Leadership (OR Asking the wrong questions)

October 26, 2008

Do you remember those goofy McCain ads that would end by asking whether Sen. Obama was ready to lead?

I always thought that question was a little odd, since Sen. McCain doesn’t necessarily posess any demonstrable leadership experience. At the same time, Sen. Obama was at the head of a campaign that was being hailed as the largest, most impressive, expansive, organized campaign ever. And, as much as it was disparaged, Sen. Obama’s ability to “give a good speech” motivated thousand of volunteers throughout the country, and hundreds of thousands to attend his rallies, and millions to donate to his campaign. Isn’t all of this indicative of Sen. Obama’s leadership qualities?

Why do I bring this up?

Because, in contrast to the Obama campaign, which seems a clear demonstration of Sen. Obama’s leadership, the McCain campaign, is imploding:

“She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,” said this McCain adviser. “She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

“Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.”

Marc Ambinder adds:

Another senior McCain at e-mailed: “It is beyond disappointing to see the backstabbing and blame game beginning ten days before the election.  There is still a path to victory for us and we have two great candidates who are working their asses off every day in pursuit of a win.”

This doesn’t strike me as an organization that is being well led. This seems like a reflection of an organization led by a an inconsistent, irrational, selfish man.

So, is Sen. McCain ready to lead?

Preparing (OR Something cool this way comes)

August 20, 2008

Ever since Dave got me hooked on blog-reading, I’ve noticing that there are times when different people talk around the same topics around the same time…  and not the typical “this is what happened today” type things. Recently, Matt, Dday, and Ezra all wrote about Sen. Obama’s organization, voter turnout, or both.

So, Matt was first, pointing to this graph about under- and over-representation, by age, in the electorate:

He points out that Kerry was successful in getting younger voters to the polls. File that away for now.

Ezra paired with Dana Goldstein to detail Sen. Obama’s efforts to build a large, organized political apparatus. It’s a fascinating article, with some enlightening context surrounding this political moment we’re in.

The Obama campaign had decided, Axelrod announced to a crowd of 250 at the downtown Wortham Center, to send 15 paid staffers to the state and organize thousands of volunteers to get out the vote, an unprecedented commitment of resources to the Lone Star State from a Democratic presidential campaign. The goal isn’t for Obama to win Texas’ 34 electoral votes. Rather, by registering Democrats, Obama hopes to help the Texas Democratic Party regain control of its state legislature, which would allow Democrats to redistrict the state’s congressional delegation for 2010, potentially winning House seats in the process. That’s not simply down-ballot organizing–it’s way down-ballot organizing, reaching into state legislatures to influence coming congressional reapportionments in order to create large national majorities years down the line. Obama, looking ahead to governing with as large a congressional majority as possible, is determined to take advantage of a population boom in the Houston area, which is increasingly dominated by immigrants.

And, finally, Dday, summarizes the value of voter turnout, which is something I’ve written about before:

Mike Lux said that was the first time he’s EVER heard a top Presidential campaign head say something like that about the importance of voter registration, and I agree with him.

One of the very few blogs which has charted this sea change in the importance of field is the estimate 538, where Nate and in particular Sean Quinn have detailed the advantage between the two campaigns at this point. Keeping in mind that we’re 77 days out, some of these numbers are simply incredible. Obama has a 3:1 lead in field offices, behind in only one battleground state (Florida). His edge in voter contacts – knocking on doors and making phone calls – is maybe 35:1, and that’s probably an extremely conservative estimate.


There were over 200 volunteers at one Los Angeles location, all of who are now empowered to be organizers with defined roles to play for the rest of the campaign. Most of the more senior organizers who ran the Camp Obama meetings and are running field operations in all 50 states were volunteers on the primary campaign who were gradually given more and more responsibility. The mantra of the weekend was that “this is a numbers-driven, people-centered campaign,” and the goals of the organizers were to get more volunteers to make more contacts to reach the targets set by the campaign, which are nothing short of massive.

It was reassuring to read Dday’s post at a time when Sen. McCain is closing the gap in many polls.

At the same time, it feels like Sen. Obama is almost intentionally keeping a low profile until the Convention. Like he’s letting Sen. McCain spout off, and make a larger and larger ass of himself, as he monopolizes the coverage.

And then Sen. Obama will make a huge splash at his Convention. He’ll start with his VP choice (although, it would be kinda cool for him to make the announcement at the Convention, not before). He’ll guide the content of the keynotes in the direction he needs to prepare for his speech, his challenge.

These stories about Sen. Obama’s organization remind us that we have lost sight of the scope of Sen. Obama’s campaign. I fully expect Sen. Obama to seize the moment, in front of 70,000+ people, to challenge his organization, his party, his country, to mobilize and energize each other.

He will take this opportunity to unleash the breadth of his organization. He’ll point out all the ways that Sen. McCain has embedded his foot in his mouth (only, he’ll be relatively nice about it), he’ll tell us why it would be absolutely disastrous if Sen. McCain were to be elected. He’ll challenge us to do everything we can to stop it, to talk to our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers. And he’ll re-kindle the enthusiasm that carried him through the primary.

And every time Sen. McCain tries to claim that he isn’t ready to lead a country, he’ll point at this movement he’s created and led, and ask why the “great leader” McCain doesn’t have anyone to lead.

I guess this means I’m looking forward to the Convention.

Bleak? (OR Mental preparedness)

June 30, 2008

Via Matt, comes this story from Politico.com.

The gist: Mitt Romney tops Sen. McCain’s VP list.

The facinating paragraph:

Campaign insiders say McCain plans to name his running mate very shortly after Barack Obama does, as part of what one campaign planner called a “bounce-mitigation strategy.”

Is it just me or does “bounce-mitigation strategy” sound like something one does to keep from losing too badly?

If Sen. McCain has settled on Romney (which is certainly not clear), shouldn’t he announce early, get the fundraising boost he expects, and have two people campaigning against one? Shouldn’t this be the sort of place where an individual who wrapped up the nomination press his advantage?

Sen. McCain has had 2+ more months as the “presumptive nominee”…  doesn’t that mean he’s had 2 more months to think about his VP choice? Shouldn’t he take advantage of this and make Sen. Obama worry about “bounce-mitigation?”

I just get the sense that Sen. McCain’s campaign advisers are working more to keep their reputations from being completely tarnished than actually getting their candidate elected. I can almost hear it now: “At least we did better than Mondale against Reagan…”



Bounce or Ascent (OR Must it come down?)

June 25, 2008

There’s been a decent amount of talk about the latest Newsweek poll, showing Sen. Obama up 15 percentage points on Sen. McCain. The bobbleheads are referring to it as the post-primary “bounce.”

I do wonder, though, if “bounce” is the wrong term. Bounce implies, to me, that the gap will shrink eventually.

If you’ve listened to Sen. McCain speak, or discuss policy, you’ve probably been less than impressed by his delivery and the content. And I don’t think it’s just a liberal perspective that makes the content unimpressive. His statements seem generally confused, and (if you harken to his prior statements) are often contradictory. He simply doesn’t have, or portray, a cohesive approach to governance.

In contrast, Sen. Obama presents intricate, well thought out, policy proposals. It’s hard to not see the difference in preparation and depth of thought. Even if you don’t agree with the policies, the difference between the two candidates is very distinct and Sen. McCain seems thoroughly unimpressive.

That being said, it seems to be that the longer this campaign goes on, the more clear the gap between the candidates will become. I think the gap will grow, if for no other reason than President Bush has redefined the basement floor, creating more room for Sen. McCain to slide into:

The survey found public approval of the president’s job performance at a new low for a Times/Bloomberg poll: 23%, compared with 73% disapproval.

About Obama (OR Why do we need new?)

June 25, 2008

Apparently, Tyler Cowen appears distressed that he doesn’t have anything new to say about Sen. Obama. Matt goes meta, and decides it’s because we know so much about him.

Isn’t this a good thing? I mean, if we can’t talk about the candidates as people (after, is anyone complaining that we don’t have anything new to say about Sen. McCain?) perhaps we can talk about the candidates’ ideas. Sen. McCain’s been in public office forever… and Sen. Obama has written two books and survived what seemed like the longest primary ever.

So, let’s celebrate that there’s nothing new to say about the candidates, and get into the contrasts between the policy proposals, the underlying political momentum, or any of the various other things that will impact, or be impacted by, this election.

Absent (OR Limited creativity)

June 12, 2008

Attentive readers will have noticed my absence the last couple days. Interestingly, in that time Dave has complimented me twice, which either means he appreciates my silence or is up to something nefarious.

Anyway- for the last few days at work I’ve been playing with a wiki-based Intranet product that we just acquired. So, I have been doing some very blog-like work all day, haven’t had much inclination to blog at home. But, I’m sure you don’t care.

Right now, though, I’m riding the bus home, and testing WordPress’ mobile site. If you see anything odd in this post, like stray HTML code, that’s why.

This mobile blogging thing doesn’t really allow me to reference and quote stuff, so allow me to ramble for a little bit (more).

Some thoughts as we complete the first week of “real” general election campaigning:

– Much more is being said about Sen. McCain than Sen. Obama; now that there isn’t wall to wall Demorcratic primary coverage to distract from Sen. McCain’s candidacy, people are looking at McCain, the candidate, and (not surprisingly) not liking what they’re seeing.

– Along those lines, I just don’t see how Sen. McCain can pick up any votes. Those who aren’t offended, dismayed, or disaffected by him and his policies are already in his camp. For anyone else, the more you learn, the less you’ll like (like that how long we stay in Iraq isn’t “too important”).

– I imagine Sen. Obama is enjoyinh being out of the media spotlight for a bit. He’s still campaigning, of course, but he’s been staying out of all the messes that Sen. McCain is making for himself.

Now, onto other random thoughts:
– An absolute horde of used cars appeared on the Pepsi Center’s parking lot over the weekend. I guess it’s some giant used car sale. It’s amusing that half the lot is trucks or SUVs, and most of the rest are mid-size+ sedans. There’s only one row of compact looking cars.

– Which brings me to fuel prices. Marketplace ran a story yesterday about Congress inquiring about alternatively fueled vehicles. Somewhere along the line, someone mentioned that we have a huge fleet of automobiles, and transitioning to more efficient vehicles will take a long time. He didn’t mention what kind of impact improved effiency standards might have had, had we not dicked around for 30 years with the “bigger is better” theory to car sales.

– And lastly, Dave and I are going to try the to liveblog Game 4 of the NBA Finals tonight. Not sure how it’ll work, or come out, but hey- this is our blog, and we will do with it what we want. :)