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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Join fellow Clinton supporters in cheering and waving for the TV cameras, then watching the debate at a rally.
Details after the break.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some photos I took with my cell phone this morning when I picked up my official press credential at about 8:45 a.m. Cleveland got three or four inches of sticky snow overnight and much more is expected during the course of the day. The roads are already slushy, but not impassable.
I was impressed that Clinton supporters were already on hand with four of these large signs, waving to the morning rush hour traffic along Prospect Avenue. A police officer herded the ones on the Wolstein Center side of the street across to the other side while I was walking by. There will be a line of bicycle racks along Prospect with supporters of the two candidates arrayed for the media as the event draws closer.
This enormous banner, with spotlights trained on it, will be the backdrop for introductory bits on the TV networks.
This is the set for the MSNBC show "Hardball with Chris Matthews," which will be broadcasting from this location from about 5:00 p.m. as I understand it. This is in the Spin Room, located in a practice basketball court in the basement, where The Plain Dealer and NBC News also have locations set up. I will be in the spin room as various elected officials and dignitaries give interviews before the debate, and where surrogates for the candidates will present their views about what happened in the debate when it is over.
Here is the NBC News backdrop in the Spin Room. During the debate itself I will be in the Media Filing Room on the fourth floor, live blogging the debate. Jill Miller Zimon of WLST will be in the press areas as well, and the two of us plan to communicate with the Meet the Bloggers contingent over at the studios of local NBC affiliate WKYC-TV 3.
The Wolstein Center will be cleared out for a security check around 11:00 a.m. this morning. I will return there about 1:00 p.m. and plan to post furiously for the rest of the day and evening.
Thanks to Jeff for the invitation to update you all on Cleveland City Council's "Fighting Foreclosure and Abandonment Forum" for the Presidential campaigns Wednesday morning.
We learned Monday that Fred Hochberg, Dean of Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy in New York City, will represent the Clinton campaign at the Forum, which starts at 10 am in City Council Chambers at 601 Lakeside.
He'll join Obama Senior Advisor Mark Alexander at the front table.
More about the Fighting Foreclosure Forum here. And, just posted...
American Research Group has not been the most reliable pollster of late, but for what it is worth their new poll released today has Clinton out in front by ten:
4% Someone Else
Clinton leads 53% to 35% among Democrats, Obama leads 54% to 36% among independents.
The poll sample is 600 and the margin of error is 4 points. It was taken February 23-24.
Michelle Obama will meet with voters in Warren, Akron, Canton, Zanesville, Athens, and Chillicothe on Wednesday and Thursday, but not further details are yet available. I will add them to the events calendar (right sidebar) when I get them.
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory announced his endorsement of Barack Obama at today’s “Keeping America’s Promise” Rally at the University of Cincinnati. Mayor Mallory is a Superdelegate and will cast his vote for Obama at the Democratic Convention in Denver this summer. He joins fellow Ohio Superdelegates Sonny Nardi and David Wilhelm in supporting Senator Obama.
“Barack Obama is inspiring and exciting people in Cincinnati in way I haven’t seen before, bringing new people into the political process because they believe in his message that when we come together, anything is possible,” Mayor Mallory said. “We know the challenges we face are steep—finally providing a quality education for every child; making sure that every American has health care. But we also know that with the right leadership, we can put the partisanship and the special interests aside and finally make progress again for working people. I’m endorsing Barack Obama today for the same reason that so many Cincinnatians are supporting him: because we know he’s the candidate who can bring about the change we need.”
Mallory joins African American big city mayors Mike Coleman of Columbus, Frank Jackson of Cleveland, and Jay Williams of Youngstown in supporting Obama.
At the press orientation and preview for tomorrow night's debate at Cleveland State University, ODP Chair and superdelegate Chris Redfern called the event "the most important debate so far" as we build up to "what looks like the most important primary." Both candidates "understand that Ohio is essential to their success, not only in the primary election but also in the general election." He also said that "whoever wins Ohio will win the nomination," although he immediately qualified that statement somewhat:
If Hillary Clinton wins in Ohio and shows success in Texas, then that shows her a path to the nomination. ... If Obama wins here and in Texas, then he will be the nominee.
He also reiterated that he will remain neutral through the course of the campaign. "Hell, I want to make it interesting," he added. However, he said, he is aware that every word he utters will be dissected by bloggers in an attempt to divine which way he is leaning.
At a press availability outside the arena at the Wolstein Convocation Center, Redfern spoke to reporters along with CSU President Michael Schwartz, WKYC President and General Manager Brooke Spectorsky, and NBC Debate Producer Phil Alongi. They described the incredible scramble to get this event pulled together in just 14 days. Valerie McCall, speaking for Mayor Frank Jackson, said that he "could not be more eager to support something that will be a defining moment not just in the election but in history." But Redfern is the one who really put it out there. "If they had all of the debates here in Ohio, that would be the best, saving everybody a lot of time and energy," he said, "since we all know that Ohio will be the most important state in the election."
"Hillary Clinton is in big trouble," said Dean Debnam, president of PPP, in the polling memo. "As recently as a week ago many polls in the state were showing her with around a 20 point lead. The race is trending heavily toward Obama and time is on his side with another eight day before the voting."
Rumors that former John Edwards support, Ohio Blogger Mark Adams finally getting off the fence and deciding to reject Hillary's advances (and cookies, even the chocolate chip ones) was the deciding factor in beginning this groundswell of support for the Illinois Senator cannot be confirmed.
Jane Mitakides (D-Dayton) is on the air:
Here is the script:
[Jane Mitakides:] This election is about change and a future of opportunity for all Americans.
As a member of the St. Elizabeth Development Board, I fought government policies that denied healthcare to families who left welfare for work.
Now, I’m ready to fight for jobs, fair trade, and education.
Let’s end the era of no-bid contracts and work towards real solutions.
I’m Jane Mitakides and I approved this message because I believe real change starts with us.
It wasn't her unapologetic stance on the Iraq War, now or then. Truthfully, the moment any of us signed on to support John Kerry, we gave Hillary a pass on her vote for the AUMF, even if we reserved the right to nit-pick her votes to fund the war. It's not the triangulation, or Bill's clumsy rants on her behalf. It's not the two-faces of her flag-burning position, or health-care mandates.
It's the fucking lies about the economy, stupid.
"The notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then run away from what isn't politically convenient, that doesn't make sense," Obama said. "If she suggested she had nothing to do with economic policy in the Clinton White House, then it would not be fair for me to bring it up but as you know, that's not the claim that she is making."
For her to insist that NAFTA not only was a bad idea, but that her wise counsel against it was ignored by her husband which allows her to take credit for much of the good from Bill Clinton's administration while distancing herself from one of it's most glaring examples of right-leaning policy mistakes -- only to be reminded that she herself includes it as something in her record of accomplishments to which she stands proud -- is a lesson in cherry picking.
David Sirota found the money quote from a 2002 speech Hillary Clinton gave to the DLC (the Republican wing of the Democratic Party):
"We all know the record of the DLC, the Progressive Policy Institute and, of course, the Clinton-Gore Administration. The economic recovery plan stands first and foremost as a testament to both good ideas and political courage. National service. The Brady Bill. Family Leave. NAFTA. Investment in science and technology. New markets. Charter schools. The Earned Income Tax Credit. The welfare to work partnership. The COPS program. The SAFER program. All of these came out of some very fundamental ideas about what would work. The results speak for themselves. Those ideas were converted into policies programs that literally changed millions of lives and, I argue, changed America."
I'll not argue with her that much of this was good, very good in fact. But here in the Rust Belt, NAFTA is a four letter word (a testament to our economic condition, not the educational system). She knows it, which is why, as the Ohio primary looms and the Pennsylvania primary looks increasingly like a contest she might not even get to, the last thing she wants around her neck is a trade deal so many of us here have concluded is responsible for wiping out what once was one of the most economically prosperous regions in the country.
A poll just released by Quinnipiac University shows Hillary Clinton leading among likely Democratic voters in Ohio by eleven points (numbers in parens are from February 14th):
51% (55%) Clinton
40% (34%) Obama
This result shows Obama cutting into Clinton's once formidable lead, but still with far to go one week before OT Tuesday.
Obama leads 68% to 20% among African American voters in Ohio, while Clinton leads among whites 59% to 33%. Clinton retains a strong lead among women at 53% to 36%, but her previous lead of 46% to 41% among college-educated voters has completely flipped -- Obama now has a huge 58% to 36% lead in that category.
Ohio voters disapprove of the job President Bush is doing by 69% to 28%, his lowest score ever in the state. A majority (65%) say the U.S. economy is in a recession, although a lesser majority (56%) say that their own personal finances are "excellent" or "good."
Voters also say that going to war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do (62% to 31%).
This poll was taken February 18 - 23. There were 741 likely Democratic primary voters interviewed, with a margin of error of 3.6 points.
Here is a great video mashup of Hillary Clinton's moment of harmony in last Thursday's debate with her tirade against Obama since, highlighting the central difficulty with her strategy of attacking Obama harshly enough to slow his momentum while trying to maintain her like-ability:
A new Ohio Poll just released by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati has Barack Obama trailing Hillary Clinton by eight points:
Among likely Democratic voters, the most important issues are economy/jobs (41%), health care/health insurance (25%) and the war in Iraq/Iraq policy (16%). Clinton's lead is 5 points among economy/jobs voters, 13 points among health care/health insurance voters, and 8 points among Iraq voters.
Clinton leads among women 52% to 34%, Obama leads among men 45% to 42%. Obama leads among African Americans 75% to 22%, Clinton leads among whites 51% to 34%.
Clinton leads Obama by 14 points in Northeast Ohio, 24 points in Northwest Ohio, and 20 points in Southeast Ohio. Obama leads Obama by 21 points in Central Ohio and 2 points in Southwest Ohio.
The poll also shows McCain far ahead Huckabee on the GOP side at 55% to 20%.
The poll sample on the Democratic side was 529 likely voters, interviewed February 21 to 24, and the poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.
Barack Obama will host a “KEEPING AMERICA’S PROMISE” rally in Dayton on Monday, February 25th
Details after the flip.
Join Hillary Clinton for a "Solutions for the American Economy" Town Hall in Lorain on Tuesday, February 26th.
Details after the flip.
I got a robocall from Hillary Clinton tonight. This time she was angry, railing at Barack Obama's "dishonest" mailers about trade policy. She told me that she's the one who will have a "trade prosecutor," not Barack Obama.
"I have a plan," she declared. "My opponent does not. Ohio needs solutions, not distortions."
No more Ms. Nice.
Suddenly it all clicked into place. Her entire Ohio strategy is now based on convincing us that Obama is dishonest and untrustworthy. She's filled with righteous anger at his deceptions, and she expects us feel it too.
In a conference call with reporters today, communications director Howard Wolfson and Ohio director Robby Mook pretty much laid it out. Noting that Obama had criticized John Edwards in Iowa last December for failing to intervene when an independent 527 group run by his 2004 campaign manager bought air time for pro-Edwards ads, the two of them castigated Obama over a United Food and Commercial Workers ad buy set to begin on Tuesday in Ohio, with no apparent protest from Obama. "Barack Obama has a pattern of making statements and promises and walking away from them," Wolfson declared. His "promises are not followed through with action." It's "not about principles for Barack Obama, it's about politics." Barack Obama is "running on promises of strength and the strength of his promises." Voters "need to know that when they choose a president he will follow through on his promises." But Obama is not "consistent in his leadership." (Yes, they said all that.)