Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama in Cairo: A New Beginning

It's Friday, June 5, 2009. Here's what we're looking at:

Because there was so much talk about Obama's speech in Cairo, we decided to post the full video of his address. You can also read the full text by clicking here.

Rather than an entire new post on the subject, we suggest you read an earlier post we made when Obama addressed the Turkish Parliament: Obama, America, and Islam.

And despite attacks on Obama from Osama bin Laden, Obama has been careful not to mention him as a way of isolating him, according to an article in Politico.

Back home, a recent graph shows just how big of a shift has come in the Virginia Democratic Primary for Governor. With only a few days before the election, Deeds has made huge strides on both candidates - but particularly McAullife.

And we'll have more on that topic Monday.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Operatives to Orphans: The Lives of Political Campaign Workers

It’s not everyday that a really well-written article is done about campaign people. Usually the press ignores us because people don’t want to read about our lives - they don’t like the dirty work we do. But an insightful article in Good Magazine gives a wonderful exploration into the lives of former Obama campaign staff.

Overall, the article is a bit critical of the Obama campaign, perhaps not understanding the nature of the game.

"They had quit jobs, left colleges and grad schools, and ended relationships for something larger than themselves. At its peak, the campaign employed roughly 6,000 full-time workers. It seduced them with its patriotic promise, and the innocent were drawn out of the usual apathy and into what seemed an absolute purpose. With the movement now behind them, with sleeping bags and laptops and a decent shirt and pair of shoes, they drove to Washington, D.C., hopeful that Barack Obama might again give them something to do…

…Joshua was hired as a field officer for the campaign. Now, after happy hour, he walks to his car, a 1999 Toyota that he had driven from Ohio and which, for the past two months, has been his home."

Actually, it’s quite a phenomenon how so many Obama campaign workers are stuck in Washington, trying to get jobs specifically connected with the new president. In January the Obama transition team received over 350,000 applications for about 4,000 available slots in the upcoming administration.

And although their passion for Obama specifically is a new story, the general sense of the article is one that any campaign person can attest to personally.

Obama Staff on Election Night

"The days immediately following Barack Obama’s victory were intensely strange for these people. After the steady crescendo of anxiety and passion that climaxed on election night in a sort of national orgasm, the full-staff was left particularly limp. Returning to society was, after the manic frenzy that defined their campaign lives, a steep downer. And since the economic crisis, the financial meltdown, the Great Recession or whatever we eventually term the winter’s bad news, it became clear to them that life’s simple solutions, as they were, had run dry."

Although it is hard and exhausting work, it is something of a high. Be warned - prospective campaign people - about the crash that comes later.

We highly suggest reading this article.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Will Republicans Start a Comeback in New Jersey?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from New Jersey.

Last night, moderate GOP candidate, former U.S. attorney Chris Christie, defeated the conservative small town Mayor Steve Lonegan for the Republican nomination for governor of New Jersey.

Now Christie will take on entrenched Democratic Governor Jon Corzine for the November 2009 General Election.

Currently Christie has a good lead Corzine in the polls. According to a Quinnipiac poll released May 20, Christie’s leads Corzine 45% - 38%, with independents supporting Christie 52% - 25%, and Republicans much more supportive of their nominee than Democrats are of Corzine.

A Rasmussen poll confirms this trend, with Corzine trailing Christie 47% - 38%. A Research 2000/DailyKos poll also finds Corzine behind 46% - 39%.

Much of this is due to the budget shortfalls that New Jersey - like so many other states - is facing in light of the recession. Recently, the governor suggested the state’s popular property tax rebate be cancelled to make up this shortfall.

Yet Democrats outnumber Republicans considerably in the Garden State, where a Republican has not won a state-wide race in 12 years.

Can the GOP really pull it off?

Winning a campaign comes down to three factors - time, people, and money. The most important of the three is time.

With 152 days until the General Election, Corzine will have plenty of time to mount a decent campaign if he can put it together properly. But if those who think they know who they support don’t change their minds, Corzine will have to win over the undecided voters at - at least - a 2 to 1 basis. That is easier said than done.

It’s hard to gauge the second factor - people (volunteers) - because there is really no scientific way of observing who will have the most ground support. At least not at this point. But although New Jersey is a remarkably Democratic state, Corzine is not the most popular politician within the party. 23% of Democratic primary voters opposed him yesterday - a big number for an incumbent. It seems unlikely he will bring in the number of volunteers that his campaign would like to recruit.

Of course, this won’t be an easily won factor for Christie either, as he was certainly the moderate of the two Republican candidates. Typically volunteers are activists who are very ideologically aligned to the right or left - not the middle.

In terms of money, Corzine has the advantage. The governor has raised $3.2 million to Christie’s $2.2 million. Furthermore, Corzine is wealthy. As a former Goldman Sachs CEO he has been able to put $2.3 million of his own money into the race. His net worth may be as high as $40 million. In order to match that, Christie will need a miracle.

But despite a fundraising advantage, Corzine’s future does not look so bright. Nothing is certain, but it will take a lot of effort on the part of his campaign - and perhaps a few slip-ups from Christie’s - to retain his office.

And a victory in New Jersey would be a big win for the GOP as America heads into the 2010 midterm elections.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Are Americans Looking for More Unorthodox Candidates?

Politico has an interesting article today about some of the confusing names on Capital Hill. Many of the freshmen class members of Congress have been put in Congressional Quarterly’s pronunciation guide for Hill clerks.

And, of course, the most obvious uncommon name in Washington is Barack Obama.

From the story:

…expert Grant Smith says voters often look to make meaningful connections with politicians’ names based on the phonetic sounds they make.

According to his research, candidates with the most pleasant-sounding names have won 84 percent of all presidential elections, based on a 20-part rating system that judges names by rhythm and sounds.

“It’s important to look at the relative comfort level of the names,” he said. “Voters like clear, distinctive rhythms.”

For instance, two-syllable names that alternate stronger and softer sounds, like Crapo and Clinton, score high, while choppier names like Dukakis score lower.

At least this is the way of thinking among campaign workers and election experts, because traditionally these are the trends that voters have made. This is why one of Rep. Tom Perriello’s (D-VA) campaign staffers became so upset when people mispronounced her boss’s name.

The last straw came during a campaign visit to Crystal Cathedral. Pastor Maurice Carter introduced the candidate to the congregation as “Mr. Tom Perry Ellis” and continued to refer to him as “Mr. Ellis” — as if he were the namesake for the clothing line.

The congressman politely let it pass.

“I was cringing,” said press secretary Jessica Barba. “We’d heard a lot of variations on the trail, but that was a little painful.”

Some campaigns find clever ways to use the confusion to their advantage. Perriello, for example, told voters in a TV ad “How you pronounce my name isn’t what’s important; knowing what it stands for is.”

Others find clever ways to make voters remember the correct pronunciation. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of Madison, WI - who is simply known to his constituents as “Mayor Dave” since few can remember the surname - tried to familiarize voters with his last name with the button to the right.

Yet, with the election of Obama and several members of Congress with funny last names, the traditional trends don’t seem to hold.

[Now] election records suggest out of the ordinary increasingly appeals to voters. The names of incoming freshmen have grown more unusual over the years, thanks in part to a combination of the nation’s increasing diversity and, in the age of Barack Obama, a rising generation of voters with a greater appetite for unique names.

Only three of 65 freshmen elected to the 111th Congress have surnames that are included in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 100 most common last names.

And over the past four Congresses, common names in the freshman class have been decreasing, from 25.8 percent in the 108th Congress to just 4.6 percent in the current class.

Perhaps it is a new trend that Americans don’t expect to be able to pronounce every surname correctly these days, or maybe it’s because they’re looking for refreshing candidates that don’t resemble the archetype Washington politician.

Either way, it appears that Americans just aren’t looking for an orthodox name in their candidates anymore.