Obama Endorsed By Lewis and Dorgan and Gains Ground in Pennsylvania

The Obama for America campaign got good news from outside Ohio today:

* Civil rights icon and superdelegate Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has officially switched from supporting Clinton to supporting Obama, confirming a premature report in the New York Times last week.

* Superdelegate Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) announced his support for Obama today, identifying trade policy as the principal reason. "Senator Obama has never felt ... that NAFTA was good for America," Dorgan said. "He and I feel the same way. We both believe in trade and plenty of it. We just insist it that it be fair to our country — the rules be fair."

* A new poll from Quinnipiac University shows that Clinton's lead over Obama in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (April 22nd primary) has shrunk from 16 points two weeks ago (52% to 36%) to just six (49% to 43%).

The Debate From Inside

Everyone did a great job covering the debate. There is so much blog coverage that it almost seems pointless to add another full diary so I think I'll just bullet point some of the things those of us with tickets were able to experience that others may not have:

  • Pre-Debate Banter - At the reception, the food was good, and the excitement level was high. There were so many familiar faces (a theme through out the night), it seemed like every prominent democrat in Ohio was there. The banter was excited but reserved, no one really wanted to rock the boat and the "2 great candidates" meme was repeated often. Occasionally, people made friendly pokes at the candidates with remarks like: "the wheels are going to come off the O'train" and "this was Hillary's last stand".


  • The Rule - The rule that "we were not to display our support for a candidate during the debate" was repeated over and over. First, in a letter we recieved last week, then in the program, and in every speech from everyone involved (ODP, CSU, MSNBC) leading up to the debate. We were told that this could hurt our preferred candidate and the broadcast because MSNBC will try to edit that stuff out (making the telecast seem jerky) and in the end, it will just throw your candidate off. Still, When Hillary made "the pillow" remark everyone gasped and boos could be heard from the bleachers. From that moment on, people seemed less concerned with following the rules. People readily laughed at Obamas jokes and sadly, people laughed at some of Hillary' more sillier attacks.

  • I think Hillarys' supporters did hurt her when they applauded loudly during Hillarys' comment on being the first women candidate. The applause kinda cut off her longer point and seemed kinda cheap. It was like she was asking us to "applause if you are a female". I don't think that was her intent but it played out like that after the applause interupted her. In review, I think the Hillary supporters just wanted something to applause loudly about since the crowd seemed to be favoring Obama.

  • Celebrities! - Welcome to the E! portion of my debate round up. Several celebrities came to the debate and all were extremely kind and accessible. Celebrities at the event included, Fisher Stevens, Timothy Hutton, Matthew Modine, Harold Perrineau and my personal favorite Dennis Haysbert.

Michelle Obama in Warren and Akron Today, Canton, Athens & Chillicothe Tomorrow

Michelle Obama returns to Ohio to hold five public rallies in two days. If you have not heard her speak you should. She is terrific.
Details after the flip.

Erie County Activists Running Independent Radio Ad for Obama

Grassroots activists are running this radio spot in support of Barack Obama, as an independent expenditure not coordinated with the campaign:


Lisa Cherry Dewey writes that "we have great things going on in Erie County and look forward to bringing our area for Obama." They would like the audio to be available to others whom might want to run it in other markets, after changing the "paid for by ..." part at the end. Contact me for mor information.

My Post at Sky News

Here is my post on the debate at Sky News. Audio is not working on the video, unfortunately. Audio is fixed! Per their request, I didn't analyze the content of the debate, instead reacting to the experience and what it was like for people outside the venue.

Bottom line, Clinton landed some blows but no big haymaker. Obama struggled a bit at times but held up well enough. This event was not a momentum-changer.

Obama and Labor Groups Outspending Clinton 4-to-1 in Ohio

From First Read:

Watching local TV here in Ohio, it feels like Obama has a 4-to-1 advantage -- with SEIU, UFCW and Obama just blitzing the airwaves compared with Clinton. ... In fact, per TV ad expert Evan Tracey, Obama has outspent Clinton $23 million to $14 million in the last 30 days.

The SEIU alone reported spending $1.4 million in Ohio and Texas. Ben Smith says on Politico that Clinton lieutenant Mandy Grunwald confirms the 4-to-1 ratio.

OH House-26: Heard (D) Praises Obama's Debate Performance

State Rep. Tracy Heard (D-Columbus) thinks her preferred candidate spoke confidently and concisely, and has improved with each debate:

Ohio Poll: TIght Head-to-Head Matchups; Obama Fares Better

In an Ohio Poll [pdf] released by the University of Cincinnati this morning, Barack Obama fares slightly better than Hillary Clinton against John McCain in close head-to-head match-ups:

48% Obama
47% McCain

47% Clinton
51% McCain

The pollster notes that both Democrats fare better among women, while McCain leads both among men, although the margins are larger in the Clinton/McCain race. Obama wins 99% of the African American vote against McCain. The percentage of undecided respondents was a little higher in the Obama/McCain match-up (4%) than in the Clinton/McCain match-up (1%).

The margin of error is 3%.

Complete Debate Transcript

WILLIAMS: Thanks to our candidates for being here on a snowy night in the great city of Cleveland, Ohio.

A lot has been said since we last gathered in this forum, certainly in the few days since you two last debated.

Senator Clinton, in your comments especially, the difference has been striking. And let's begin by taking a look.


CLINTON: You know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored and...

And, therefore, I think it's important that you stand up for yourself and you point out these differences so that voters can have the information they need to make a decision.

You know, for example, it's been unfortunate that Senator Obama has consistently said that I would force people to have health care whether they could afford it or not.

You know, health care reform and achieving universal health care is a passion of mine. It is something I believe in with all my heart.

CLINTON: And every day that I'm campaigning -- and certainly herethroughout Ohio, I've met so many families, happened again this morningin Lorain, who are just devastated because they don't get the health
care they deserve to have.

Live Blogging the Democratic Presidential Debate

I'm in the Media Filing room with more than a hundred laptop-pounding reporters. The debate will start in about ten minutes and I'll post my reactions as it goes along.

9:03 pm: No rules for this debate, just "reasonable time limits on answers." Good luck with that!

9:10 pm: Brilliant way to open, showing tape of Clinton making nice at the last debate and then lashing out at Obama. Clinton goes with calling Obama's tactics "disturbing," a word choice that makes her sound reasonable, matter of fact. She is not showing any visible anger. Insists that her plan will cover everyone and be affordable. "We should have a good debate that uses accurate information."

9:15 pm: Clinton has jumped in twice, cutting off Williams. Obama isn't able to get a word in. Clinton is beginning to look distinctly angry. They are both shaking their heads while the other speaks. This isn't helping either, but Clinton is the one who needs to come off better.

9:19 pm: Ridiculous. Clinton complains about getting the first questions every time. Refers to the SNL skit. Groaning and booing in the media room. That didn't go over well.

9:27 pm: Clinton tries to disagree with Russert about being inconsistent on NAFTA, but it doesn't come off as credible because Russert laid out too many examples.

9:29 pm: They've been talking about NAFTA for over ten minutes, and Obama is finally getting into the emotional side, the impact on workers and families who lose their insurance and pensions along with their jobs.

OH-18: NRA Endorsement Boosts Chances for Space

Politico reports that the National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) today, making the supposedly endangered freshman legislator look even better for re-election:

The National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) for re-election today, giving the freshman congressman key credibility among gun owners as he runs for re-election in a largely rural and solidly Republican district.

"During just my first term in Congress, the NRA and I have already forged a strong working relationship as we both seek to protect the gun owners and sportsmen in the 18th Congressional District,” said Space in a statement. ...

Republicans have had trouble recruiting credible candidates to challenge Space, despite the district’s Republican tilt. The four Republican candidates who have filed for the state’s March 4 primary have hardly raised any money in preparation for the campaign. ...

The NRA’s endorsement suggests that prospect for Republicans is increasingly unlikely, and that Space’s long-term prospects of holding the seat may be better than even he once expected.

Space has done everything necessary to lay the groundwork for continuing in office, with great fundraising, visibility, casework, and attention to issues his constituents really care about. I think he's in terrific shape to not only stay in for a second term, but for about as long thereafter as he wants.

Cordray Explains Decision to Endorse Obama

Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray (D-Grove City) discusses his recent decision to endorse Barack Obama, which included thinking about who he wants to be in the White House during his twin daughters' formative years:

Video - Supporters In The Snow

Tweety's Stare

This was a tough shot to get -- I had to sneak around the side of the Hardball set and squeeze as much telephoto capability as I could out of my little digital camera, zooming in there between the spectators, light stands, and technicians. I guess my efforts didn't escape his attention, judging by the look on Chris Matthew's face.

That's Chuck Todd sitting next to him. Shortly after this shot Matthews spoke to a couple of Ohio superdelegates, Clinton supporter Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Obama supporter David Wilhelm.

New SUSA Ohio Poll: Clinton by 6 Points

Pho highlights this poll from Survey USA just out today, showing the gap between Clinton and Obama closing to just six points:

50% Clinton
44% Obama

This compares to 52% to 43% a week ago. Clinton is basically holding her ground with women voters at 58% to 36%. Obama is at 75% to 23% among African American voters, 55% to 39% among male voters.

The margin of error is 3.6 points.

Newsy Bits Along the Way

While I was gearing up and getting my butt down to the Wolstein Center I missed some big developments in the news:

* Greg Oden, star player for OSU's 2006-2007 Big Ten Champion and national runner-up team, endorsed Barack Obama today. From the Obama campaign:
The number one overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, Oden is a first-time voter, and he decided to speak out about this election because he believes America is at a critical juncture.

Testing the Video Set-Up, Bloggers Parody Pundits

Generic Pre-Debate Blog Post

So the narrative running up to the debate at my alma mater tonight is, "How will Hillary turn things around?" Will she go negative/aggressive. Will nice-Hillary or nasty-Hillary show up. Even if she hits a "home run" will it be enough?

Do I have that right?

[Dear media tools: that's "Convocation Center," not "Convention" Center.]

Note that the story isn't about what Obama will do, that the nomination is his to lose with all the momentum he's gained over the last month.

I'm not complaining, just making the observation. Obama is just chugging along -- saturating the airways, overloading auditoriums -- which is boring to write or talk about. Hillary may or may not hit on a winning strategy, but it certainly seems like her campaign is trying anything and everything hoping something sticks. It certainly is interesting if nothing else.

Tonight very well may be the last time we see these two in a debate. That alone makes it significant. I believe that as long as Obama keeps his cool, he wins. Senator Clinton needs to win "Tiny Tuesday" by such a significant margin even Texas and Ohio "wins" won't be enough unless she scores a true blow-out. A good debate performance is just one step, and probably not enough.

What she really needs is something she can't control, which is the unstated truth that this nomination is now Obama's to lose, and he can if he finally "loses it." She needs him to try some kind of, "There you go again" moment that lacks any sense of graciousness.

Hillary needs to goad Barack into saying, "Shut up, Bitch."

Ain't ever going to happen, but wow, would that be good TV.

Cold and Wet Supporters Soldiering On

When Jill and I arrived around 2:00 p.m. there were supporters for both candidates camped out on the corners of Prospect Avenue and 21st Street, waving at the traffic and pedestrians.

The driver of a huge dump truck honked for Hillary. A bus turning the corner seemed to slow down, allowing the passengers to rap on the windows and wave to the Obama people.

A number of Clinton supporters are wearing black tee shirts that say "Meet Me In Ohio," a reference to her purportedly spontaneous televised tirade in Cincinnati on Sunday when she said to Obama, "Meet me in Ohio and we'll have a debate on your tactics." If we didn't know already, the tee shirts signal what this event is all about. Clinton is going on offense, hoping for a knockout blow.

ODP Presentation Now Underway

Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern, Executive Director Doug Kelly, and Director of Targeting John Hagner are giving a presentation to the press on the party's strategy for 2008. Here's a tiny bit of Redfern's introduction:

UPDATE: Doug Kelly and John Hagner did a powerpoint presentation about Ohio and ODP strategy. In broad terms, the party is working very hard on developing a knowledge base about Ohio voters and a micro-targeting strategy to deliver a fine-tuned election message. One surprising slide showed that 49% of the Democratic vote in 2004 came from counties that touch or are north of the Ohio Turnpike, which runs across the northern edge of the state -- I had not thought about it that way before.

Another display identified the Ohio congressional districts with an odd number of delegates (OH-03, OH-06, OH-16, OH-17, and OH-18). In those districts a candidate can win more delegates than his or her opponent by winning only 51% of the vote, as compared to about 60% needed for a net delegate gain in districts with an even number of delegates. Looking at the display, the travel schedules of the candidates and their surrogates suddenly made more sense.

John Kerry won 16 counties in 2004 and lost 72; Ted Strickland flipped those numbers perfectly in 2006 by winning 72 and losing 16. The Strickland map of counties won has a beautiful big expanse of blue across the middle and right-hand side -- except for Holmes County, which sticks out like a big red thumb.

The GOP had a massive advantage in knowledge about voters in 2004, but no state party has spent more money than the ODP in 2006 and 2007 on micro-targeting, Hagner said.

Dodd (D) Endorses Obama in Cleveland

The photo is from reporter Sabrina Eaton's story at The Plain Dealer's political blog, Openers, as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) became the first former 2008 presidential candidate to endorse Sen. Barack Obama at a press event in Cleveland this morning.

Eaton reports that the potential damage of an increasingly divisive campaign fight between Obama and Clinton was the immediate cause for Dodd making this announcement. As to his chosen candidate, Dodd cited Obama's crossover appeal:

Dodd compared Obama's capacity to attract GOP voters with former Republican President Ronald Reagan's appeal to Democrats.

"It goes beyond just the issues," Dodd said, citing Obama's "ability to reach and touch the hearts and souls of Americans."

This is a big one for Obama.

Clinton Debate Visibility and Rally Details

Join fellow Clinton supporters in cheering and waving for the TV cameras, then watching the debate at a rally.
Details after the break.

Clinton "Economic Solutions Summit" in Zanesville 2/27

02/27/2008 - 1:30pm
02/27/2008 - 3:00pm

Hillary Clinton will convene an "Economic Solutions Summit" at Ohio University Zanesville on Wednesday afternoon, bringing together governors, business, labor and political leaders and working families from across Ohio and the nation to outline solutions to the great challenges facing America.

Volunteer for Obama Pre-Debate Visibility 2/26

02/26/2008 - 6:00pm
02/26/2008 - 8:00pm

The Obama campaign invites you to show your support by joining a crowd of cheering, sign-waving Obama fans for the benefit of TV cameras outside the Wolstein Center in Cleveland.
Details after the flip.

Sign-Making Party for Obama at OSU 2/26

02/26/2008 - 7:00pm
02/26/2008 - 8:00pm

In preparation for tomorrow's rally with Obama, there will be a sign-making party on February 16th at 7:00 PM at the Obama campaign's Ohio State University headquarters, 2240 N. High St., Columbus, OH.

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