The Long-Awaited Speech

President Barack Obama, in his eagerly anticipated major speech on the Federal budget deficit, proposed $4 trillion in cuts and revenue increases over the next twelve years – about $2.2 trillion less than the reductions proposed by the House Republicans. The President's proposals are more in-line his own deficit commission, the Simpson-Bowles commission, which proposed $3.8 trillion in cuts when it was unveiled last December but the mix of cuts is far different. The critical difference is that the President's plan calls for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Speaking at the George Washington University just blocks from the White House, the President attacked Rep. Paul Ryan’s deficit plan, saying: “I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry.” President Obama countered Republican budget plans with what he said was a more balanced approach that relies in part on tax increases for the wealthy as well as on spending cuts. “To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms,” President Obama said. “We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.”

The New York Times has more on the President's speech but the major key goals articulated by the President include:

* Reducing the deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years or less

* Curbing deficits to 2.5 percent of GDP in 2015, 2 percent toward the end of the decade

* Ending Bush-era tax rates for the wealthiest Americans

* Seeking $770 billion in savings by 2023 in cuts to non-security discretionary spending

* Saving $480 billion in Medicare and Medicaid by 2023 and at least $1 trillion more by 2033.

I'll have more later but for now here is the full text of the speech as prepared for delivery beneath the fold.

There's more...

Obama to Outline Deficit Reduction in a Speech

Appearing on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, David Plouffe, White House senior adviser, revealed that President Obama plans to deliver a major speech this week laying out a more aggressive path for deficit reduction -- including reform of entitlements, particularly Medicare and Medicaid. Plouffe said Obama will continue calling for higher taxes on the wealthy but will resist any attempts to raise taxes on the middle class. White House communications director Dan Pfieffer later added that Obama would deliver the address on Wednesday.

Plouffe also commented on Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposals. Via Politico:

Plouffe indicated that Obama would address finding savings in Medicare and Medicaid, but would not endorse many of the proposals in the long-term deficit reduction plan offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee.

“It may pass the House. It's it's not gonna become law,” Plouffe said. “I don't think the American people are gonna sign up for something that puts - most of the burden on the middle class, people trying to go to college, on senior citizens while not just asking nothing of the wealthy - giving them at least a $200,000 tax [break] and so that's a choice you're making.”

Plouffle also indicated that Obama would propose rescinding the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy as part of his deficit reduction plan.

“For upper income Americans he does believe that they need to contribute to deficit reduction in this country,” Plouffe said on Fox News Sunday.

But when host Chris Wallace asked whether such a proposal would pass in light of opposition from House Republicans, Plouffe indicated that Obama would make the point that the GOP proposal is cuts services for seniors and the poor in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy.

“They’re plan is a trillion dollar tax cut,” Plouffe said. “So again, the reason you have to ask more for seniors, the middle class and the poor… is because you’re giving the rich these tax cuts.”

Obama's campaign book: part Iowa

So back to the '08 election books for the second part (the first part is here) of the primary season: Iowa.

In ATW, page 106. Its mid-October '07 and Clinton has peaked too early, though few could tell at the time, and it seemed she "could do no wrong" but Plouffe points at two mis-steps that leveled the field in Iowa. Clinton's flip-flopping about whether illegal immigrants should have driver licenses which put her into the penalty box among the national press, and what he calls "Plantgate" which was about Clinton staffers putting questions into the Iowan crowds, which hurt her authenticity. This second one really got to the heart of the oppositional push by Obama's campaign. It was a very patient operation; one that waited for openings and then maximized them when they occurred. Edwards paying $300 for a haircut in Iowa & Clinton's staffers putting up softball questions both served to undermine the character of the opposition, with the particular angle that Obama was emphasizing in himself: authentic hope for change.

A whole book could be written on the Democratic caucus in Iowa in 2008. I've got some great books on Iowa that cover the '70's and '80's caucus events. And the '92 & '96 caucuses were non-events. Starting with Gore vs Bradley in '00, then the '04 race between Gephardt, Edwards, Kerry & Dean; and then the '08 contest, which I believe is one of the greatest nominating events of all-time, there's a historical book calling out to be written. The section on Iowa is the most revealing part of Plouffe's book (the second being the VP selection process), but it deserves even more than what Plouffe has laid out.

Back to our timeline. When the opening emerged in November, Obama, at the JJ dinner, found a message to differentiate himself from Clinton, Plouffe tells us Obama said:

This is not about issue differences, other than Iraq," he summarized. "Its about leadership qualities and vision. that's what we have to punch through at the J-J."
I think that pretty well sums up what Obama's appeal was to his unique coalition. Its very transformative-based, instead of issue-based. When I had been reading polling done in '05 and '06 in Iowa, I picked up on the same consistent thread of post-partisanship appeal (though it is, given the current nature of Republicans in DC, a pony ride express).

This distinction between the two candidates is driven home by Plouffe:

When at last Hillary took the stage... the main thrust of her speech was that she was tough enough to take on the republicans. She asked the crowd, "And when the republicans engage in fearmongering, and saber rattling, and talk about WW III, what do we do with them? And her supporters... shouted out... "Turn up the heat!" Plouffe, in Chicago watching it on TV with his wife, remarks:"That just seems awful," I said to her as Hillary riled up the crowd. "Even for a Democratic Party dinner it's awfully political and partisan."In contrast, Obama hit a "Fucking home run" in the words of Axlerod.

So it was with the distinct coalition of Iowan voters, new voters and not that partisan, that coalesced around Obama. When they brought Oprah into Iowa in Dec, it broadened their tent-- 30,000 people attended. That's amazing.

By December '07, when Clinton talks about her experience and ability "to take on the Republican machine" Plouffe says the campaign was "all over this as a prime example of that was wrong with Washington and the current state of politics."

This seemed at the time, nothing but a fairy tail, and readding what I wrote in mid-Feb, it drove home the only distinction I could find meaningful for the primary:


I happened to have noticed that the Clinton and Obama voting record are nearly identical... In that light, that they are the same as far as policy goes, or more or less, I happen to have made up my mind based on which of them is more likely to kick the Republicans in the balls, rather than give them a helping hand back to the table.It might be what's wrong, but its also the reality.

Obama's effective appeal to a slew of new caucus-goers for Iowa was that we'd hold hands in DC. Part if this is, to be sure, is how he could win through positioning. By the end, Plouffe says he had 60K 1's and 30K 2's heading into the caucus. The final DR poll was very accurate on the spread, showing Obama 32, Clinton 25, Edwards 24.

In a revealing passage, Plouffe goes into the John Kerry endorsement, which he tipped them off about a few days prior to the Iowa caucus. It was definitely a good call to hold off on it, because Kerry didn't reflect their message in Iowa as a closing argument. Not many candidates would recognize that as the right call.

By January 2008, in a cool scene, Plouffe describes the coalition of voters in the caucus outside Des Moines in a suburban high school in Ankeny at 6:15 pm, just before they closed the doors to caucus while Obama pounded for a few more votes:

Right there, in front of our eyes on caucus night, we were seeing the coalition of voeters we had set out to build: high school kids; republicans who said they were switching their registration to caucus for Barack; Iowa residents atteing MI and WI colleges who had stayed home a few extra days to caucus; an older couple who said they had not participated since '68; when they volunteered for Bobby Kennedy. And my favorite, a man dressed like Gandalf from The Lord of the Rights, holding a staff with an iPod attached at the top and a little speaker playing Obama's speeches on repeat.I have an image of the Obama campaign as I was driving through Iowa diring the waning days of the primary. Signs saying "Hope" in blue, on a white background, posted in snowy corners of the towns throughout Iowa. Even down to the meshing the campaign slogan-speak with the holiday spirit, the Obama Iowa campaign nailed it.

There's more...

2008 campaign books: part one

This is the first part of review of the '08 election via the reading of David Plouffe's book and then Sarah Palin's book (and maybe some others if I have the time).

I'll begin with Plouffe's book, from the beginning up till about December 2007.

There's three main points that I want to talk about from the book up to this point. And together they show the genius, and the political ineptitude, that delivered a win to Obama, and a loss to Clinton and Edwards.

First, the value of having had top strategists that worked the 2004 cycle & its relevance for the caucus strategy. This isn't always the case, in fact its far from being a good precedent to follow, but it was critical for '08. Plouffe writes:

The fact that all of the initial inner circle-- Gibbs, Ax, and me-- had done presidential politics in 2004 (for three different candidates) was incredibly important for how we viewed the conventional wisdom about 2008-- -- and was another huge advantage over the Clinton campaign. Few of her inner circle had been involved in the 2004 Democratic primaries...
Plouffe doesn't go into it, but he worked for Gephardt in 2004, focusing on Iowa. Gibbs had worked with Kerry for a part of the campaign as his comm. director, before directing ads to takedown Dean. Axlerod did the media and message for Edwards. They all three got to see how the Dean campaign managed to use tech to go from longshot to frontrunner. No doubt, it wasn't a fun experience for them, but they saw firsthand how Dean's campaign melded the grassroots with the campaign via the internet.

Axlerod, in particular, pivoted Edwards message in late 2003 to what was later adopted by Obama. I remember being there at an Edwards event in Jan '04, and reading their lit saying "change for America" and thinking 'they ripped off our message' from the Dean campaign. It was a deft and nearly successful move by Axlerod for Edwards in Iowa. People forget how crazy that Dean drove the Democratic consultant establishment in 2003, but I'm sure these guys remember that hellish experience from their vantage point. Wolfson, Solis Doyle, and Penn had no such experience in 2003-4. They watched as outsiders. Now, Clinton did hire expertise from '04, like Karen Hicks & Jay Carson from Dean's campaign, and Peter Dauo from Kerry's GE campaign, but their voices were not in the inner circle-- I don't even think that Harold Ickes had much of a voice in the strategy that was used by Clinton early on and in particular with the caucus states.

All four of us [Ploufee, Axlerod, Gibbs & Obama] were in the right spots to see a new potential out there to match the changing mood of the electorate and the new technological advances that could help us build a campaign to tap into the winds of change. Many of these lessons ran counter to CW about how to run for president... and... not try to rerun the campaigns of the past.
The number one change that ran counter was to be the importance of delegates.

Penn thought along the old lines of believing that the big states would decide who would win. Plouffe understood that this was going to be about the numbers if the first four states were not swept. The primary in fact became only about the delegate numbers (I wouldn't be surprised if the Republicans have their own sort of intra-party battle around the same issue in '12).

With the completion of the NV caucus, it was plain to see that Obama's campaign understand the new playing field: Clinton won the most votes but Obama won the most delegates. Fair or not, those are the rules, and it was political incompetence to run a strategy counter to a delegate-based one.

Second, the behind-the scenes coordination of getting Clinton to take Michigan & Florida off the table. The MI strategy in particular was amazing, and I'm glad that Plouffe laid it out. I posted a lot about this back in 2007 and early 2008. There were plenty of Obama runners that denied it here, but I knew it was the case because I'd talked with the Edwards people that executed the Obama-led strategy. It was dumbfounding to me at the time, that Clinton's team let Michigan be taken off the table. To this day, I don't know what they were thinking. In fact, oh nevermind, its just mind-boggling... and then there's Florida:

Had the rules committee decided to not sanction these states 100 percent, we thought we could come close in Michigan or even win narrowly. But Florida was a bridge to far, and losing it would have sapped whatever momentum we had built up in the early states. We assumed the Clinton campaign would share that view and would do whatever it took to have Florida, not South Carolina, serve as the gateway to the Fed 5 contests
That's such a "duh" point, but it was lost on the Clinton inner circle. Part of why I thought Clinton would win, looking at this race in 2007, was because I assumed assumed a a competent Clinton strategy. I think Plouffe nails it though, as to why Clinton let Penn & Solis Doyle gave away MI & FL:
... it further underscored how unconcerned they were by our candidacy.


The Clintons have proven through the years to be politically savvy and relentlessly tough. If they fretted about these calendar issues as much as we did, there is no way they would hav allowed their supporters on the rules committee to go along with having the Florida primary eliminated from the equation.


Third, the emphasis on Iowa & beating Edwards there. "We thought Iowa could be potential quicksand for Hillary." Right they were. This was always the most important state for Obama. I never saw the path to victory for Obama in New Hampshire, but did in Iowa. The Mike Henry document that Clinton should have written off Iowa was, looking back on it, the right strategy to have taken for Clinton. The Obama folks knew they had to get an early win to get to SC, and if Clinton had dropped out of Iowa, I have no doubt that her Iowa caucus supporters that showed up would have wound up in Edwards camp.

When the haircut issue broke, I recall blogging that that Edwards had been hamstrung by the HHH curse. First the flamboyant Home, then working for a Hedge fund, and then the Haircut. Plouffe reveals that the Obama research team was behind the Haircut leak. Now, Edwards was who I backed in the primaries before he dropped out, but what a disaster it would have been with him in the GE given his lie (Elizabeth Edwards might call it the Harlot curse). I'm sure the Haircut did big damage to Edwards in Iowa, perhaps arguably just enough that he got second instead of first too.

The winning coalition that Obama put together in Iowa was amazing in its uniqueness of new voters. With overriding demographic characteristics of being 17-29, but the biggest swath of 30-44 too; super majorities of anyone other than white voters; singles; Republicans & Independents; union families; $100,000 or more earners; Urban/Rural voters. Its as if they combed the entire state, and picked up individuals here and there who had only one real thing in common-- they wanted Obama. To go from a 125K turnout to a 239K turnout from '04 to '08. I don't think that will be topped for a long long time. I wound up getting a front-row spot for that remarkable victory speech by Obama in Iowa. The Obama win in Iowa deserves a post of its own, so that will come in the next part.

There's more...

2012 GOP Dark Horses

In a piece by David Renmick in the New Yorker there's an interesting quote by David Plouffe, the Obama Campaign manager, about perhaps a dark horse candidate emerging to  win the GOP Presidential nomination. Mr. Plouffe suggests that "we ought to learn from the Obama experience that someone can come out, not someone you've never heard of but someone who you just didn't think would run for President."

Clearly, the front-runners are the runners up from 2008 - Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee - and the all but announced Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. But who might emerge à la Obama on the GOP side for 2012?

Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana. He represents the Sixth Congressional District. Current  House GOP Conference Chair. Bills himself as "Christian, Conservative, Republican, in that order." Negatives for the GOP base: Seen as lenient on immigration.

Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico.  Johnson, who was governor from 1995 to 2003, is releasing a book entitled Seven Principles Of Good Government that will be published by The Heartland Institute, a conservative-libertarian think tank. He's also launching a political action committee called Our America PAC to promote his libertarian, small-government ideas. He's was popular and he connects with the under 30 crowd. Negatives for the GOP base: He's a Ron Paul libertarian. Thinks the war of drugs is a failure. He's pro-choice.

Senator John Thune from South Dakota. Best known for being the man who ousted Tom Daschle. David Brooks recently described him as a "down-the-line conservative on social, economic and foreign policy matters" and "conservative at the roots but pragmatic at the surface." Negative for the GOP base: Endorsed by David Brooks.

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana.  A populist conservative who worked in the Bush OMB before returning to run for governor. Re-elected in 2008 by a large margin even as Obama carried the Hoosier state. Daniels won the under 24 vote by a whopping 38 points. Negatives for the GOP Base: Ties to the Bush White House and their budgets.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Running for re-election but first has to get past a primary challenge from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Has tacked right and embraced the Tea Party set. One of the most critical voices of President Obama in the GOP today and on the front lines of the sovereignty movement. Negatives for the GOP Base: Seen as an opportunist with no real convictions.

Any others?

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Diaries

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