Friday, February 29, 2008

State DOT...

Gov. Rell has used her annual budget address before the General Assembly to announce at least one big surprise each year since she took office. This year's surprise was her proposal to split the Department of Transportation into two new agencies, seperating road work from other DOT functions and oversight.

Today, she said that might not necessaily mean separate agencies, but possibly two distinct department functions within one agency. But isn't that what we have now? And isn't that what everyone agrees is broken and needs to be fixed?

In an editorial a couple of weeks ago taking a closer look at the governor's budget proposal, we suggested that although everyone agrees that DOT needs to be addressed, the governor's proposal isn't something that lawmakers should focus on this year, particularly in the short session.

Seems the governor now thinks so as well. She said today she is putting together a group to look at the matter and see how best it can be implemented.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More random thoughts....

Part of my job as Editorial Page Editor includes selecting the columns that appear on the Opinion page of the paper. This afternoon I just read the George Will and Kathleen Parker columns that will be published in the coming days -- both columns talking about William F. Buckley who died yesterday.

I met Buckley once. It was the summer of 2000 in Stamford. Al Gore had just selected Joe Lieberman to be his running mate and the announcement was made the day before, and Gore and Lieberman came to Stamford to repeat the announcement here I was there to cover the event. I was standing in the roped off area set up for the press when a I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. It was Buckley, bigger than life. "Excuse me," he said, "but would this be the press area?"

I told him it was and he asked if I would mind if he joined me . Me, mind?

Our brief encounter lasted maybe five minutes, with him doing most of the talking and me just listening -- with this stupid grin on my face. I was a frequent viewer to his many TV appearences over the years and never tired of listening to him talk -- even though I will admit that half the time I had no clue what he was saying. (In her column, Parker said that she hopes there are dictionaries in heaven.) But it was a joy just listening to him talk and that must have shown during our brief discussion.

At one point he asked me if he had said something amusing.

I told him I wasn't really sure a lot of the time what he was saying, but I was just honored and pleased to have had the opportunity of having him say it to me.

Random thoughts on a Thursday...

Time magazine made a interesting observation regarding this issue of experience that has been talked about quite a bit in the presidential campaigns -- one might argue that a president i their second term would be more effective having had the "experience" of a first term. Yet, second term presidents rarely match the effectiveness of their first terms. So how important is experience?

Hillary Clinton's campaign will announced $35 million raised in February -- her biggest fund raising month to date.

Barack Obama's campaign is outspending Clinton by margins of 4-1 and 3-1 in Texas and Ohio.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another endorsement coming?

It seems that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson may be the next ex-Democratic presidential hopeful to jump on someone's bandwagon -- and maybe as early as this week.

Richardson's endorsement is both interesting as well as significant. (Maybe even a bit more significant than Chris Dodd's decision to endorse). That's because, and I still believe this, Richardson is probably the best vice presidential candidate for the Democrats at this point.

He is the highest elected Hispanic in the nation, and Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the population - and a key facotr in Democratic blocks. His resume, in all honesty, is better than any of the Democratic candidates who got into the race. If there is one drawback to selecting him as the number two candidate, it is that it presents a ticket of two "firsts" -- the first black/woman and the first Hispanic to run on a national ticket.

Is America ready for that kind of change in one fell swoop?

He has close ties to the Clinton's, however, that relationship was strained during the campaign.

So...if he does, who does he support?

And does that make him the odds on favorite for the vp spot if he chooses right?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dodd endorses Obama...

It probably doesn't do a lot in terms of votes in the upcoming primaries, but it surely indicates a trend.

Dodd was one of the uncommitted super delegates and a long time friend of the Clintons. His decision to backher rival is a pretty clear indication where the party is now leaning. Party leaders want this over, and over sooner rather than later.

In yesterday's posting I suggested that Clinton would drop out on March 5 if she didn't win Ohio and Texas - and win by at least 20 percentage points or more.

Her only hope of still snagging the nomination is through the super delegates and seating the Wisconsin and Michigan delegations. Without both of those things happening, she can't gain enough of a delegate advantage in the remaining contests to make the argument that she deserves the nomination.

Over the last two weeks, five super delegates who were committed to her have jumped ship and are now backing Obama. Now, Dodd is heading in that direction. The handwriting is on the wall.

The pressure will be on after the March 4 contests for her to step aside "for the good of the party."

And...I think she will.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The beginning to the end....

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama take to the stage in what might very well be their last debate tomorrow night in Ohio.

But the real news of the day is coming from Texas where early voting is under way for the March 4 showdown. More than 65,000 votes were cast on the first day of early voting (that's something like casting an absentee ballot for us), including some 1,000 students from an all Black college (who reportedly marched seven miles to the nearest location to cast ballots.)

Polls coming from Texas suggest its a toss up, Clinton and Obama tied.

It's not enough that Clinton wins Texas (and Ohio) next week, she needs to win by a substantial margin inorder to pick up enough delegates to start closing the gap between her and Obama.

If Texas and Ohio are not "huge" wins in terms of votes cast and delegates earned, I think she's bow out on March 5.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Texas debate...

If there was ever any doubt as to how important Hillary Clinton has made Texas, one only has to look at last night's debate.

Throughout the debate, she made every effort to re-energize her campaign. And, she did it without tearing down her rival, Barack Obama -- but at the same time, she didn't go light him, either.

The telling point, however, came at the conclusion. Her line about no matter how it turns out, "We'll be fine," was the perfect ending -- and not just for the end of the debate. It was a signal from Clinton that she knows a loss in Texas (or Ohio) on March 4, and its over.

For Obama, the end of the first leg of this race is now insight. One more victory is all he needs.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Walking a fine line....

Elected officials, including presidents, have to walk a fine line at times -- and no one is walking a finer line right now than Hillary Clinton. She's lost 10 straight primary and caucus contests to Barack Obama and the betting is that if she loses either Texas or Ohio on March 4, it's all over.

Tonight Clinton and Obama square off in a debate in Texas. It will be televised on CNN. And it ought to be a beauty.

Clinton desperately needs to score a victory. The question is how? Does she come up guns ablazing against her rival, or does she assume the appearence of a calm, cool leader under pressure?

I think it's fair to say a lot of folks are taking a closer look at her now, some wondering what happened and others wondering what she'll do next. How well she performs tonight will pretty much tell us whether she has any chance left to right a sinking ship.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't count Clinton out just yet

Tuesday's victories in Wisconsin and Hawaii -- both expected -- by Barack Obama clearly have the Cllinton camp on the ropes. But can he deliver the knock out punch in Texas or Ohio in the next round? Or will she rebound and push this contest to future rounds in April, May, June -- or August at the convention.

Between now and the March 4 primaries, the two have two debates scheduled. And I doubt that Clinton is going to throw the towel in. She also has the superdelegates she's been courting, and the whole issue of Florida and Michigan.

She didn't come this far to lose without a fight.

But right now, it's safe to say that the only person who could stop Obama from winning is Obama.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wisconsin up next

And so is Hawaii, both states holding primaries tomorrow, but it's
Wisconsin that plays the major role here.

NY Sen. Hillary Clinton left the state early this morning, cancelling several events and pretty much signalling that she doesn't expect to win.And she has good reason for that.

Wisconsin is an "open primary" state. And what that means is, voters there do not register under any particular party designation. Citizens of Wisconsin are either "registered" or they're "not registered." And every registered voter is eligible to vote. That opens the door for independents -- good news for the Likes of IL Sen. Barack Obama and AZ Sen. John McCain. (In fact, with the GOP contest pretty much decided, it would be possible for Republican -leaning voters to opt to vote in the Democratic primary -- and that would certainly throw a monkey wrench into things.)

Anyway, it looks like Obama and McCain should coast to fairly easy wins tomorrow. That would be 10 state wins for Obama compard to none for Clinton since the Feb. 5 contests.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Are we nearing the end?

We may very well be.

Latest reportswould seem to suggest -- and maybe strongly -- that Illinois Sen. Barack Obam's momentum surge might becoming something that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton willnot be able to stop. Here's what I'm talking about:

1. The next two Democratic primaries -- coming up Tuesday -- are Wisconsin and Hawaii. Obama is leading in the polls in Wisconsin, and he was born in Hawaii and is expected to win there. That would be 10 straight victories.

2. A new American Research Group poll shows Obama taking the lead in Texas (one of two key March 4 contests that Clinton MUST win. (The other is Ohio.)

3. The Service Employees Union, one of the largest and most active within the Democratic Party, has decided to throw its support behind Obama. That gives him great organization support in both Texas and Ohio going into the March 4 primaris.

4. And finally, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, an elder statesman of the civil rights movement, and one of Clinton's most prominent black supporters, said yesterday that he will cast his super delegate vote for Obama, according to the New York Times.

If all of that happens, it's over.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Under the heading strange bedfellows...

According to ABC News, Mitt Romneyhas decided to endorse John McCain, and will urge his supporters and delegates committed to him, to back the Arizona seantor in the hopes of inching him closer to the GOP nod.

No one needs to be reminded of just how much these two differed on the issues during the course of the campaign. To put it frankly, they weren't the best of friends.

But for Romney, Mike Huckabee was the bigger problem. Huckabee's decision to stay in the race took votes away from Romney, forcing the former Massachusetts governor to bow out when the handwritiing appeared on the wall.

And now, he's throwing his support behind his chief rival -- McCain.

It's the second smart move Romney has made in preserving his options to make another run for the presidency in the future. The fact is, McCain is no show-in this November. he might win, but he might also lose. If he does lose, that creates an opening in 2012 for a GOP challenger to the Democratic incumbent. Romney can now go back to the Republican rank and file and make the argument, I got out of the race when it was time to get out. I didn't stay in to create a problem for our nominee...and I threw my support behind him.

That could potentially win Romney the kind of GOP backing he was trying so hard to win this year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama on the move....

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is certainly enjoying the month of February as he sweeps the primary and caucus battles scheduled this month. That's not very surprising....he was suppose to do well this month. The question now is, can he capitalize on this momentum and carrying it into March where Clinton is expected to do as good - particularly in Ohio and Texas on March 4.

If Obama can stage an upset in either one of those two states, this race finally comes to an end. If not, the seesaw battle of delegates wages on to Pennsylvania in late April -- where Clinton once again would appear to have the edge.

There's been a lot of talk lately about the role of the super Delegates in the process. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to two of the uncommitted Super Delegates -- our own 2nd District Congressman Joe Courtney and Illinois Congress Rahm Emanuel. They have an interesting take on that. But that is the subject of my Hackett on Politics column this coming Sunday, so I'm afraid I'll have to make you wait until then to read that.

Friday, February 08, 2008

366...A magic number....

That's the total number of delegates from the states of Florida (210) and Michigan (166) to the Democratic nomination. But of course, right now -- they total zero. Florida and Michigan's delegates were stripped by the Democratic National Committee for violating committee rules when they moved their primaries up to January.

Clinton won the Michigan and Florida primaries, doing little campaigning in Michgian a bit more in Florida while Obama abided by the party rules andstayed out of both contests.

Clinton is now arguing in favor of seating the two state delegations (expecting of course that she would be the beneficiary of the votes they would cast) while Obama wants the DNC to hold firm on its original decision to penalize both states.

It is just the latest turmoil to rattle the Democrats as they try and take back the White House, and the decision on this one will likely create a lot of bad blood and hurt feelings -- neither of which is a good thing for the nominee heading into the general election against john McCain.

It is amazing how the Democrats always seem to come up with some sure fire way of shooting themselves in the foot.

Have a good weekend....

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The role of super delegates....

A Super Delegate, on the Democratic side, is basically a political insider. They are the Democratic members of Congress, state party leadersand state elected officials and local national committee members.

How important are they in choosing the Democratic nominee? This year - they WILL choose the nominee.

Right now, given how close the Obama and Clinton battles have been, there is every reason to believe that the remaining 24 state contests are, for the most part, going to be as close with both sides continuing to pick up delegates on a fairly equal basis. That means, it is impossible for either Obama or Clinton to win enough delegates on their own to lock up the nomination.

So the Super Delegates, who are not bound by how the candidates fared in their state contests, will decide which of the two will be the nominee -- and they choose anyone they want.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Voting day....

And voters seems to being out in force.

The not-so-nice weather isn't a factor in today's voting, not here in Connecticut where it's rainy although warmer than usual, nor across the midwest were snow storms and really cold temperatures are hovering.

It's expected today's turnout in Connecticut will surpass the 42 percent showing in the 2006 U.S. Senate Democratic primary. That shouldn't be too surprising given that we have both Democratic and Republican contests being waged -- at least it's a bit more of a contest on the Democratic side.

But it is nice to see the crowds at the polling places.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Hartford for the opening of the legislative session. I'll likely spend a good part of the day there.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What to look for Tuesday....

For what it's worth, here are the key states to look at tomorrow to get a real sense of how well things are going for the two Democratic presidential contenders.

Connecticut is important. As is neighboring Massachusetts. It has long been believed that Hillary Clinton controlled the northeast, and she will likely do very well in New York and New Jersey. The question is, can Obama increase his momentum by making a strong showing in the northeast -- Hillary's backyard of Connecticut and Massachusetts. A win in either state (or both) for Obama sends a strong message. A close second place finish will likely result in the delegates from both states being evenly divided -- and that's a plus for Obama as well.

California is obviously the most important contest Tuesday. It is again expected that Clinton will win. An Obama victory would be a major setback for Clinton. But also remember, there are 53 congressional districts in California, and three delegates will be selected from each district. (The remaining 11 state delegates will be divided based on the ovall statewide results.) If Obama wins only half of the state's congressional districts, and does well in the other half, the two candidates will again split the delegation.

The real telling point, in my opinion, will be the results our of Missouri. It's a toss-up state, neither candidate having an advantage over the other. I think the winner of Missouri is the one who will ultimately end up being the party's nominee.

For what it's worth...

Friday, February 01, 2008

It's anybody's game on the Dem side

A new poll today -- SurveyUSA - of Connecticut voters shows Barack Obama leading Hillary Clinton 48--44 percent. But with a margin of error of 3.8 percent, that's a tie. More interesting is that 29 percent of those polled said they may yet change their minds.

On the Republican side, John McCain holds a healthy lead over Mitt Romney, 53-31.

The air war....

Had enough of the political TV commercials? We here in Connecticut really haven't seen anything.

According to a University of Wisconsin study released today, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates has aired over 151,000 TV commercials up through this past Sunday. In terms of dollars, that represents more than $107 million spent on advertising so far. (Democrats out did Republicans - 83,000 commercial to 67,000.)

Not surprising, GOP contender Mitt Romney leads the pack with 35,000 of his commercials valued at nearly $29 million -- more than all the other GOP contenders combined.

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are not far behind. Obama has aired almost 30,000 commercials worth $23 million compared to Clinton's 25,500 worth more than $18 million.

All the other candidates lagged well behind those three.

And what may be really surprising is that most of that comes from the early primary states campaigning....Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina and Florida. The candidates have only really just started airing ads in the Super Tuesday states this past week.

Here's a breakdown of the university study looking at every candidate, the number of ads aired and the money spent through Sunday. Jan. 27:

Candidate Spots Spending
BIDEN 3165 $1,800,000
CLINTON 25,562 18,7000,000
DODD 4028 1,800,000
EDWARDS 14,732 8,300,000
KUCINICH 27 7,000
OBAMA 29,866 22,700,000
RICHARDSON 5936 4,200,000

DEM TOTAL 83,320 57,000,000

Candidate Spots Spending
GIULIANI 6856 5,6000,000
HUCKABEE 5831 2,600,000
HUNTER 114 68,000
MCCAIN 10,830 8,000,000
PAUL 5215 2,800,000
ROMNEY 34,821 29,000,000
THOMPSON 4032 2,200,000
TANCREDO 99 160,000

GOP TOTAL 67,798 50,000,000