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Category Archive for ‘Nat-GOP’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the 'Nat-GOP' Category


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Strategy was sound, but speech lacked scope and delivery to make lasting impression

In the GOP convention’s third act, Republicans took another 180 degrees turn, abandoning the hard-hitting attacks with which they sought to ridicule Barack Obama to portray themselves as a party that can rise above partisan rancor.

If Tuesday’s speakers tried to make the country forget that they were watching the Republican convention and Wednesday’s speakers tried to convince viewers that the GOP had not been in power over the past eight years, John McCain did not resort to such illusory tricks, tackled the challenge of his party identification and took the only path that can save Republicans this year: persuade the electorate that McCain can belong to the GOP while still representing a true break from the past eight years.

McCain’s strategy was the right one given what he needed to accomplish, and his speech was written with the solemnity his plan required. But McCain did not go far enough. The speech lacked the scope and the delivery to make a lasting impression. It had enough moments to give McCain a boost, but not one to durably alter the race.

McCain’s speech was a striking change of tone from Giuliani and Palin’s primetime addresses last night, and perhaps too contradictory a switch for McCain’s post-partisan pledge to be fully credible. But that was the challenge that was awaiting the GOP this week, both rally the base and not look like typical Republicans. The McCain campaign knows that before making any other argument it first needs to show that McCain passes the change hurdle, that he is enough of a break with the Bush Administration to even merit being considered by voters.

To achieve that, McCain channeled his maverick reputation, faulting his own party for abandoning the principles of the 1994 revolution. He did not hesitate to include himself among those who have strayed away from conservatism. “We were elected to change Washington and Washington changed us,” he said, before launching in a litany of issues on which both parties - including the remnants of the Gingrich revolution - were responsible for the country’s failings:

We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Senator Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles.

This was the connection to Wednesday night: the election ought not to be an election about Democrats versus Republicans but a choice between the establishment and reformers. “I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party,” McCain said, before launching into all-out populist rhetoric, “Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first-country-second Washington crowd: Change is coming.” McCain professed that his allegiance was solely to the country. “I don’t work for a party. I don’t work for a special interest. I don’t work for myself. I work for you,” he said, in a speech that was essentially a call to service: “Nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself. I’m going to fight for my cause every day as your President.”

What was truly fascinating about McCain’s speech is how closely it echoed Obama’s post-partisanship in the original form which he has quieted over the past few months. Obama’s quintessential argument has always been that partisan bickering aggravate the country’s problems and that all recent Administrations from both parties - including Clinton’s - are to blame. While Obama moved away from his pure post-partisanship last Thursday, Lieberman channeled this argument that changing parties is not enough and the discourse must be changed, and McCain picked it up today.

McCain was not looking to feed the base, Palin already took care of that yesterday. Sure, his reform argument did not really resonate with the audience, but that only meant it had even more potential to resonate with the targets of McCain’s speech - independents watching at home. One particular theme that is sure to appeal to independents is the emphasis on accountability, a value that voters have been emphasizing this year. Given that McCain hit the right points, he will surely be boosted by his willingness to take direct hits at the Bush Administration for its failings.

Yet, McCain’s challenge was to durably transform his image as an anti-Bush Republican, and he did not do go as far as he should have. His connection to Bush is the central theme Democrats will be using as they make the case that McCain is just “more of the same.” An incumbent party had not been this unpopular in 28 years, and voters want the opposition. Both candidates have hurdles to overcome. Obama’s biggest opportunity will come at the debate, where he will have to show that he is qualified enough and strong enough that voters would not be taking too much of a risk. McCain’s biggest opportunity was tonight, as he could have shown that he was enough of an agent of change that voters would not be voting for four more years of Bush.

Tonight was the moment for McCain to take a dramatic step to distance himself from Bush, a step so radical as to surprise voters and pundits and commit it to their mind in the weeks ahead, no matter what Democrats throw. As McCain was apparently not interested in the one-term pledge, he could have taken a surprising policy step that is completely at odds with the President’s Administration - perhaps on torture, perhaps on something voters feel even more strongly about. Perhaps this sounds like too drastic a move, but it was no small challenge McCain was facing tonight.

He took the first steps in that direction, but stopped way short. His strategy was sound but it could have been pushed further. And that’s just for how the plan looked on paper, for it was also plagued by problems of execution. The same was true on Tuesday, when Lieberman’s message was clouded by the fact that it was Bush who opened the primetime hour and the possibility that Lieberman has some of his credibility among independents. Today, it was McCain’s uneven delivery that might have damaged its impact.

He has delivered some solid speeches in the past, but public speakers who are not natural orators need to rely on the energy of the crowd even more, and McCain’s script was not one that was going to inflame the crowd tonight. The speech’s first part sounded flat, and some of the strongest lines were undercut by too forced a tone. Take, for instance, one of the speeches’ most crucial lines: “I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.” That McCain delivered the punch line with his trademark smug grin followed by a snicker limited its impact.

The speech’s last part, devoted to his years as a POW, was delivered with more emotion; after all, we have seen many times before (including at Saddleback) that McCain can deliver powerful anecdotes about his years as a POW. Despite what an MSNBC journalist claimed after the speech, McCain has seemed perfectly comfortable talking about his POW years for more than two decades now. Even so, it is remarkable that the campaign chose to make McCain’s POW years a focus of McCain’s speech after they were described at length by so many other speakers - including (in primetime hours) by Thompson (21 million people) and Palin (37 million).

From a purely tactical standpoint, is it safe for a campaign to bank so much on one period of its candidate’s life - especially after it backfired on Kerry? Today, McCain actually put a new frame on the story, one we had not heard at past events nor in the previous days’ speeches: he made it into a story about his own turn to service, his evolution from a selfish young man who thought only of his career to an ardent patriot devoted to serving America. Yet, even the most casual of convention watchers were bound to have heard McCain’s stories as recently as yesterday, so at what point do they lose its effectiveness?

In one final characteristic disconnect, the speech’s final crescendo - marked by fast-paced sentences urging people to “stand up” and “fight” were drowned by the crowd’s cheers over which McCain chose to speak. This dramatic finale was an encore of McCain’s 2004 convention speech, and that version of this pulsating call to service has been part of McCain’s promotional videos this year. But what was intended as an apotheosis celebrating McCain’s warrior-like resolve (”stand up, stand up, stand up and fight” is the speech’s last line) was barely audible.

In short, McCain took the path he ought to have taken, but he did not go that much further than the minimum. For a candidate who remains the underdog however much he has gained over the past two months, the safe minimum might not be enough.

My nightly convention analyses available here.


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GOP speakers feed base and ridicule Obama but Palin should have done more

Yesterday, the GOP did its best to make the country forget that they were watching the Republican convention. Tonight, the goal had changed: one after the other, GOP speakers took the stage to make the voters forget that the country has been under Republican rule for the past eight years.

Listening to tonight’s speakers, one might have thought that the White House is ruled by Democrats and that it is the GOP which is desperate to regain power. “Throw out the big government liberals,” demanded Mitt Romney, as he launched a litany of speeches that blasted the media, liberal power-brokers, special interests, congressional committee chairmen, cosmopolitanism and political correctness. Tonight was framed as a battle between small-town America and Washington, between the people and the elites, between patriots who are proud of their country and the ambitious opportunists who refuse to use the word “victory.”

In short, this was a night for the base. Red meat. Constant ad hominem attacks against Barack and Michelle Obama, their qualifications and patriotism. These speeches were necessary. A convention is meant to energize conservative and define the opposition. And Republicans are lucky enough to have speakers who can do so like no others.

But was that really what Sarah Palin ought to have been used for, and did the McCain campaign simply forget that she is an unknown figure in need of introduction? Have they committed the ultimate political sin, and have they bought their own spin that the questions that have been raised about Palin are only the invention of the liberal media and that average voters have no further questions they want answered? At the very least, the McCain campaign seems to have simply assumed that independents and swing voters share its contempt for Barack Obama.

I thought that the McCain campaign was spot on in its Tuesday strategy, and only small execution problems (mostly the fact that primetime coverage began with Bush’s address) prevented it from being a home-run. Tonight, I have little to say about the execution. It was the strategy I’m unsure about.

Palin’s speech laid a good case for why McCain should be president and why Obama should not. But other surrogates did that before her (and it was a bizarre sight to see McCain’s running-mate rely on the POW card just as much as other surrogates to make the case for his presidency). Palin needed to do more than what she accomplished tonight: She needed to introduce herself in a way that explained why she should be vice-president, and she barely attempted to do that.

The campaign had prepared an introductory video to be aired before Palin’s remarks, but that was scrapped out of the program when Giuliani’s comments ran too long. That was the first mistake. Voters have been hearing a lot of problematic information about Palin for 5 days now, and the RNC’s infomercial was absolutely necessary. Palin then launched into an 8-minute long introduction of every member of her family, a section that felt much longer than the part Palin actually devoted to herself. And for Palin’s first words about her qualifications - the first time most voters will have heard her say anything about her political self - to be words of contempt for the opposition was not the best way to silence her critics:

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves.

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.

Viewers had tuned in to find out whom Sarah Palin was, but sarcastic attacks against Barack Obama took more space than Palin’s self-presentation. In fact, sarcastic attacks on Barack Obama and the media were more often than not Palin’s self-presentation. Palin’s argument was that she was more qualified than Obama because “what does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet?”

Romney, Huckabee and Giuliani can afford to diss community organizers because they themselves need no introduction. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden could afford to spend their speeches blasting the GOP. But Sarah Palin had not yet earned that right, not with all the questions people surely have about her, and not all of them particularly complex. Those attacks would have been fine if she had been a well-known vice-presidential nominee around whom there was no media frenzy. It would have been fine if voters had heard of Sarah Palin before last Friday.

Worse still, Sarah Palin’s jabs at the Illinois Senator were often designed for an insider crowd, the type of attack that is reserved for the 8pm or 9pm hour - not for primetime. Palin mocked “those Styrofoam Greek columns… hauled back to some studio lot” and she mocked Obama’s “presidential seal.” That got the crowd on its feet, but did the average voter read anything about those columns?

Why would viewers want to know what contempt Palin has for the Democratic Party and about her conviction that Obama thinks of himself as a Messiah before knowing anything about the vice-presidential nominee herself? That most pundits came out of the speech thinking that she did is surely do to the fact that the hall’s delegates were on their feet and had no qualms about her, giving her address an intensity that the speeches of other speakers who said similar things in similar ways did not possess. Republican delegates recognize her as one of their own, and they are thus interested in her opinion and the red meat she wants to feed them.

That Palin unleashed her scorn against “community organizers” and Obama’s small town comments before even going through any of her accomplishments either as mayor or governor can mean only two things - either that the McCain campaign thinks voters already know and trust Sarah Palin, or that she was not meant to try to appeal to independents or moderate Democrats who are hesitating between the two candidates. Those swing voters might not trust Obama, but it is unlikely that they have this much of contempt for him. If they do they would have already fallen in the McCain camp, if they don’t they were probably turned off from listening to Palin’s self-presentation before she even started it. Palin’s speech was designed to appeal to the base and to movement conservatives, and little beyond that.

So could it be that the Palin pick is entirely designed to appeal to conservatives and the McCain campaign does not plan (or has given up on?) using her to appeal to independents. Perhaps the GOP thinks it can win by duplicating Bush’s 2004 campaign and winning on the strength of the base. Yesterday, I thought the GOP had realized it could not pull that off this year given how much the GOP base has shrunk in the past four years, but Palin’s speech makes me think the McCain campaign might have hope to replicate that strategy.

This was the night’s basic dynamic. One after the other, the main speakers served us a replay of their attacks on John Kerry, and I do not think it was strategically misguided for most of them but Palin to do so. Mitt Romney railed against anything that might remotely be considered liberal, but it is Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani who transported us back to 2004, back to the cultural divide the GOP sought to create between Kerry the wind-surfing patrician and Bush, the beer-drinking man of the people. Everything was there.  Democratic elitism, disdain for rural America, lack of patriotism, and even flip-flops.

“I hope for his sake, Joe Biden got that VP thing in writing,” Giuliani said. He also launched one of the harshest attacks on Obama’s executive experience, saying the Illinois Senator had led “nothing. Nada.” And when he said “His rise is remarkable in its own right - it’s the kind of thing that could happen only in America,” the audience laughed, just as when he said the words “community organizers” with palpable derision. We will never know whether Giuliani intended the “only in America” line to be sarcastic, but his speech’s goal was clear - to ridicule Obama.

Let me be clear about something: My point is not that this is a bad strategy or that sarcasm will not work for Republicans. Quite a contrary, this is a crucial part of the GOP’s strategy. It worked to rally the base against Kerry in 2004, and Republicans could make progress among blue-collar whites (Obama’s ultimate weak point) and put Obama on the defensive by portraying him as out of touch, disrespectful of small town values, too European. My point is rather that after a night devoted entirely to that strategy (and Giuliani’s speech was shown on primetime, so it’s not like Palin would be the only person viewers would see), Palin should have taken another route and, while attacking Obama, also taken care of making voters understand why she has been picked.

Also, the ridiculing strategy alone cannot win the election this year. While the GOP has been attacking Obama as an aragula-eating celebrity, I don’t believe it has laid out the groundwork to unleash this much ridicule upon Obama the way they had prepared it for weeks against Kerry. By the time of the GOP convention in 2004, the electorate shared the Republicans’ contempt for John Kerry; there is no evidence of that being the case this year, and I don’t even think the McCain campaign did not really aim for that. It prepared the groundwork for a more serious argument than the one it used against Kerry, one about Obama’s experience and the risk he represents for the country. That requires a dark tone that paints Obama into the mysterious shadowy creature invoked in the Ayers ad.

What Palin delivered was a stump speech, one that is sure to make her a darling of conservatives and a star in the party but not one that increases McCain’s prospects (unless McCain plans to use her for nothing but conservative outreach over the next two month). Even less will it dampen the slow, distracting drip of revelations. In fact, by the time Palin finished speaking the Washington Post had gotten its hands on the e-mails Palin sent to state troopers from her e-mail account to get her ex brother-in-law fired. It is also incredible to me that Palin claimed once again that she had opposed to the Bridge to Nowhere, even after all that has come out about that over the past few days, even after this! That was a true act of defiance, and it’s never good to declare war on the press. And so the media vetting continues.

All my nightly analysis of both conventions here.

Update: Two focus group-type experiments confirm that viewers feel like they did not learn who Palin was last night - see here and here - confirming that the speech was primarily aimed at movement conservatives.


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GOP honors Bush, salutes McCain’s independence and cheers for Bill Clinton

In a remarkable ninety minutes that verged on schizophrenia, the GOP convention made as strong a start as it could have considering that George W. Bush was the first speaker. In short succession, Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman did their best to do what they had been send to do - make the country forget that they were watching a Republican convention.

Sure, the second half of Fred Thompson’s speech delivered the Democrat-bashing red meat the base had been waiting for, but that was mostly to prepare the crowd to cheer for a man they despised just eight years ago. Just last week, in my review of the Democratic convention’s second night, I faulted Mark Warner for having given a speech that “could just have easily (and with minor twitches) been read at the Republican convention.” Forgive me for quoting my own post, but I believe this perfectly explains what we witnessed tonight:

Warner’s argument is exactly what Republicans want voters to think and what many of them will no doubt be telling voters next week - forget that we are Republicans and that Obama is a Democrat. For months, the GOP has been worried about how it can best escape the electorate’s viscerally anti-Republican mood; we have been documenting how some of its candidates are literally shunning away from the party label and Gordon Smith’s bipartisan ads are in a category of their own. McCain cannot win if voters think of this election as a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, which is why he has sought to make it about character and style of leadership.

And here comes Mark Warner, boosting McCain’s improbable bid to get voters to forget the candidates’ party labels. Said Warner: “I know we’re at the Democratic Convention, but if an idea works, it really doesn’t matter if it has an R or D next to it. Because this election isn’t about liberal versus conservative. It’s not about left versus right.” That could have worked for Democrats in 94, and could work for the GOP next week.

Exactly a week later, it was Joe Lieberman’s turn to take the stage, and he echoed Mark Warner’s words. “It shouldn’t take a natural disaster to teach us that the American people don’t care much if you have an R or a D after your name,” he said. Tonight, the GOP channeled the Democrats’ 2004 convention, appropriated Barack Obama’s theme of post-partisanship and confirmed last week’s keynote would have been a better strategic fit for St. Paul.

The night was not about parties, nor about issues - the McCain campaign knows it cannot win on those grounds. It was all about character. In the night’s grand finale, Lieberman was more explicit than any Republican speaker could have afforded being, as he urged voters to forget their partisan affiliation and cast their ballot not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans who put their “country first.”

This is no ordinary election, because these are not ordinary times, and John McCain is no ordinary candidate… So tonight, I ask you whether you are an Independent, a Reagan Democrat or a Clinton Democrat, or just a Democrat: This year, when you vote for President, vote for the person you believe is best for the country, not for the party you happen to belong to. Vote for the leader who… has always put our country first.

Lieberman portrayed McCain as a sincere reformer who was not afraid of taking on politicians of all parties, an “original maverick” whom voters can trust and whom has little to do with President Bush. Some Democrats, Lieberman said, “are spending so much time and so much money trying to convince voters that John McCain is someone else. I’m here, as a Democrat myself, to tell you: Don’t be fooled. God only made one John McCain, and he is his own man.” That was very reminiscent of Al Gore’s acceptance speech in 2000, when the incumbent vice-president tried to free himself from Bill Clinton’s shadow.

In a year in which Democrats have an overwhelming advantage in partisan identification, this call to transcend party allegiances is the only message that could carry McCain to victory.

That that message was delivered only minutes after the satellite connection to the White House got interrupted will make it more difficult for the campaign to be heard. The night was a (once again) gamble whose success depends on whether Joe Lieberman retains credibility in the eyes of the country’s Democrats and independents and whether viewers susceptible of being moved by Lieberman’s post-partisan message managed to make it through Bush’s address and Thompson’s red meat.

If Democrats and independents were listening and if enough were willing to give Lieberman the benefit of the doubt, McCain certainly scored a political coup tonight as Lieberman went as far as he could have in making this convention a non-partisan affair (that ought to be an oxymoron, but that’s how big a challenge the GOP faces) without being booed off the stage. Lieberman was not Zell Miller. He did throw pointed attacks at Obama, but he went on stage as an independent, spoke to independents and worked to portray McCain as a maverick.

That the Republican base that was assembled in the hall cheered him on (though sometimes only faintly) was truly a sight to behold. These conservative delegates applauded Bill Clinton’s name. They applauded Lieberman’s praise of McCain’s role in the Gang of Fourteen. These delegates - the ultimate defenders of conservatism -  applauded as Lieberman said McCain would not hold himself to GOP orthodoxy. And they listened politely as Lieberman referred to the need to fight global warming and admitted that viewers had “good reason” to be angry at the government.

Until he got to his attacks, Lieberman threw the crowd few bones, and that made his post-partisan declarations sound more sincere. “I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party,” he said. And as he then attacked Obama, it was not on the basis of policy and ideology - a stark contrast to Zell Miller’s depiction of Kerry as an extreme liberal. Lieberman was there to attack Obama’s lack of bipartisanship and his inexperience. “Senator Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country,” he said. “But eloquence is no substitute for a record.” After weeks of GOP attacks on Obama’s preparedness, the rhetoric could have been stronger but the theme was there.

Lieberman’s speech was effective, and it hit all the points McCain was hoping it would while keeping the support of the crowd - though as I said whether it touched anyone it targeted depends on how much credibility Lieberman retains in the eyes of conservative-leaning Democrats and independents. But now that Palin is on the table and that Obama has a post-convention bounce, the GOP is aware that it needs to do more - it needs to attack Obama frontally to discredit his character, and that is what Fred Thompson was entrusted with.

In what was the night’s main red meat, Thompson did more than argue that Obama was not “ready to lead” - he borrowed the GOP’s arsenal from earlier in the summer and sought to portray Obama as a vapid celebrity driven by the quest to power and blinded by fame. Describing McCain, Thompson said, “When he travels abroad, he prefers quietly speaking to the troops amidst the heat and hardship of their daily lives.” And in seeking to portray McCain as known commodity whose values voters could trust, Thompson was taking veiled - though quite clear - swipes at Obama: “It’s pretty clear there are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves, ‘Who is this man?’ and ‘Can we trust this man with the Presidency?’ ”

Those are the GOP’s standard attacks, but the crowd was quite obviously content that someone was finally entertaining them. Thompson also made sure to provide some Democrat-bashing, seeking to energize the GOP base around issues that have always unified them, abortion (”we need a President who doesn’t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade”) and taxes. On the latter, Thompson delivered the usual Republican stump speech against tax-and-spend liberals:

Now our opponents tell you not to worry about their tax increases. They tell you they are not going to tax your family.

No, they’re just going to tax “businesses”! So unless you buy something from a “business”, like groceries or clothes or gasoline … or unless you get a paycheck from a big or a small “business”, don’t worry … it’s not going to affect you.

They say they are not going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the “other” side of the bucket! That’s their idea of tax reform.

Usual does not mean ineffective, quite the contrary. When the goal is to electrify partisans, routine attacks are most often the most powerful. But it was undoubtedly the first half of Thompson’s speech that was the highlight of his address - and perhaps of the night. Thompson detailed McCain’s years as a POW, detailing his service and sacrifice. Thompson is an actor, and there was little doubt as to why he had been selected. On a stage, narrating an emotional story in front of a captivated crowd, Thompson was in his element. Even if the details of McCain’s captivity have been tone countless of times and President Bush had used similar lines just minutes before Thompson took the stage, this was as dramatic a rendition as the audience could have hoped to witness.

Too dramatic, perhaps. Advisers to the McCain campaign had said two weeks ago that they did not think they were invoking McCain’s years as a POW enough and that by the end of the convention everyone would know about his years in Hanoi Hilton. Tonight, they stayed true to their word as Thompson’s speech - accompanied by giant background pictures - and the hours of honoring the troops that preceded it made as explicit a connection between McCain’s years as a POW and the strength of character he would exhibit as President:

John McCain cannot raise his arms above his shoulders.

He cannot salute the flag of the country for which he sacrificed so much. Tonight, as we begin this convention week, yes, we stand with him.

And we salute him. We salute his character and his courage.

Tonight, that was the message that all the speakers emphasized - Barack Obama is inexperienced and a risky move, while John McCain has the character to become president, as he demonstrated by his strength during his years as a POW.

That message might not work, but it is difficult to see what else the GOP could do. After all, some variation of it did narrow the poll numbers during the summer. The question now is whether Sarah Palin’s distraction combined with the Democratic convention’s increasing Obama’s support among Democrats and improving the country’s perception are enough shields to protect Obama’s lead against the GOP’s strategy.

And the second question is whether the GOP’s strategy has any chance of functioning as long as the party remains attached to Bush. And the night did begin with a speech by Bush - a speech McCain did all he could to minimize. Not only was the incumbent President speaking via satellite from a thousand miles away, but he had also been exiled to the 9pm hour, before the primetime hour. But as the networks picked up coverage, all started by retransmitting Bush’s address, ensuring that any viewers who were tuning in to see the convention’s proceedings were first treated to 10 minutes of Bush. “We need a president who understands the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001,” Bush said. “The man we need is John McCain.” Unfortunately for McCain, Bush’s endorsement might as well be cut out for Obama ads.


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Monday polls: Obama weakens in some polls, Coleman up in MN

http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifA day after a wave of general election polls highlighted McCain’s improving position, the new USA Today/Gallup poll suggests that the Democrats are retaining a slight lead:

  • Clinton beats McCain 51% to 46%, while Obama is on top 49% to 47%.
  • This is an improvement for Democrats, as they both trailed McCain in Gallup’s previous poll released at the end of February.

Noticeable in this poll is also that Clinton is running slightly ahead of Obama, which confirms that the two candidates electability showing is starting to be balanced and inconsistent again as it used to be after a few weeks in which Obama was running way ahead. And this could coincidence to a general weakening of Obama’s position over the past few days, perhaps as a result of the negative attention he attracted with the controversy over Wright:

  • Gallup’s tracking poll shows Clinton taking a statistically insignificant, 47% to 45%. What is not insignificant is that this is the first time in 9 days (since the days following Hillary’s March 4th come back) that Obama is ahead.
  • Rasmussen has also showed a tightening Democratic primary over the past few days (basically since Wright), with Obama now up 46% to 44%. Worth noting that Clinton is up 48% to 42% among registered Democrats, so Obama is getting his lead from independents and Republicans willing to vote in the Dem primary.
  • In the general election, Rasmussen shows McCain pulling ahead and leading both Democrats 48% to 42% — a lead that is starting to look significant. Confirming that Obama’s issues are due to last week’s stories is the drop in his favorability rating and the rise of his unfavorable rating.

Naturally, the Clinton-Obama national match-ups are more useless now than ever since there only are a handful of states that still have to vote. But they are an important indication of the mood of the country and of the impact stories are having. And the Obama campaign will take comfort in a CNN poll released today but taken from Friday to Sunday (so also after the Wright controversy) that shows Obama is leading Clinton 52% to 46%. This is the first time Obama is above 50% in a CNN national poll.

Finally, SUSA released a Senate poll today from Minnesota and brought some good news for the GOP:

  • The incumbent Norm Coleman is way ahead of the Democrat Al Franken, 51% to 41%.
  • This is a dramatic shift from SUSA’s February poll that showed a toss-up between the two candidates. What is strange is that the male vote practically did not change between the two but that the female vote dramatically shifted from Franken to Coleman.

This is the first poll taken since Franken became the likely Democratic nominee with the withdrawal of his strongest opponent. And it is particularly frustrating for Democrats since it follows a string of polls that showed Franken edging out Coleman, confirming that this seat will be one of the most hotly contested (and entertaining) of the cycle. We will have to get confirmation that this poll is not an outlier, of course, and the numbers remain close enough (especially this far out of Election Day) for us to rate this as one of the Democrats’ very best pick-up opportunities.


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The GOP delegate race: Romney’s survival depends on California, Georgia, Missouri

Little attention is being paid to the Republican race ever since John McCain’s victory in Florida. But does the Arizona Senator really have things wrapped up? With recent polls showing Romney tying McCain in California and Huckabee and him still having a shot in major battlegrounds like Missouri, Georgia, McCain has not been coronated just yet. A number of conservatives — starting with Rush Limbaugh — are seeking to rally the conservative troops to block McCain’s path. Ann Coulter even announced that she would vote for Hillary Clinton against John McCain, going as far as calling herself a converted “Hillary girl.”

John McCain has three major advantages going into Tuesday. First is Romney’s unwillingness to go all out in this final week. Not only has Romney not invested a significant amount in February 5th states, but he is still refusing to draw contrasts with McCain. 2 days from McCain potentially putting an end to the Republican campaign, the Arizona Senator is still mostly unattacked. No wonder his popularity has soared and he is doing so well against Democrats in the general election at the moment. Second, Mike Huckabee’s presence in the race is a boost to McCain. It would be too simplistic to say that Huckabee backers would support Romney if their candidate was not in the race, but Huckabee’s determination to attack Romney and contest the conservative vote is proving too much to handle for Romney.

Third, as Jonathan Martin reminds us, McCain looks particularly inevitable because of the fact that four of the seven winner-take-all states (AZ, NJ, NY and CT) are strong McCain states. The delegate allocation in these primaries was transformed to a winner-take-all system thanks to Giuliani’s campaign manager DuHaime who was hoping that his candidate would get all of the Tri-State area delegates. But now that Giuliani has dropped out, McCain is likely to sweep those four states and shut Romney out entirely from delegate allocation. McCain will come out of those 4 states with as much as 236 delegates!

What does Romney need to accomplish? He needs to stay in contact with John McCain. Right now, he has 87 delegates to John McCain’s 180 (I believe this set of numbers does not include Maine). The addition of the 236 winner-take-all delegates to McCain’s column mean that Romney faces a huge deficit and he needs to hold that as small as possible to be able to go on. And he has the means to do so, and not only in states like Utah and Massachusetts. A win in Georgia and Missouri could go a long way to helping Romney make up some lost ground, as well as all the caucus states in which Romney is hoping to get more than 50% of the vote — and of delegates. And then there is California, where Romney looks to have some momentum. Even if he wins there, it would not mean a big boost in delegates given that McCain would prevail in numerous districts, but it could help Romney in the all important spin war.

If Romney survives Super Tuesday — which is still very much possible — he could draw this out into a longer fight. The pace of campaigning will slow down and Romney could then once again use his financial advantage. And in a two-way race, Romney could hope to rally the conservative vote. But Romney supporters (and probably most Democrats) don’t bet on Romney’s resurgence.

The chances of his pulling this off are very slim. To survive, Romney needs to pull out victories in Missouri and probably Georgia and California, and hope that Huckabee beats McCain in Alabama. Even if he is locked in toss-ups in all those states, McCain remains highly competitive and comes in usually slightly on top. So don’t be surprised if he sweeps most of them on Tuesday night.

Here here is a state by state breakdown of Tuesday’s Republican primaries and caucuses.

Strong McCain: The winner-take-alls

  • Arizona (53), New Jersey (52), Connecticut (30), New York (101). All winner-take-all, so 236 delegates for McCain.
  • Illinois, 70 delegates allocated by district. Most of them should go for McCain.

Strong Romney

  • Utah (36): Winner take-all, so all 36 delegates for Romney.
  • Massachusetts (43): Proportional allocation, so McCain will come out with a significant share of those 43 delegates. Romney has to curse the fact that his home state is the primary state that distributes delegates the most evenly.

Strong Huckabee

  • Arkansas (34): Proportional allocation, so McCain and Romney will both come out with delegates.

Lean McCain

  • Oklahoma (41): 23 delegates allocated WTA statewide (should all go to McCain); 3 delegates allocated WTA in each district, most of which should go for McCain.

Lean Romney: The caucus states

  • The states that hold caucuses and conventions: Minnesota (43), North Dakota (26), Alaska (29), Colorado (46). The delegate allocation will take some sort of proportionality so Romney will have to share his delegates, but he has gotten more than 50% in similar contests that have already been held (Maine, Wyoming).
  • None of these states will allocate pledge delegates this Tuesday, as delegates will be pledged at conventions later in the year. But the same was true in Iowa and Nevada. The media will come out with estimates of delegates here and these will be added to the totals.
  • West Virginia will allocate all 18 of its at-large delegates to the winner of its convention. More delegates will be attributed in a May primary.

Three-way too close to call: Romney HAS to do well here if he wants to stay in contact

  • Missouri (58): The primary is WTA so this is the biggest contest of the night, with a lot of delegates for the winner. Romney has to do win here if he wants to stay in some sort of contact with McCain. Helping McCain is the fact that this is an open primary.
  • Georgia (72); 33 delegates allocated WTA to statewide winner, 3 delegate per district allocated WTA. The state’s winner will get a big delegate boost, and even if Romney comes within 1% of McCain he will find himself trailing widely in delegates. So this is another must-win for Romney and unfortunately for him GA is also an open primary.
  • Tennessee (55): Delegate allocation mostly proportional, so Romney has less to lose (or gain).

Close between Romney, McCain

  • California (173): 11 delegates attributed WTA statewide, 3 delegates attributed WTA in each district: The big prize is unlikely to help Mitt Romney much. Whether he wins or loses will mean 11 delegates statewide and, unless he wins big (which is still very unlikely), McCain will prevail in a significant number of districts, especially those on the coast. But a win in California combined with good results elsewhere (MO, GA, TN) could give Romney enough of a boost to stay in the race.
  • Delaware (18): All delegates allocated WTA statewide, leans ever so slightly McCain.

Close between Huckabee and McCain

  • Alabama (48): Delegate allocation is mostly proportional, so no one should get a big share of deleagtes here. Romney needs to cross 15% to get some of th
    e delegates and stay in contact.

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John McCain can thank his GOP rivals for getting him where he is

John McCain is now close to clinching his party’s nomination, a remarkable come back that would not have been possible without the help of fellow candidates Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson, who seemingly did everything they could to get him where he is today. Over the past six weeks, these candidates seemed intent on hurting Mitt Romney and boosting John McCain and they allowed the Arizona Senator to coast through January mostly unscathed. Here are a few key dates in the effort by McCain’s rivals to help their opponent and the accompanying story lines.

December 16th: Giuliani pulls out of New Hampshire: The first Rudy Giuliani’s stunning decision to concede New Hampshire opened the door wide for McCain’s come-back. I reported on this on December 16th, just 6 weeks ago. Remember, Giuliani was not gaining ground in New Hampshire but as of December, he was tied with McCain around 20%, with Romney hovering above 30%. Check this mid-December poll for example, that had Romney at 32%, McCain at 18% and Giuliani at 15%.

Giuliani’s pulling out caused his support to collapse, with McCain carrying most of it. Romney remained at the same level for weeks and weeks up to January 8th, showing no sign of weakening. Giuliani’s collapse in Florida also helped McCain pull out those 5%, particularly in Miami-Dade where Giuliani thought he was particularly strong.

And this followed other very lucky breaks McCain got in the run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire. If Huckabee had not surged in late November and overtaken Mitt Romney in Iowa, McCain would not have been able to derail Romney’s game plan of easily winning the caucuses and concentrating his attention on New Hampshire. Given Romney’s healthy lead in New Hampshire until the final days of 2007 where McCain pulled into a tie, it is difficult to imagine Romney not riding the wave of an Iowa victory into New Hampshire. Though I grant that Huckabee’s Iowa surge was not consciously planned by the candidate to help McCain, the Arizona Senator enjoyed a series of events that were outside of his control but that lined up perfectly for him to make his move.

January 10th: No one challenges McCain in debate: In most of the January debates, there was only one target, and that was Mitt Romney. And only the former Massachusetts Governor went after McCain, even when it became obvious that McCain was the candidate to beat. It all began at ABC’s New Hampshire debate on January 5th, where the candidates ganged up on Romney. Then, on January 10th, after one more encounter which McCain left unscathed, I asked, “Do Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee want John McCain to be the GOP nominee?” I had not realized yet to what extent that would prove true.

January 27th: Huckabee rushes to Giuliani’s rescue: In the run-up to South Carolina and to Florida, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani knew they were days away from elimination and that staying alive required taking swipes at John McCain. Yet, both of them dramatically refused to do so. Huckabee in fact spent more time praising the Arizona Senator than criticizing him. As Romney and McCain were engaged in some harsh rhetoric over Romney’s alleged support of a withdrawal timetable, Huckabee rushed to McCain’s rescue. In an indirect swipe at Romney, Huckabee declared, “I’ve never seen John McCain say something that is just blatantly untrue… We have a civil approach to presidential process. Neither of us has sought the office by cracking the kneecaps of the other.”

As mysterious was Giuliani’s decision to not capitalize on a rare major policy disagreement among the GOP candidates. McCain opposes the idea of a national catastrophic fund, which is a big issue in Florida and which Giuliani supports. But instead of hitting McCain for this position on the airwaves and in mailers, Giuliani only released a web video criticizing McCain’s opposition to the fund. More stunning still,

Mike Huckabee has been transparently campaigning for a vice-presidential spot at this point. But what is more difficult to explain is why Huckabee decided to more or less give up his quest for the nomination and focus on the VP spot when he still had a chance of getting the presidential nod. At the January 10th debate for example, the Iowa caucuses were still a week old and Huckabee had all his chances in the South Carolina primary. Why did he decide to give McCain a free pass and continued doing so in the next three weeks?

Many observers doubted that John McCain would get clinch the nomination given the distrust he inspires among conservatives. But for that distrust to kick in and cost McCain victory, his rivals had to step up and commit to pointing out the deficiencies in McCain’s record. Instead, Romney remained the only candidate attempting any sort of attack on John McCain and the Arizona Senator is close to becoming his party’s nominee. After a year long campaign from which all his GOP rivals are emerging bruised and wimping, John McCain is arguably even more unscathed than he was on day one.


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Republicans: John McCain marching towards the nomination

The night of Romney’s Michigan victory — exactly two weeks ago — the GOP race looked to be in complete chaos. And the prospect of an all-out brawl for the nomination of both parties — with perhaps even two brokered conventions! — was very exciting for all political junkies. But things ended up very differently. Within two weeks and with a week still to go before Super Tuesday, the GOP almost has settled on its nominee. And what for months was the most unpredictable and wide open contest of modern history is drawing to a close.

McCain, who was already leading in most major Feb. 5th states, will be even harder to stop next week. He is already leading in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Arizona and California, just to mention a few. The first four of these are winner-take-all and by themselves should guarantee that McCain comes out of Super Tuesday with a massive delegate lead. Romney’s hope was to win Florida yesterday and ride that wave to launch a massive advertisement blitz in the big states and overtake McCain. Now, Romney can at best hope to win some Southern or interior states, and even there he probably will have to divide many of the delegates with his rivals as the states in which Romney could be strong are not necessarily winner-take-all.

Let’s take a moment to reflect how implausible it is that McCain came back from the dead to now be the clear favorite to get the nomination. Remember, McCain stabilized his position early in the fall after his disastrous July, but it wasn’t until December — after the huge Huckabee surge of November/early December — that McCain suddenly stormed ahead and took everyone by surprise.

I am aware that I am writing this in the heat of McCain’s victory. If there is anything Romney has done again and again throughout January, it’s turn around moments that were supposed to be fatal and stay alive against all odds. Iowa was supposed to kill him, he lost no ground in New Hampshire; losing the second contest in a row in New Hampshire was really described as the end of him, but Romney stayed alive and prevailed in Michigan. His distant third-place in South Carolina was a disappointment, but Romney closed the gap in Florida’s final week and entered Election Day in a complete toss-up. Yet, this loss is obviously very different, as this is the first time the winning candidate was the one who had the momentum going in, and the momentum going forward. And with the election now going national, Romney cannot duplicate his January strategy.

That does not mean that Romney will not contest the race strongly in the next week. Advisers are saying that he is still likely to spend significant amounts of his own money in a last push to shift numbers, but it is unclear where he can contest McCain’s domination. He will go for the South, but has to deal with Huckabee’s strength there; he could win Western states, but how far can that possibly get him? And to make matters worse Romney will have to deal with the massive deficit in early-voting.

So does Huckabee have anywhere to go? Huckabee is going to contest a Southern strategy, hoping to capitalize on the large share of conservatives and evangelicals. But Huckabee was marginalized on January 19th when he failed to win South Carolina. Not that he really tried to derail McCain, though. He will probably manage to win a few Southern primaries, but these are unlikely to be attributed to anything else than his evangelical base at this point; and Huckabee will be hurt by Romney’s own Southern strategy. Then again, don’t rule out Huckabee staying in the race longer than Romney can, particularly if Huckabee wins Missouri.

And that leaves us with Rudy Giuliani, whose collapse was as dramatic as it was not surprising. Yes, Giuliani was still ahead in all national polls at the end of 2007. But he had no credible paths to the nomination — and frankly, he stopped having one when he decided to concede New Hampshire early in December (as I reported on December 16th). Giuliani’s late-state strategy never made sense, and I said so starting very early in the fall. (Almost) everything that happened in the lead-up to Florida was Rudy’s ideal scenario and he failed to get even half of McCain’s total.

The debate among political pundits now is whether Giuliani would have been better-served if he had contested South Carolina and New Hampshire, with some saying that Giuliani’s road to the nomination was doomed from the start because of his position on social issues and that he ended up being too unpopular among GOP voters. That is very much true, and Giuliani’s December decline in New Hampshire even though he spent millions there speaks to that. But my claim is not that Giuliani would have won the nomination by contesting in the early-states; rather, it is that his reliance on momentum-proof leads made very little sense and that was tragically obvious to most people outside of the campaign.


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South Carolina claimed a victim: Fred Thompson drops out

Fred Thompson, once celebrated as the savior of the Republican Party, dropped out of the race today, issuing a brief statement: “Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort.”

Not that this is a surprise. Thompson’s very weak third in South Carolina on Saturday had doomed his candidacy and the candidate had no where to turn given that he had put all his eggs in the basket of the Palmetto state. He made that state the focus of his campaign, but it was too little too late as he never caught fire and barely edged Romney.

Thompson formally entered the race in September, but that was after months of speculation and public preparation — and I’m not even speaking of his visits to early-states. As the GOP base and establishment were dissatisfied with their options and looking for a conservative candidate, Thompson suddenly appeared as a savior, a true conservative who could rally his party’s faithful. And then he waited and waited before starting his campaign, leaving his rivals ample time to address some concerns, raise money and get endorsements.

When he entered, he was generally polling a solid second in national polls and regularly led in South Carolina surveys — check this post I wrote a few days after Thompson’s announcement about his poll bounce. But that quickly faded as Thompson kept committing errors and quickly acquired a reputation as a lazy campaigner who did not really want to be out there looking for votes. Whether or not that was fair, Thompson’s problem was simply that he came in way too late, and it is striking how much his trajectory (celebrated savior, lousy campaigner and early exit) resembles that of Wesley Clark in 2004.

The main reason why Thompson never really took off was Mike Huckabee’s surge. Huckabee’s social conservative base was the group of voters Huckabee was the most dependent on (as was evident in South Carolina. And if in the spring Huckabee was polling at 1% and was not an option for disaffected conservatives, that was no longer the case in September. Huck’s second place showing in Ames had put him on the map and he quickly moved to coalesce support in South Carolina and in Iowa — the two states Thompson was going to go for — which deprived Thompson of any space.

How does this affect the rest of the race? Had Fred Thompson retired last week, Huckabee might have won South Carolina. And going forward, Thompson’s exit means that Huckabee has a much better chance of rallying the social conservative vote and getting a few wins in the South come February 5th. More immediately, Thompson’s bowing out means that the race will be less fractured in Florida. In particular, the conservative vote will not divide itself between three candidates (Huck, Thompson, Romney) but only between two. And that is bad news for McCain and Giuliani who were hoping that Romney would be held down as Huck and Fred siphon votes away from him.

Down the line, Romney can celebrate having one less candidate fracturing the race and McCain’s hope of getting victories in closed primaries with narrow pluralities gets much more difficult with one less candidate (which means the victor will have to get a higher percentage of the vote).

But things are obviously not that simple: Thompson wants McCain to win, and there is little doubt at this hour that he will endorse the AZ Senator shortly. Endorsements don’t usually carry that much weight but that could help McCain offset the Thompson withdrawal and get enough votes from Thompson backers that he will not suffer to much. Thompson’s endorsement will also allow McCain to beef up his conservative credentials and perhaps reassure some in the base.


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Heading to Florida, GOP emerges out of chaos

John McCain’s narrow win in South Carolina brought some clarity to the Republican race, that was threatening to sink into utter chaos if Huckabee had managed to scramble the cards once more. Let’s give John McCain credit for his victory, because Huckabee sure looked set to triumph here when he won Iowa on the strength of the evangelical vote. And what is even more remarkable is that McCain managed to win in an environment that was much more difficult for him than in 2000. Only 19% of the electorate was independent this year, versus 30% in 2000, but McCain appears to have narrowly won the vote of registered Republicans. He performed above expectations in the upstate conservative strongholds and triumphed the more moderate coastal counties.

The key factor in McCain’s victory is that the field was fractured. In 2000, McCain was facing George W. Bush who had rallied the party’s establishment. McCain lost despite getting 42% of the vote. This time around, Fred Thompson’s presence on the ballot helped McCain a great deal. By taking third-place and running very strongly upstate (21% in Greenvile County, for example), Thompson kept Huckabee’s percentages down among evangelicals and conservatives. Huckabee “only” got 41% among evangelicals to McCain’s 27%. In Iowa, Huckabee had crushed Romney 46% to 19% among that group. Another factor that helped McCain was Romney’s decision to concede the race a few days ago. That seems to have weakened Romney in the coastal counties and allowed McCain to open up big margins there.

Yet, however narrow his victory and whether or not he would have won without Thompson being on the ballot and without Romney conceding the state, McCain’s win is a huge boost to the Arizona Senator. And it is the main story out of Saturday. We always knew the Nevada results would be overshadowed by South Carolina and its king-maker reputation kings in Republican politics. This by no way means that McCain has wrapped-up the nomination, but he has certainly reclaimed his front-runner status. Since his New Hampshire win, McCain has been rising in national polls and now looks very strong in states like New York, New Jersey and… Florida. With the press now celebrating McCain’s renaissance in the Palmetto State, his big-state advantage will likely strengthen. To put it as clearly as possible, McCain’s rivals better hope to stop him in Florida.

Another reason why the Republican race is now so much more clear — beyond the fact that there is now a front-runner — is that three candidates are much less viable tonight than they were this morning. I am speaking, of course, of Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.

First up: Huckabee. His nomination route was entirely based on a Southern strategy that would make him win the February 5th states among which evangelicals are the strongest and combine that with strong showings nationally thanks to the force of the religious right and also of more working-class voters that allowed him to helped him claim third-place in Michigan. Huckabee was even hoping to get a strong showing in Florida off a victory in South Carolina. But that strategy is now put in peril. Around 55% of the electorate tonight was evangelical, and if Huckabee did not manage to win in this kind of environment, where can he succeed? The Iowa caucuses were about 60% evangelical — but that was also due to the fact that there were lower-turnout caucuses. Huckabee did not even get a clear win among that group, as his 14% advantage is not enough if he wants to get his Southern strategy to work.

Second, Fred Thompson. South Carolina was “his stand” as he put it, and he came in a weak third. Frankly, one has to wonder whether he isn’t even a bit happy about the results, as long as he made John McCain win. In his speech tonight, Thompson was already speaking in past tense, and he will face a deluge of questions about when he is dropping out. Thompson is nowhere in national polls nor is he polling in significant numbers anywhere else in the country. His only hope was a strong showing there, and it had been a while we knew he would not get it.

Finally, the results tonight were worrisome for Rudy Giuliani. Up until today, everything had played out perfectly for his campaign. Three winners in three states, no front-runner and chaos. But McCain’s rise leaves very little space for Giuliani, so that Rudy desperately needed Huckabee to extend the chaos. Not only do McCain and Giuliani appeal to the same group of socially moderate voters focused on national security, but McCain is strong in the states that Giuliani needs the most. And a recent poll of New York has McCain moving into a tie with Giuliani in his home-state. If McCain had lost tonight, he would have faltered in places like New York and Florida and allowed Giuliani to recuperate his voters just as the spotlight turns back on him. But Giuliani will now have to deal with a surging McCain who will make it that much more difficult for Rudy to get anywhere in Florida. And this is not even mentioning the fact that Giuliani came in sixth in both of today’s showings, at 4% in Nevada and at 2% in South Carolina — two pathetic showings for the candidate who long ran as the national front-runner.

And that leaves McCain confronting Mitt Romney, who came in a weak fourth tonight considering he had spent millions in the state since September. But Romney triumphed in Nevada earlier in the day which guarantees that he stays in the storyline going forward. Romney now has a delegate lead which he will keep until at least January 29th; he is also the candidate with the most state wins, having also won Michigan and Wyoming. And more importantly, Romney has all the money he can wish for given that he is freely spending his personal fortune. Romney probably realizes that he needs to cut McCain’s advantage there, for he cannot afford seeing McCain head into Super Tuesday with a huge high-profile triumph in Florida.

We’re ten days from the next Republican contest, and the storyline has finally gotten more clear: John McCain and Mitt Romney are locked in a tight battle for the nomination, with Rudy Giuliani trying to save himself in Florida and Mike Huckabee trying to generate some buzz in Southern states. Granted, both races have been crazy enough that no one should be counted at this stage, especially in the run-up to Florida. But the situation certainly appears much less chaotic than it did twelve hours ago.


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The Republican race, post-Michigan: A chaotic ride, with even more undecision expected this Saturday

Mitt Romney got his early-state win. Most people expected it to come in Iowa or in New Hampshire, but Romney managed to lose both of those despite outspending the entire field and then came back to win the primary in the state he grew up in. While Romney’s 9% victory is not really a come back given that he massively outpsend his opponents yet again and that he was never that far behind in the polls here, it is still a remarkable turn-around for a candidate that most people thought would be dead if he lost both IA and NH. And sure, Romney was fighting on home turf, but so McCain had many structural advantages favoring him — he had won here in 2000, the primary was even more open than NH’s and Democrats were not holding a competitive contest.

Romney can now go on to later contests, and remember that he is the only candidate with no money problem given that he looks perfectly comfortable funding his campaign with his own money. He cannot be considered the front-runner given that he is leading in no Feb. 5th state nor in Florida and South Carolina at this point, but he has the delegate lead for now.

McCain would have started a coronation march had he pulled off Michigan last night. Instead, he fell victim to his 2000 demons. Registered Republicans are not lining up behind him, and with some of the most important elections that are coming up closed primaries (for example in California), McCain has to improve his standing among the party’s base. He cannot go on winning on the strength of the independent vote.

Now, the race turns to South Carolina and to Nevada which vote on Saturday. Most candidates are exclusively focused on South Carolina except Mitt Romney who is going to spend two days in Nevada and run some ads there. He was already the only candidate to haev spend time in the state, so he has to be considered the favorite in the state for now (today’s ARG poll gives him a 7% lead). If he pulls Nevada off, Romney could spin a South Carolina defeat as inconsequential, perhaps keep his delegate lead and claim that he is the first candidate with three state wins (if you count Wyoming).

Most eyes will be turned to South Carolina, however, where the battle is already fierce. John McCain was leading in most polls this last few days with Huckabee running a strong second on the strength of the evangelical vote. South Carolina was McCain’s undoing in 2000, but he has two huge advantages he did not have back then: (1) He is much stronger among registered Republicans, mainly because there is no establishment candidate the party’s base can rally to like it did 8 years ago. (2) The GOP establishment and leadership hates Mike Huckabee much more than they do McCain, and the people who were fighting McCain then are now going after Huckabee.

Mitt Romney used to be stronger in South Carolina than he has been since McCain’s rise. Now, Romney has started airing ads here again, and the big question is how much if any boost he will get from his first big win. Just as Thompson is rising in SC again and taking votes from Huckabee, Romney could take votes from McCain in the state, and things could tighten up even more than they already have. And the race is already becoming very nasty

And finally there is the Giuliani factor. Let’s face it, the scenario that has played out in the early states was Giuliani’s dream set-up: Three states, three victors, no momentum for anyone, nasty adwares between the other candidates, complete chaos and no front-runner. This was what Giuliani was hoping would happen for months now, and it was completely out of his control whether or not it would. Now, we will know if a big state strategy that shuns all early states can ever be viable. If Giuliani cannot pull it off under these conditions, no one probably ever will.

In the three first voting states, Giuliani came behind Ron Paul twice. In Iowa, he flirted with 4%; in Michigan, he was barely ahead of “uncommitted.” He is completely out of the news cycle and, even if none of them looks like a front-runner, the other candidates are all benefiting from media exposure and some momentum. And a new poll from New Jersey taken by Monmouth University shows that Giuliani’s argument that his lead in states like NY and NJ is “momentum-proof” is completely flawed: McCain leads Giuliani 29% to 25%, with Huckabee at 11%.

Rudy cannot count on his “home states” delivering for him in February. The good news for him is that he has 10 days between South Carolina and Florida (on the 29th). He has to get some momentum in those ten days, and I’m not sure if he has much left in him to make that happen.


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McCain surges nationally and faces tests next week, as Kos helps Romney and Huckabee relies on the South

It’s only been three days since John McCain’s New Hampshire victory, but all evidence is that the Arizona Senator has regained his status as the GOP front-runner. And remember, his surge started way before January 8th, so it cannot be attributed to a post-New Hampshire bounce. The first sign of movement in favor of McCain occurred in Iowa, where he looked stunningly strong considering he had barely campaigned in the state. Now, a series of polls released this afternoon confirms that McCain is marching towards the nomination and his rivals better stop him fast, preferably next week:

  • A Michigan poll has McCain up 23% to Mitt Romney’s 16% and Mike Huckabee at 11%.
  • SUSA, meanwhile, released a poll of Florida that shows some big movement: McCain leads with 27%; behind him comes a three-way tie for second, with Giuliani at 19% and Romney and Huckabee at 17%. A month ago, Giuliani got 32% with Huck at 16% and McCain at 11%.
  • Last but not least, a national poll from CNN has some shocking numbers. Not only is this the first (non-Rasmussen) survey with McCain up, but he is ahead big: 34% to Huckabee’s 21% and Giuliani’s 18%. In the last CNN poll, McCain only had 11%.

Remember that many in the GOP were waiting for a front-runner they could rally around, and that Giuliani tried to fill that position without every being really convincing. The McCain surge is not just a post-victory bounce; it might be the base that had abandoned him after an early vetting coming back around after having vetted everyone else.

McCain has two obstacles. The first is that he needs to eliminate Romney for good on Tuesday in Michigan. He has a lot going for him there, in particular the fact that the primary is open again. Furthermore, he won the state in 2000 in a much less divided field, as Bush had coalesced the conservative vote. This time, that vote will likely divide itself between Huck and Romney.

Yet, Romney is strong in that state as well. Naturally his dad was governor there, but the Romney camp believes his emphasis on business experience and economic issues will play particularly well here. And now comes a truly bizarre story: DailyKos’s Markos is organizing a Democrats for Mitt campaign to get Michigan Democrats to cross-over to the GOP primary (since there is no contest in the Dem side) and vote for Romney. His explanation: “We want Romney in, because the more Republican candidates we have fighting it out, trashing each other with negative ads and spending tons of money, the better it is for us. We want Mitt to stay in the race, and to do that, we need him to win in Michigan.”

I am not suggesting that Romney will win the primary out of this, but it is an interesting reference point in the post-New Hampshire dynamics of the GOP race. Though you should not underestimate the strength of the netroots. Kos cites many prior examples of this happening in Michigan, starting with the 1972 presidential primaries in which 1/3 of voters in the Dem primary were GOPers who helped segregationist George Wallace win the contest. The main issue here is how to spread the word in 6 days — and efforts are already under way, starting with a booming Facebook group.

The second obstacle to McCain is Huckabee’s strength in Southern states. A new poll of Georgia released today has Huckabee leading the field, and Huck is still very much in contention to win South Carolina next week. His hold of evangelicals demonstrated by his big Iowa win should be very useful there and going into Feb. 5th where a lot of Southern states will vote (including Georgia).

If Huckabee sweeps Southern states, it would be hard for McCain to force him out of the race and the GOP race could get more muddied. The South awards many delegates, and its importance cannot be understated in a GOP primary. After all, Thompson’s strategy always relied on winning the South — which explains why he is now going after Huck so ferociously.

Of course, McCain winning South Carolina would ease those concerns and show his own strength in the South. And winning Michigan would allow him to knock Romney out and coalesce much of Romney’s establishment-type support around himself. McCain could go a long way towards clinching the nomination if he succeeds next week.


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Republican debate: No one goes after McCain, and I’m at a loss to explain why

Tonight’s Republican debate raises a very puzzling question: Do Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee want John McCain to be the GOP nominee?

The debate, hosted on Fox News, was the third in the space of five days, but the situation has dramatically changed since the back-to-back meetings of this past weekend. McCain won the New Hampshire primary, and he has jumped to leads in next week’s contests in Michigan and South Carolina. If he manages to win both of those primaries, it would become very difficult for his rivals to stop his momentum and prevent the party’s establishment from rallying around the Arizona Senator.

Yet, none of the candidates was interested in going after John McCain tonight; the contrast could not have been greater with last Saturday’s ABC debate in which the entire field piled on Mitt Romney, sensing an opportunity to knock him out of contention. Giuliani did take a small swipe against his ” friend, John” but it was only in order to point out that he deserves some credit for the surge as well. “There were other people on this stage supporting the surge,” he complained.

Fred Thompson did himself a lot of good tonight; mocked as a lazy candidate unwilling to get as tough as he needs, he surprised many watchers by coming right out of the gate bashing Huckabee. Listing his rival’s apostasies on Guantanamo Bay, on taxes and on a national smoking ban, Thompson concluded, “That’s not the model of the Reagan coalition; that’s the model of the Democratic Party.” Thompson obviously feels that a strong South Carolina showing requires taking Huckabee down a peg, and if this intense attack continues in the coming week and is maybe picked up by other candidates it could certainly knock Huckabee off-balance.

But that would first and foremost help John McCain whose main rival in South Carolina right now is Huckabee. With Romney and McCain planning on spending much of this week in Michigan, Huckabee was hoping to have the Palmetto State all to himself. But McCain must be delighted to see that he can count on Thompson to do the dirty job.

Fox News boosted McCain further by pushing him to take the lead in the Ron Paul bashing. In every debate, the Republican candidates battle to look like the most anti-Paul on stage and they usually do so by engaging the libertarian the most aggressively and drawing him out in a back-and-forth that will make them look tough on national security. Tonight, Fox News repeatedly cut to a sighing and exasperated-looking McCain as Paul was denouncing America’s foreign policy and empire-building, and they prompted the Senator to respond to Paul’s claim. McCain happily obliged with a series of one-liners and as a result he got a lot of air time to defend George W. Bush’s policies and he made sure to emphasize his responsibility in bringing about the Iraq surge.

This is not to say that Ron Paul is losing these debates. The extent to which Ron Paul has been hijacking these debates is remarkable. When it comes to foreign policy, Ron Paul is granted rebuttal and rebuttal to make his case and explain how the Republican Party has strayed from its conservative roots. Boosted by cheering Paulites in the crowd, the candidate stood his ground tonight, and it is time to wonder what effect he could have in the general election if he decides to run as an independent.

But Paul aside, the winner of this debate could not be more clear. By being left untouched for 90 minutes, McCain prevailed tonight. With nine days to go to South Carolina, the GOP candidates will have to confront John McCain at some point; and it could soon be too late.



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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What remains on the table

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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