Thursday, March 06, 2008

No TKO For Obama -- But Clinton Fails to Close Delegate Gap

The Media Were Premature to Call Texas a Victory for Clinton, as Obama Wins its Caucuses, Earning Illinois Senator a Majority of Lone Star State Delegates; Clinton Campaign Again Accused of Pulling the 'Race Card' -- This Time in TV Attack Ad

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On the left: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as he appeared in the February 28 debate with Hillary Rodham Clinton in Cleveland. On the right: Footage of Obama from the same dabate that appeared in a Clinton TV ad in Texas. The liberal Web site has accused the Clinton campaign of deliberately darkening Obama's complexion in the ad to make him appear more threatening to white voters, reminiscent of Newsweek magazine's infamous 1995 cover photo of O.J. Simpson. (Photo courtesy New York Post)

By Skeeter Sanders

It wasn't the technical knockout that Barack Obama wanted -- but if Hillary Rodham Clinton hoped to close the delegate gap between herself and her rival, it was a mission that she failed to accomplish.

And -- contrary to the TV news channels' projections on Tuesday night -- Clinton did not win Texas after all.

Obama will instead emerge the winner in the Lone Star State, after partial results released on Wednesday pointed to the Illinois senator scoring a clear victory in its caucuses, 56 percent to 44 percent -- negating Clinton's narrower 51 percent to 48 percent edge in the precinct vote and giving him the majority of the state's delegates to the Democratic convention.

Meanwhile, the campaign took an ugly turn on Wednesday when the liberal Web site accused the Clinton campaign of again playing the "race card" against the African American senator by darkening Obama's skin tone in a new TV attack ad.

Texas Delegate Tally: Obama 97, Clinton 91

The state party awards its 228 convention delegates proportionally statewide, except for its 30 "superdelegates." Clinton earned 65 delegates to Obama's 61 on the basis of the precinct vote. But a third of the delegates are determined by caucus, and Obama's caucus win will give him a net majority of 97 delegates to Clinton's 91.

As the state's precinct polling places closed Tuesday evening, Texans lined up in bigger-than-expected numbers for the caucuses -- in some places lining up in parking lots and overflowing buildings where caucuses were held.

Over a million people -- a state record -- jammed the caucuses, creating frustration, confusion, and a few frayed tempers. In Houston, police were called to some locations after fistfights reportedly broke out.

The Texas Democratic Party stopped the count early Wednesday morning when it became clear it would take several hours to complete. They restarted later in the morning.

Despite Breaking Obama's Win Streak, Delegate Math Still Doesn't Favor Clinton

The bottom line: Despite Clinton's victories in Ohio and Rhode Island, the New York senator and former first lady failed to make a dent in Obama's overall delegate lead. Obama still holds a 101-delegate advantage over Clinton, 1,567-1,462, according to The Associated Press. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination.

In addition, Obama gained endorsements from superdelegates in Georgia, Vermont (where Obama trounced the former first lady, 59 percent to 39 percent, on Tuesday), Ohio, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Clinton picked up two superdelegates during the day on Wednesday -- but lost one, for a net gain of one.

About 350 superdelegates -- party leaders and elected officials -- remain uncommitted, enough to swing the nomination in the unlikely event they decide to line up behind one candidate or the other.

Obama leads Clinton in the national Democratic popular vote at this point, 10.3 million to 10.2 million. If Obama's popular-vote lead holds up -- or even widens -- through the end of the primary season, the superdelegates are likely to come under intense pressure not to defy the preferences of the voters.

(In sharp contrast, John McCain, the Arizona senator who clinched the Republican nomination on Tuesday, has drawn less than half of both leading Democrats' nationwide popular-vote totals -- only 4.8 million -- at this point in the primary season).

Sixty percent of Democratic primary and caucus voters have told exit pollsters that the superdelegates should vote based on results of the primaries and caucuses rather than for the candidate they think has the best chance to win in November.

Even among Clinton's supporters, nearly 50 percent said the superdelegates should follow the will of the voters.

Even before the results from the Texas caucuses were made known, late returns showed Clinton emerged from Rhode Island, Vermont, Texas and Ohio with a gain of only 12 delegates on her rival, according to The AP.

Obama Favored to Win Wyoming Caucuses, Mississippi Primary

Of more immediate concern for Clinton and Obama are the Wyoming caucuses, scheduled for Saturday, with 12 delegates at stake, and the Mississippi primary next Tuesday, with 33 more. Obama is heavily favored to win both and further pad his lead.

Clinton is mounting only token campaigns in those two states -- conceding Obama's so-far-unbeatable organizational prowess in caucus states and Mississippi's heavily African American primary electorate -- and is concentrating on Pennsylvania.

With Pennsylvania, the only remaining big state with 187 delegates, holding its primary on April 22, Clinton must score an overwhelming landslide victory -- something she has failed to accomplish to date -- in the Keystone State to have any chance of overtaking Obama's delegate lead.

And Clinton cannot count on Latinos to be her "firewall" there. There are far fewer Latino voters in Pennsylvania than in Texas. And the major metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are Obama strongholds.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania is a "closed" primary -- only registered Democrats can vote, robbing Obama of the independents who form the backbone of his voter strength. But the Obama campaign has spent enormous time and resources to get independents to re-register as Democrats to vote in the primary.

Obama's Skin Darkened for Clinton TV Attack Ad, Liberal Web Site Claims

The Clinton ad, which aired across Texas on the eve of Tuesday's primary, used footage from their February 28 debate in Cleveland, in which Obama acknowledged that a Senate subcommittee he chairs has not held hearings on the war in Afghanistan.

"Call me crazy, but it certainly appears to me that Senator Obama's skin tone is significantly darker in the Clinton campaign commercial" than it appeared in the debate, wrote DailyKos blogger J. Thomas Cronin. Darkening a black person's skin is seen by many as a deliberate way of making them appear more menacing to whites.

The Obama campaign declined to comment on the ad, which appears on the Clinton campaign's Web site. Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson rejected any suggestion that Obama's skin was deliberately darkened as "totally bogus." A person's skin color "in every single screen shot looks different . . . It looks different in every single place," Carson told the New York Post.

"If the ad on Clinton's Web site shows Obama's complexion as darker than in the debate footage, it's not deliberate," Carson said. "You're playing with complicated technological mediums here."

But DailyKos founder and publisher Markos Zuniga, writing in his daily diary on the site, insisted that "There was a concerted effort by Clinton's ad people to make Obama look darker, more sinister, and with a wider nose. The evidence is indisputable."

Zuniga cited an ad used by the Bush campaign against Al Gore in 2000 that made Gore appear like a rat. "The Bush campaign was mocked in its claims of ignorance because ad makers pore over every detail of their ads before releasing them for broadcast."

Newsweek magazine was accused in 1995 of deliberately darkening the skin tone of O.J. Simpson in a now-infamous cover photo of him shortly after his arrest in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

That photo, a police mug shot of the former football star taken at his arraignment, was significantly darker than the same picture that appeared the same week on the cover of Newsweek's arch-rival, Time magazine.

Second Time Clinton Campaign Accused of Pulling 'Race Card'

This is the second time that the Clinton campaign has been accused of pulling the "race card" against Obama. Former President Bill Clinton was accused of attempting to paint Obama into a corner as "the black candidate," unable to attract white voters, in the racially-charged South Carolina primary in January.

Bill Clinton's put-downs of Obama -- referring to the Illinois senator's opposition to the Iraq war as a "fairy tale" -- combined with Hillary Clinton's clash with Obama over the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- infuriated African American voters who make up 50 percent of South Carolina's Democratic electorate, resulting in Obama wining the Palmetto State by an unexpectedly huge landslide and setting in motion a wholesale abandonment of the Clintons by black voters.

The former president then added more insult by dismissing the significance of Obama's South Carolina victory by comparing it to Jesse Jackson's primary wins there in 1984 and 1988.

This blogger blasted Clinton in a January 28 column for "disgraceful conduct unbecoming of a former president" that "could end up costing his wife the Democratic nomination."

Two months later, my opinion of the Clintons has not changed. If, as DailyKos charges, they're continuing to play the "race card" against Obama, then they clearly do not deserve another four-year lease on the White House.

# # #

Volume III, Number 17
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, March 03, 2008

Final March 4 Pre-Primary Polls Show Obama Could Deliver a TKO to Clinton

Now Leading in Texas and Vermont and Statistically Even with Clinton in Ohio and Rhode Island, Obama Is in Striking Distance of Pulling Off a Stunning Four-State Sweep -- Which, Combined With Superdelegate Switches, Would Make It Mathematically Impossible for the Former First Lady to Catch Up in the All-Important Delegate Count

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois (left photo) campaigns at the Sombrero Festival in Brownsville Texas, while his chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (right photo) barnstorms in San Antonio. Both the Clinton campaign and independent observers have been stunned by Obama's swift and hard-hitting response to a controversial Clinton TV ad on national security, amid final pre-election polls leading to Tuesday's primaries showing Obama now in the lead in Texas and Vermont and statistically even with Clinton in Ohio and Rhode Island. (Photos: Damon Winter and Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

(Updated 12:00 noon EST Monday, March 3, 2008)

By Skeeter Sanders

If Tuesday's crucial Democratic presidential primaries in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont were a heavyweight championship boxing match, Barack Obama would right now be in a position to deliver a technical-knockout victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The final round of pre-primary polls released over the weekend show that the Illinois senator has wiped out the New York senator and former first lady's once-double-digit leads in Texas and Ohio, is within striking distance of pulling even with Clinton in Rhode Island and holds an overwhelming advantage in Vermont.

With momentum still growing from his 11-state victory streak, Obama is now poised to pull off what would have been considered impossible just a week ago: A stunning sweep of all four states in Tuesday's contests, extending his winning streak to 15 states -- which, combined with continuing gains among Democratic "superdelegates," would make it mathematically impossible for Clinton to overtake him in the battle to capture the 2,025 delegates needed to secure the nomination.




UTICA, New York -- Democrat Barack Obama has edged ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the first time in Ohio, according to the final Zogby International Poll prior to Tuesday's crucial primary.

The poll, conducted through this past weekend and released Monday, show Obama leading Clinton 47 percent to 45 percent, powered by a late surge of support from male voters.

Clinton still leads Obama among women, 51 percent to 42 percent, but Obama's lead over Clinton among men rose to 54 percent to 39 percent. Clinton leads in the Buckeye State's rural areas, but Obama holds a commanding edge in the metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Cincinnati and the state capital, Columbus.


Support for Clinton Crumbling Everywhere Except Senior Citizens

A Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle Poll on Sunday shows Obama leading in the Lone Star State by four points, 47 percent to 43 percent, up from a two-point edge for Obama just two days earlier on Friday. Obama's ovelwhelming strength in the state's big cities and among men, young voters and African Americans has offset her advantage with the state's sizable bloc of Latinos and older voters.

Even among Latinos -- whom Clinton has counted on as her "firewall" to stop Obama's momentum -- younger Latinos under 30 years of age, who make up 30 percent of the state's total Latino electorate, favor Obama by nearly three-to-one over Clinton.

Clinton has responded by relying more and more on the "gender card," playing to her support among women -- 54 percent of the Democratic electorate -- to counter Obama's overwhelming support among men. But even here, Obama has sliced into Clinton's female support, with women now evenly split between the Illinois senator and the former first lady and with African American women going overwhelmingly for Obama.

Only among elderly voters 65 years of age and older does Clinton maintain an advantage over Obama.

In Ohio, the final pre-primary poll by Zogby International shows Clinton's once-overwhelming 24-point lead over Obama has collapsed, with the former first lady now holding a statistically insignificant one-point edge over Obama, 47 percent to 46 percent, with the Illinois senator still gaining momentum. That is well within the poll's margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

"It's way too close in both states to say either one has a significant advantage," pollster John Zogby said.

The primary reason for the Clinton collapse in Ohio? NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement -- championed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton -- is deeply unpopular in the Buckeye State, which has seen the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, mostly in manufacturing, in the years since NAFTA came into force.

In Rhode Island, a CNN/Gallup Poll released Saturday shows Clinton leading Obama by nine points, 48 percent to 39 percent -- down from a 15-point lead just 10 days earlier. One alarming note for Clinton: The poll shows 11 percent of Rhode Islanders still undecided -- and likely not to make up their minds until they walk into the voting booths on Tuesday, giving Obama an opening to pull off an upset in the Ocean State.

And in this blogger's home state of Vermont, two polls -- one by Rasmussen Reports and the other by American Research Group for the state's largest newspaper, The Burlington Free Press, show Obama with a commanding lead over Clinton, 59 percent to 32 percent in the Rasmussen poll and 60 percent to 34 percent in the American Research Group poll -- with Obama leading the former first lady by sizeable margins among all of the state's demographic groups, including senior citizens.

That Obama -- who has gone much farther than any other African American in capturing broad support for his presidential bid -- holds an overwhelming lead over Clinton in Vermont is all the more remarkable given the fact that the Green Mountain State is "the whitest state in the Union," according to the Census Bureau, with Caucasians making up 97.8 percent of Vermont's 620,000 residents.

Obama's Advantages: Young People, Independents, Crossover Republicans -- and Money

Powering Obama's advantage over Clinton in all four states in play on Tuesday is the fact that independents and crossover Republicans -- who heavily favor Obama -- can vote in the Democratic primaries. And young people under 30, his most enthusiastic constituency, are expected to vote in record numbers -- and overwhelmingly for the Illinois senator.

Indeed, It is largely because of Obama that voter turnouts in the Democratic primaries are running an unprecedented two to three times higher than in the GOP primaries -- a clear warning to Republicans of trouble in the November general election.

In Texas alone, more than 800,000 people -- a state record for a primary -- have already cast their ballots early, according to the Texas secretary of state's office; of those, more than 650,000 -- another record -- chose to vote in the Democratic primary. Dissatisfaction among the state's Republicans toward both President Bush and presumptive GOP nominee John McCain is extraordinarily high, which is likely to further fuel the record Democratic primary turnout.

And Obama is making full use of his massive financial advantage over Clinton by saturating the airwaves in Texas and Ohio with millions of dollars worth of TV and radio ads and building what to date has been his secret weapon: extensive grass-roots get-out-the-vote operations.

Obama Ad Blitz Shows He's Already Primed to Take On the Republicans

The intensity of Obama’s media blitz in Texas -- his campaign answered a controversial Clinton TV ad on national security with a hard-hitting ad of its own within 24 hours -- has stunned the Clinton campaign and at the same time sent a warning to Republicans that Obama is more than prepared to fight back hard if the GOP -- which apparently has already determined that the Illinois senator will be the Democratic nominee -- decided to go on the attack against him in the fall campaign.

Last Thursday, Clinton presented a tough TV ad that starkly suggested Obama was not ready to lead the world in dangerous times, echoing a similar charge she made against him Saturday in speeches across the state.

The ad -- which some viewers thought at first was by the McCain campaign -- highlighted children asleep at 3 a.m., while a telephine rings and the narrator intones that if a crisis erupted overseas at that hour, it would take a strong leader -- Clinton -- to respond to that crisis.

The Obama campaign promptly responded on Friday with an equally hard-hitting TV ad that asserted that how a president responds to a crisis is a far more important test of leadership -- and went on to criticize Clinton's decision to vote for the resolution authorizing President Bush to proceed with the Iraq war.

The financial advantage that both Democratic candidates have over the Republicans is both stark and without precedent. The sums the Democrats are raising have easily dwarfed the then-record $200 million raised by President Bush's re-election campaign four years ago. Clinton raised $32 million in February, but Obama topped her with a record $50 million in the same period.

By comparison, the McCain campaign has raised only $12 million. With little chance of coming anywhere close to matching the Democrats' fundraising advantage, McCain has been baiting Obama into accepting public financing for the fall campaign -- which would restrict his spending ability. Obama is unlikely to agree, given the fact that he's certain to be targeted by right-wing "527" groups, who face no limits on fundraising and spending, in the fall campaign, should he win the Democratic nomination.

Clinton Camp Damaged By Fallout Over Obama Photo. . .

Further undermining the Clinton camp is continuing fallout over a photograph of Obama dressed in traditional Somali clothing while on a visit to his father's Kenyan homeland in 2006. The photo, originally published in the celebrity-gossip tabloid National Examiner last September, was posted on the Web site of conservative blogger and radio talk-show host Matt Drudge, who claimed that it was provided by a member of the Clinton campaign.

The photograph was quickly denounced as part of a smear campaign against the Illinois senator that falsely claims that he is a Muslim and somehow is a supporter of Muslim extremists. Obama, in fact, is a Christian, a member of the United Church of Christ in Chicago -- although he does have paternal relatives in Kenya who are Muslims.

It wasn't until their debate in Cleveland last Thursday that Clinton finally issued a denial that her campaign had anything to do with the photograph and Obama accepted her denial.

. . .And By Expose of Clinton's Defense of Rape Suspect While a Lawyer in the '70s

More problematic for the Clinton campaign was the publication of an article last week by the Long Island newspaper Newsday revealing that as a young, court-appointed attorney in Arkansas in the mid-1970s, the then-Hillary Diane Rodham aggressively defended a suspect in a rape case by attacking the credibility of the suspect's alleged victim -- a 12-year-old girl.

The Newsday article, based on court records and interviews with participants in the case, was published last Sunday. It was subsequently re-posted Tuesday by The 'Skeeter Bites Report and other Web sites.

While such aggressive tactics are not unusual for a court-appointed defense attorney to employ, the fact that Clinton left this episode out of her 2005 autobiography, Living History, has generated some controversy among advocates against sexual violence against women and children -- which may also be a contributing factor in her dwindling support.

Obama Gaining Momentum With 'Superdelegates,' Too

If the Clinton campaign's challenges on Tuesday weren't daunting enough, it must also have to contend with a growing erosion of support from the party's so-called "superdelegates." Obama has made significant inroads over the past month among Democratic elected officials and party leaders who will cast a fifth of the votes at the party's August convention in Denver.

Already, there have been a few prominent defections among the superdelegates -- most recently Representative John Lewis of Georgia and Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia — prompting other undecided superdelegates to back Obama. At least nine other superdelegates have since switched their allegiance from Clinton to Obama.

If Obama succeeds in pulling off a sweep of all four contests Tuesday, what began as a trickle of superdelegates toward the Illinois senator could quickly turn into a flood, making it mathematically impossible for the former first lady to catch up with Obama in the remaining primaries.

A total of 2,025 delegates are required to secure the Democratic nomination. As of Sunday, Obama was hanging on to a 100-delegate lead over Clinton by most accounts, roughly 1,300 to 1,200. A sweep of all four states by Obama on Tuesday will likely cause pressure to be brought to bear on Clinton to call it quits. Even her husband Bill admits that her campaign is doomed without decisive wins in Ohio and Texas.

Whether the former first lady will heed the advice if she loses remains to be seen.

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Volume III, Number 16
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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