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June 10, 2007

See You At TDS

After about 33 months and (as of today) 932 posts at NewDonkey.com, I'm finally ready to do what so many other bloggers have done, and move from a solo gig to something a bit more integrated into a strategic political mission.As of June 18, I'll be blogging regularly at The Democratic Strategist, an online magazine that's about a year old. In case you're not familiar with TDS, its editors are the much-esteemed Bill Galston, Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira, all major Democratic strategists in their own spheres. The e-zine's main purpose is to provide a focused and non-factional forum for civil and empirically-based discussions of strategic issues for Democrats--everything from demographic and electoral analysis, to message and communications challenges, to party unification measures--with a special interest in long-range concerns that may elude the day-to-day debates over tactics. You should check out TDS' current and back issues to get a sense of the already broad and impressive range of contributors, which include academics, journalists and practitioners from every corner of the party.My job, as successor to Managing Editor Scott Winship, is to enliven the daily content of TDS and to continue and sharpen its issue forums. As a big believer in its mission of party unity, civility, and fact-based reasoning, I'm excited about joining the TDS team.Given time constraints, this means I'm suspending NewDonkey for the time being. I'm not killing the beast; I'm cryogenically freezing it, sort of like Ted Williams' head. Starting next week, visitors to this site will be redirected to TDS. Ruy Teixeira's doing the same thing with his longstanding Donkey Rising blog, so we should benefit from some new energy all around.When I made the decision to suspend this blog, I got sentimental for a minute or two, until I remembered my pledge not to take blogging too seriously. I'll never forget the first political blog I ever laid eyes on: Kausfiles, by Mickey Kaus, whom I knew back when he was at The New Republic. My first reaction was to think, "Oh my God; this is so embarassing for Mickey. Why does he think anybody will want to read anything he feels like saying on any subject?" Within two years, I was doing it myself, but the idea still sometimes seems preposterous. And I'll remember that every day at TDS, and try to keep my words useful.Still, I know this blog has become a habit for a fair number of readers, and a source of information and amusement on occasion. I'm often humbled to learn that the quality of its readership is frequently superior to the quality of its content. Some folks have come here looking for a more heterodox if partisan point of view; others appear to consider it a voice from the New Democrat tradition that they find congenial or stimulating. And maybe some readers liked the occasional break from politics when I lurch off into religion or college football.In any event, the TDS leadership has encouraged me to keep The Daily Strategist blog as lively as NewDonkey, so if you follow me over there, you may not notice a great deal of difference, other than the fact that my pithy comments will be surrounded by outstanding contributions from others. (And speaking of comments, those who have long deplored the absence of a comment thread here will be happy to hear that we are in the process of making the comment thread at TDS more functional).So: I'm not saying goodbye, but instead "see you over at TDS," where I hope all the donkeys can gather.
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June 7, 2007

Ch-ch-changes in Caucusland

Yesterday brought a batch of news from the presidential campaigns in Iowa, where believe it or not, the first stage of the nominating contest will commence in about six months (and that's if Iowa doesn't move back a week in a shuffle caused by Florida's legislation moving its primary back to January 29, or even further if New Hampshire decides to deal with all its competitors by moving back into this December, as is rumored to be a possibility).On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani (followed within hours by John McCain) announced he would skip the massive Straw Poll being held by the state GOP in August. This is actually a bigger deal than it sounds like. The Straw Poll isn't some symbolic thing; about one-third of those who ultimately participate in the Caucuses are expected to show up, not exactly a group you want to diss. The news will feed earlier rumors that Rudy's decided to downplay Iowa and NH and count on winning the nomination in the mega-primary of February 5.You have to figure McCain's camp had already decided the Straw Poll was going to be a disaster for him, and leaped on Guilani's announcement as a heaven-sent opportunity to turn a potentially humiliating defeat for the one-time frontrunner into an effort (probably futile) to convince the punditocracy that the Straw Poll has become meaningless without the participation of two of the "Big Three."All this points to a big Mitt Romney win in the Straw Poll that would solidify his suddenly powerful status as the front-runner in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Maybe the downplaying of Iowa by Giuliani and McCain could create some space for a darkhorse like Mike Huckabee, but the Arkansan just ain't got the money to play well in Iowa at this point; his campaign is also suffering from the perception that he's auditioning for the second spot on somebody else's ticket. And maybe Fred Thompson will come into Iowa forcefully to challenge Romney, but probably not, given his very late start; it's more likely that he'll make his first big push in South Carolina, where he's already leading in at least one recent poll.Over on the Democratic side, the big Iowa news this week was that legendary organizer Teresa Vilmain was replacing the near-legendary organizer JoDee Winterhoff as Hillary Clinton's campaign director in the state. The buzz is that the step was partially in response to Iowa blowback over a leaked memo from HRC's deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, urging her to skip Iowa altogether. But more likely, the shift was in the works for a while; Vilmain, who was Tom Vilsack's top strategist during his brief campaign, simply wasn't available when Clinton first set up her Iowa operation.As it happens, the Washington Post today published a front-page piece about the campaign in Iowa in both parties. It includes a good description of the Caucus process, and a nifty chart on the byzantine interconnections of some of the top campaign operatives.
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June 5, 2007

The NH Republican Debate

I didn't watch the NH Republican debate on CNN, but figure that the most important reactions are among the conservative commentariat. At National Review's The Corner, which basically liveblogged the debate, Rudy Guiliani was the clear winner. At Redstate.org, Mike Huckabee was the winner on the stage, and Fred Thompson was perhaps the big winner. Republicans remain way divided at this point.
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June 4, 2007

Two What-Ifs

The big what-if in the news today was in sports, when Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan scuttled back to Gainesville four days after penning a big-bux contract to go to the NBA's Orlando Magic. This was a what-if not only for the Magic, but for the daisy-chain of hirings and openings that might have emerged in the college coaching ranks if Donovan had stuck with his decision to book.The best comment so far on this fiasco was by Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn:

At a press conference to announce Billy Donovan's hiring by the Orlando Magic last Friday morning, nearly 6,500 words were spoken by Donovan and general manager Otis Smith as they sat side-by-side on stools at the center of the team's practice court. Buried in the final 300 words of the 45-minute ordeal was Smith's smiling statement -- in response to what Donovan's first act as coach would be -- that "we gave him the weekend off.""We'll see him," Smith said, "bright and early on Monday morning."That, in retrospect, might have been a mistake.
Indeed. If the Magic had dragged Billy around central Florida to a series of publicity events and team meetings, it's not clear he would have had time for the Dark Night of the Soul that apparently changed his mind. Or so we can speculate.But there was another "what if" story a bit further under the surface, in terms of the post mortems on Sunday night's CNN Democratic presidential debate. What if Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had not voted against the Iraq supplemental appropriations bill week before last? If they had gone the other way, there's no question that John Edwards, with an assist from several other candidates, would have entered the debate as the avenging angel of antiwar Democrats, whose anger towards party members who voted for the supplemental has stayed white-hot. As it was, Edwards' fiery sword of righteousness on the war pretty much flamed out Sunday night, reduced as he was to flailing away at Clinton and Obama for not casting their votes more noisily. The difficulty of his position was best illustrated by Obama's quick rejoinder that Edwards' own antiwar leadership was "four-and-a-half years too late." And Edwards' efforts to separate himself from Clinton and Obama by deriding the "war on terror" (accurate as it is with respect to the terminology involved) is politically perilous, to say the least. There's been some talk, which is likely to pick up after the debate, that Edwards is struggling in the national polls, and in states like South Carolina and Florida where you would think he would have a bit of a regional advantage. I honestly don't know how much all that matters: it's generally conceded, even by the Edwards campaign, that he pretty much has to win the Iowa Caucuses to have a serious shot at the nomination. If he does win Iowa, he's sure to get a big bounce elsewhere, and so far, he's consistently doing better in polls in Iowa than in any other state. But it doesn't look like he's going to get a clear path to national preeminence by being the undisputed antiwar Democrat in the top tier.
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June 1, 2007

Permanent Bases In Iraq

There's been quite a buzz in the blogosphere and elsewhere recently about the likelihood that the Bush administration's ultimate fallback goal in Iraq is to establish permanent U.S. military bases, as a sort of shriveled imperial booby-prize for our disastrous policies towards that country. Sam Rosenfeld at TAPPED has a good summary of the latest talk. You'd think that maybe this was an issue nobody had noticed until recently. But I happen to remember that clearly and publicly abandoning any intention to set up permanent bases was one of the major recommendations made by Larry Diamond (an original opponent of the Iraq War, but whose unhappy service in the Provisional Coalition Authority made him suspect in some antiwar circles) in his 2005 book, Squandered Victory. As it happens, the DLC endorsed that position--not only opposing permanent bases, but making a clear, presidential renunciation of permanent bases a critical step in salvaging the disaster--at about the same time.I mention this very simply as a reminder of little-noticed Democratic unity on Iraq, obscured by the original decision to go to war; the more recent obsession with withdrawal deadlines; and the latest fight over troop funding and residual troop commitments after combat troops leave. The really big picture is that Republicans want to keep fighting this war and stay in Iraq forever; Democrats want to end the combat role very quickly and make it clear that any permanent military presence in Iraq is way out of bounds. Maybe that's not everybody's favorite way to draw the partisan lines on Iraq, but it's a pretty clear line--the line between fighting a war and supporting a quick transition, and the line between soon and forever.
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