So it begins

Senator Clinton was out on the campaign trail in NH with this gem:

"I don't think it was by accident that Al Qaeda decided to test the new prime minister," she said. "They watch our elections as closely as we do, maybe more closely than some of our fellows citizens do.... Let's not forget you're hiring a president not just to do what a candidate says during the election, you want a president to be there when the chips are down."

Now the thing that first strikes me about this statement is that it sounds like it was crafted by Karl Rove, perhaps there was more to those reports about Bush advising the Senator than we thought.

The next thing that strikes me is her analogy to the UK transition from Prime Minister Blair to Brown, which coincided with the unraveling of a terrorist attack in London. The attack was discovered and dealt with by the UK security forces with little direction from the Prime Minister. I'm sure he was kept briefed and was ready for any development but there was a contingent of personnel at all levels,  trained and ready for just such an occurence. His most prominent role in the event was in giving his nation's defiant response that they would not be threatened by such acts.

In the US our security apparatus, from the National Security Council and Joint Chiefs, down to the Police Officer out on beat are designed to provide some permanence in our security structure even in times of transition and crisis. I mean, the US security apparatus is designed with nuclear holocaust as it's worst case scenario, I think that we can endure another attack. Saying otherwise is somewhat of a denigration to our security forces at every level.

Having said all that I do agree that who is at the top of that apparatus is very important, and whoever the next President is they will have quite a challenge undoing the damage that the current Administration had done to it. In the end though, the most important role that a President plays as the head of that apparatus, is in being our nation's figurehead and in articulating our response as a nation. So if the worst should happen on January 20th 2009 or any day thereafter, I want the person who is deciding on that response to be someone who when they are put on the defensive will act with courage and wisdom to lift our nation back up and not someone who will react out of hubris and desperation to incite our worst fears. We've had enough of that.

There's more...

On the Ground in NH with HRC Campaign

I've been in a campaign bubble since Saturday, working for the Clinton campaign in NH.  With all of the polls being wrong, I thought I'd write a brief diary on what the ground game was like in one small part of NH for the Clinton campaign.  Full disclosure:  I'm just a volunteer and I've never participated in any kind of GOTV effort before, so I'm not the best person to give comparisons to other campaigns.  I can say that our area of NH had incredible success in turning out HRC voters. We were supposed to help off-set Obama strong-holds in other parts of the state.  The result was that there were record turnouts in several wards and overall in our town Clinton beat Obama almost 2-1 and Edwards 2.5 or 3 to 1.

We got to NH over the weekend.  When we arrived we found out a couple of things.  The first is that the Clinton GOTV organizers for our area had already canvassed just about all of their "1s" and that they were relieved to find that almost 100% indicated they were still sticking with Clinton.   They also were keeping almost all of their 2s. So they knew their hard-core support was still there.  (FYI, as has been reported, the Clinton campaign categorizes voters on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being Clinton supporter, 2 a leaner, 3 an undecided, 4 a leaner the other way, and 5 a supporter of another candidate.  

The other thing we asked the local coordinator about was the Obama GOTV effort.  We learned that it was good, but might have some weaknesses.  First, much like Clinton in Iowa, Obama arrived later than Clinton in the towns where we were.  They were also using fewer grassroots NH folks to run their GOTV effort in our area.  The Clinton GOTV effort was run by a local resident and she had been working for the Clinton campaign for six months.

There's more...

Hillary learns fast

Hillary Clinton took a crash course in Millennials in five days in New Hampshire and at least got a passing grade. Chelsea joined her on the campaign bus to talk to Millennials the campaign quickly assembled to give the candidate some personal feel for this new, dynamic generation. And then on election night, all the older generation figure heads were gone, replaced by faces of young voters waving American flags. Even President Clinton was given only  a chance to give her a congratulatory kiss before he was ushered to the side of the stage. Obama still won Millennials 2:1 and the youth of New Hampshire still turned out in record numbers to help give Obama the support he needed to finish a close second. But at least for now, both candidates recognize the need to win the support of this new generation to finish first in November. So the question is, what will Edwards do about the youth vote?

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Last Night's Spin Room, and Other NH Observations

Jerome has invited all the campaign bloggers to stay on as weekend bloggers. This platform is a privilege - especially for someone who can't even legally drink for another four months - and I am honored to have it. Since I'm here in New Hampshire, I thought I would share some ground level observations and experiences. This post includes analysis of last night's spin room (with an emphasis on Elizabeth Edwards and a funny story about David Brooks), the sign wars, a Richardson event, a very strange phone call, and overall momentum.

I spent last night volunteering in the spin room for both debates. My job during the Republican debate was just to stand around and look busy, filling the room for the cameras. I pulled out my own camera and shot video of Ron Paul, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Tancredo (who I actually said hello to once the spinning was over... icky, but he does have a nice smile). When the Democrats came on, I spent an hour helping Elizabeth Edwards. This was the first time I've met her, and she was incredibly gracious and kind, even to those with critical questions. Many folks in politics are rather passive aggressive; she couldn't have been less so, and even remembered my name after the hour. I know now what folks mean when they say they wish it were her running for President. I was, however, unimpressed with her spin. She made great points about the media ignoring John Edwards, but spent most of the hour explaining why her husband is the best candidate for change. The problem there is, it's almost better to make weak arguments on your own turf than it is strong arguments on someone else's turf - and as long as the debate is about change, it's on Obama's turf. If Edwards and Clinton want to argue change, they have to land knock-out blows, and as whip-smart and impressive as Elizabeth Edwards may be, those weren't knockout blows.

I headed back to my car around midnight - and who should I find on the empty sidewalks but a lost David Brooks, unable to find his car. He asked if I knew where the media lots were, and then proceeded to head in the opposite direction of what I told him. Having parked near a media lot, I can now say with some confidence: David Brooks asked me for help, and wound up even more lost when he didn't take my directions.

The rest is a little lengthy for a frontpage post, especially since I'm a bit of a ludite and am not sure how to make a slideshow yet, so I'll stick it below the fold.

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Can Hillary Clinton Learn from her Mistakes in Iowa--or even History?

I saw this firsthand in the precinct I attended, what Morley is taling about in this post. Penn, I heard in an interview after the caucuses, acknowledged the strategic error. Jerome.

Morley Winograd is co-author with Michael D. Hais of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics.

Despite all their efforts to put a positive spin on their Iowa showing on the plane to New Hampshire, the Clinton team couldn't avoid acknowledging the most important mistake they made in Iowa--discounting the youth vote.

Not only did Clinton lose to Barack Obama by an almost six to one margin among Millennial Generation (those under 25) caucus attendees, but also her weakness in this age group was the key to her overall loss among women. While Hillary carried the over 45 female vote 36%-24%, Obama won women under 45 by a 50%-21% margin and the surprisingly strong turnout among young caucus goers turned that margin into an overall defeat among the female constituency Hillary was counting on the most. Had she and her team only read their history, they wouldn't have been surprised by this outcome.

Every eighty years a "Civic" generation, like the GI Generation and now the Millennials, comes along with a determination to use their size and their facility with communication technology to change the political culture of America. 2008 will be the first election when Millennials, the largest generation in American history, born between 1982 and 2003, will be eligible to vote in sufficient numbers to tip the political scales to candidates who they favor, but they have already made their presence known to those analyzing election data, not just the latest poll results. They, along with the last remaining members of the GI Generation, were the only age groups to cast majority votes for John Kerry in 2004. The YouTube inspired involvement of Millennials in the Senate races in Virginia and Montana was the difference in those two close elections, returning Democrats to majority status in 2006. But those initial tremors are minor compared to the tsunami of change that Millennials will set in motion in the 2008 elections.

Jaded pollsters, like Clinton's Mark Penn, and columnists, like Thomas L. Friedman, who have been waiting for the emergence of a sizeable youth vote and youthful activism for decades, completely ignored this emerging phenomenon believing that today's youth would disappoint those hoping for any sign of political commitment, just as people under 25 had done ever since the 1970s. But that attitude, common among Baby Boomers who believe the entire world should think and act the way they do, represents a significant misreading of history.  Gen Xers, who adored and still revere Ronald Reagan and distrust government, were responsible for the decline in voter participation among young people in the 1980s and 1990s, but as studies by Harvard's Institute of Politics have demonstrated, ever since 9/11 today's youth have voted in increasing numbers, at a growth rate that surpasses that of all other generations. Now that they have a candidate like Barack Obama who appeals to this generation's partisan passion for changing America, their impact will reverberate across the country as loudly as it did in Iowa last week.

A careful observer of the Obama and Clinton campaigns' youth turnout efforts could have seen the results coming. Hillary's team were told to invite young people over for a night of watching TV shows like Gray's Anatomy or The Office, and use that opportunity to engage them in a conversation on the issues. Obama's team went about finding its cadre of supporters by using their website, built off of the FaceBook operating system or platform, in tune with Millennial's social networking habits. Once they found potential supporters, Obama's team didn't ask them to watch television, something Millennials do infrequently, unless it's on their laptop with shows downloaded from the Net, but to hang out at the local bar. There Michelle Obama, or "the closer" as her husband calls her, asked them to come out on caucus night and change America's politics forever.

Clinton's attempt to make her gender define the nature of the historic change in this election missed another important trait of Millennials. This generation is the most gender neutral, race-and ethnicity-blind group of young people in American history. Only sixty percent of Millennials are white; twenty percent have an immigrant parent; and, ninety percent have a friend of another race. While Baby Boomers are justifiably proud of their idealistic efforts on behalf of civil rights and women's rights, Millennials take diversity as a given and tolerance as the only acceptable behavior. That's why, on caucus night, young women voted for Obama and his message of hope, while older women felt motivated to support the first credible female candidate for President.  Once again, the Clinton's circle of Boomer advisors just couldn't understand why everyone wasn't thinking and behaving like they did. .

The generational differences in the two candidate's teams were embarrassingly obvious during their speeches to their supporters on caucus night. A collection of Silent and Boomer Generation former leaders, from Madeline Albright to Wesley Clark, not to mention Bill Clinton, was planted behind Hillary. Obama's backdrop was his kids, his wife and throngs of young supporters who knew that their efforts had created an historic moment for the country. Given this generational bias, really a blind spot in their thinking, it's hard to believe Hillary can fix her problem with Millennials before the final campaign showdown on February 5, let alone in the few days between Iowa and New Hampshire. But if she can't find a way to appeal to this emerging generation quickly and on its own terms, she will become the first, but certainly not the last, candidate whose failure to recognize the historical pattern of generational cycles in American politics has cost them their future.  

Morley Winograd is co-author with Michael D. Hais of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics (Rutgers University Press, March 2008)

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