Rapids rally above) rode a record-high turnout, 234,000 strong, to a resounding 38% win over Edwards (30%) and Clinton (29%). He won 42 of the state's 99 counties, finishing second in 27 and third in 29. Edwards, by comparison, won 32 counties, finished second in 38, and third in 29. Clinton won 29, placed in 34, and "showed" in 36.
Obama prevailed in Polk County, home of Des Moines and the state's population center, 39% to Edwards' 29% and Clinton's 28%. Linn County, home of the second largest city in the state, Cedar Rapids, and situated in the more Democratic eastern half of the state, went even more decisively to Obama, 43% to Edwards' and Clinton's 28%. Johnson County, just to the south and home to the University of Iowa, was dominated by Obama, 52% to Edwards' 24% and Clinton's 20%.
Obama enjoyed a 5-to-1 margin over Clinton among caucus attendees younger than 30, while Hillary clung to a 2-to-1 edge over Obama for attendees older than 65. Moreover, in perhaps the evening's biggest demographic surprise, women, who acounted for 56% of caucus attendees, went to Obama by a 33% to 30% over Clinton. Simply put, she cannot clinch the nomination without creating a gender gap in her favor.
Huckabee's win was premised on an overwhelming turnout of evangelical Christians, accounting for 60% of all Republican caucus attendees. They favored him 46% to 19% for Romney, with Huck earning the support of only 14% of an non-evangelical attendees. This does not bode well for Huck as the race heads to a more agnostic, less spiritual New Hampshire.
Huckabee won populous Polk County 36% to Romney's 23% and McCain's 15%. However, Romney won Linn County, my temporary base, 31% to Huckabee's 26% and Thompson's 15%. In total, Huckabee dominated Iowa's 99 counties, winning 74, placing second in 24, and third in 1. Romney won 24, placed second in 53, and third in 20. Thompson finished second in 11 counties and third in 50, while McCain finished second in 17 and third in 18. Ron Paul won a single county, finished second in 4, and third in 12. Whispers of the Ron Paul Revolution still abound.
This wraps on my stay in Cedar Rapids and my analysis of the Iowa Caucuses. It was truly an illuminating experience, and I hope to replicate my reporting early next week in Manchester, NH. Until then, look for another podcast landing on the museum's audio presentation archive. Also, attend the Freedom Museum's Voter Fest tomorrow to visit the C-SPAN bus, register to vote, visit Vote4Me!, our special exhibit on the presidential campaign, listen to Nathan Richie, Director of Exhibits and Programs, deliver a curator's talk at 1pm, and hear from your's truly at 11am on the current state of the race.

SHAWN HEALY

Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project


Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.



Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.


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