The End Of 9/11 Political Reporting, Perhaps

The Politico’s Ben Smith and David Paul Kuhn attempt the first major media post-mortem of the Rudy Giuliani campaign, and wind up revealing more about the media than the campaign. They claim the loss demonstrates the end of 9/11 politics, but that analysis misses a lot about what went right in the Giuliani campaign. It misses because the media never bothered to report anything beyond the superficial for more than a year:

Rudy Giuliani’s distant third-place finish in Florida may put an end to his bid for president, and it seems also to mark the beginning of the end of a period in Republican politics that began on Sept. 11, 2001.
Giuliani’s national celebrity was based on his steady, comforting appearance in Americans’ living rooms amid the terrorist attacks, and his campaign for president never found a message beyond that moment.
The emotional connection he forged that day, it seems, has proved politically worthless. After months of wonder that the former mayor seemed to have no ceiling to his support, he turned out to have no floor, trading fourth-place finishes with Ron Paul, a little-known Texas congressman.
“There’s a paradox for Rudy,” said former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, who was a member of the 9/11 Commission. “One of the things he did very well on 9/11 was say, ‘We’ve got to get back to normal.’ And that’s what’s happened. We’ve gotten back to normal.”

Those of us who have followed the campaign know the reasons behind the failure had nothing to do with 9/11 — because the campaign itself mostly avoided referencing it. The campaign lost its footing when the press began hyperventilating about a “scandal” from six years ago that even the New York Times later admitted was old news and represented no illegal conduct. It followed that with a poor decision to stop competing in the early states and allow the media to focus so much on his rivals that Giuliani became the Forgotten Man.
Only one televised ad featured 9/11, and then in the context of how Giuliani saw the city respond, not himself. Otherwise, outside of the glaring strategic error, Giuliani put together one of the most impressive teams of advisers ever seen in a presidential campaign. He had an administration ready to go on the Wednesday after the general election, a staff led by such notables as Charles Hill, Steve Forbes, Ted Olson, and many others.
Did the media report on this? No. They preferred to focus on the police-escort story from almost a decade ago, and to tie Rudy to 9/11 long after it became clear that his campaign wanted to minimize it as a theme.
Rudy has only himself to blame for losing the media’s focus over the last several weeks. However, the media has some introspection to do as well for having missed the positives of the Giuliani campaign, especially in its collection of poweful, talented thinkers.

The AOL Hot Seat: Did The DNC Damage Itself In Florida?

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Edwards Quits — One Woman Hardest Hit

Barack Obama may have received his biggest pre-Super Tuesday boost, but it didn’t come from an endorsement. John Edwards has decided to quit the presidential race today, ending his second populist bid in as many cycles. The removal of Edwards from the February 5th contests gives Democrats a chance to coalesce any anti-Hillary Clinton sentiment behind a single candidate:

Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters’ sympathies, The Associated Press has learned.
The two-time White House candidate notified a close circle of senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at a 1 p.m. EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty, according to two aides. The decision came after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals who stole the spotlight from the beginning — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
The former North Carolina senator will not immediately endorse either candidate in what is now a two-person race for the Democratic nomination, said one adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement.

Unlike other candidates who have dropped from contention, Edwards actually has a significant number of delegates. They can now vote for whomever they desire at the convention, although an Edwards endorsement will likely carry a lot of weight. However, the influence of Edwards goes well beyond delegate counts, and both of the remaining candidates know it.
Edwards has until now split the Hillary opposition with Barack Obama. His departure provides a single point of focus for those who resent the Clinton influence within the party — a faction that has grown, undoubtedly, after the nasty and mean-spirited campaigning of Bill Clinton over the last month. Democratic pundits and politicians alike have raised their voices against the Restoration, and now Obama personifies the opportunity to prevent it.
Edwards essentially has taken himself out of the middleman role. Hillary now has to contend with Obama by herself, with no one to run interference for her, on the eve of the closest thing we’ve ever had to a national primary. This could very well be the tipping point for the Clintons.

What Part Of Not Authorized Did Khalilzad Not Understand?

The State Department reacted angrily to the appearance of UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on a panel at the Davos Economic Forum, along with two members of the Iranian government. The US restricts diplomatic contacts with Iran and requires prior approval for any such interaction. Apparently, Khalilzad took it upon himself to make that decision:

An appearance by America’s U.N. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, on a World Economic Forum discussion panel — alongside two Iranian officials, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and a close aide to President Ahmadinejad, Samare Hashemi — was unauthorized by the State Department and angered Secretary of State Rice, Washington sources said yesterday.
The panel, titled “Understanding Iran’s Foreign Policy,” took place in Davos, Switzerland, and dealt mostly with Iran’s nuclear policy, just as Security Council diplomats — including America’s U.N. mission headed by Mr. Khalilzad — began to forge a new resolution that would impose new punitive measures on Iran for its refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program, as demanded by the council. …
The Bush administration policy, however, calls on all American officials to seek an authorization from the State Department before conducting dialogue with Iranian officials. The only person exempted from that restriction is the American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who can discuss Iraq-related issues with Iranian officials on a regular basis, according to a State Department official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mr. Khalilzad’s participation on the Davos panel was “not authorized,” the official told The New York Sun yesterday, after a videotaping of the event was posted on the Web site YouTube and made the rounds among diplomats at the United Nations.

According to Power Line, Khalilzad not only defied American policy, but let slide an opening comment that insulted his predecessor, John Bolton. The moderator noted in his effusive introduction of Khalilzad that among his outstanding qualities was “the further, really formidable advantage of having a name that is not John Bolton.” Regardless of whether Khalilzad had prior authorization, allowing the insult to Bolton to stand unchallenged represents an insult to the United States and a lack of testicular fortitude on the part of his replacement.
Some have offered Khalilzad as a Secretary of State in a future Republican administration. I’d say this scotches that as a possibility. If he can’t follow the rules and represent the foreign policy of the US, then he doesn’t deserve the appointment, and may not deserve the one he has now.
The video itself can be seen here:

I find it interesting that the Davos Economic Summit now makes its panel discussions public via YouTube. Three years ago, when Eason Jordan accused the US military of having a policy of assassinating journalists in war zones, Davos couldn’t be bothered to publish the video or audio of the actual remarks of the then-CNN vice president. I guess they find it easier to publish insults towards the American government.

Obama To Dems: Tear Down This Firewall!

Barack Obama got in some hot water in Nevada for making a mildly positive reference to Ronald Reagan, but he wants to win the nomination in part by emulating one of Reagan’s most well-known feats. Rather than publicly demand the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, though, Obama has set himself the task of tearing down Hillary Clinton’s last and most significant firewall — the superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention:

Bill Richardson’s phone has been ringing off the hook.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton called Sunday night, followed by her husband, and then Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Clinton backer. Sen. Barack Obama called twice Monday morning. Monday afternoon, Richardson spent 15 minutes on the phone with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
But the New Mexico governor, who dropped out of the presidential race after a dismal finish in the New Hampshire primary, is torn. “I have a history with the Clintons,” said Richardson, who served in the Clinton administration, first as ambassador to the United Nations, then as energy secretary. “And I’ve always liked her,” he said. But he considers Kennedy “a mentor” who helped to get him elected to Congress in 1982. He also likes Obama but remains undecided.
Obama allies are hoping to make Richardson take part in a stream of high-profile endorsements from Democratic Party leaders, who will help to dismantle what the Clinton campaign calls its “firewall” in the nomination battle: a clear advantage among superdelegates, who account for about a quarter of the total number of delegates who will determine the nominee.

This is what makes the Kennedy endorsements so powerful. They have enormous influence on a large part of the Democratic establishment, which broadens Obama’s efforts considerably. Where campaign operatives would have trouble getting serious talk time with people like Bill Richardson, he has to take Teddy’s calls, and he knows it.
Once again, this underscores the nature of the establishment. Kennedy represents the Old Left, and the Clintons the New Left. It gives the Kennedy faction an opportunity they have not had in sixteen years to turn the Democrats around and away from the DLC. Fueled by the remnants of the anti-war activists Kennedy has courted, they could make a serious run at the superdelegates and isolate the DLC faction — and Bill Clinton’s clod-like behavior on the stump can only help.
If Obama takes a lead in the superdelegates, Hillary will be in serious trouble. Superdelegates consists of about 16% of the entire delegate total, and a win there would be akin to taking California and New York combined. He could afford to lose a couple more states, and Hillary would be pressed to run the table. Even if she did win, a loss in superdelegates leaves her limping into a divided and potentially divisive convention, with a big vote of no confidence from the establishment she hopes to represent.

All Good Things Come To An End

Danny Glover has been a good friend to many of us in the blogosphere during his tenure at National Journal. I heard from him a while ago that he would soon move on from that position, and today will be the last day he updates what has been a vital Beltway blog. He posts his valediction at Beltway Blogroll this morning:

My tenure at National Journal ends tomorrow with the final issue of Technology Daily, where I served as the managing editor for six years before being promoted to the editorship in November 2006. Beltway Blogroll, a direct outgrowth of the interest I developed in politics and technology while at Tech Daily, will cease publication at the same time.
Its death is by no means sudden. I started Beltway Blogroll and a companion column for NationalJournal.com in June 2005 with the goal in mind of proving that blogs would quickly gain power in policy circles inside the Beltway, just like they did in the political realm in 2004. Mission accomplished.
If you doubt it, take a look at the blogroll to your left. It is at least twice as large as when I started Beltway Blogroll — and inside-the-Beltway blogs are started with such frequency now that I long ago stopped trying to find them all. That’s especially true of the “mainstream blogosphere” occupied by professional journalists. Why do so many of them blog now? Because that’s what more and more people in Washington read.
The proof of blog power abounds: regular blogger conference calls and briefings by politicians, think tanks and trade groups; bloggers who work for presidential campaigns and other candidates; bloggers who have infiltrated mainstream newsrooms or who write columns for major publications; and the achievements go on.

Be sure to read it all. Danny has chronicled a dizzying array of stories during his tenure at BB, and worked hard to fairly capture the essence of Beltway blogging about them. We will miss his tireless work and trenchant analysis, as well as his inherent fairness.
Fortunately, Danny will remain in the blogosphere at Air Congress. With any luck, he’ll pick up there right where he leaves off today. Join me in wishing my friend Danny “Not The Actor” Glover all the best.

Why Is Obama Popular With 527s?

He says he doesn’t like them, and he says he doesn’t need them. In fact, Barack Obama regularly criticizes the operations and the influence of 527s, scolding John Edwards and Hillary Clinton for their attraction to the outside political groups. But as the New York Times points out, Obama has become attractive to them as well, and benefits significantly from their assistance:

After months of denouncing the influence of special-interest money in politics, Senator Barack Obama is nonetheless entering a critical phase of the presidential campaign benefiting from millions of dollars being spent outside campaign finance rules.
Mr. Obama has repudiated a California group, Vote Hope, that is working on his behalf. But it has pressed on and, along with a sister organization called PowerPac.org, is planning to spend up to $4 million promoting him in California and conducting voter registration drives aimed at blacks in 11 Southern states.
The group has already run radio advertisements with local ministers in South Carolina. New advertisements, some for television, have been prepared for California, one with the rap star Common and others focusing on black and Latino voters.
As the campaign treasuries of Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are rapidly draining heading into the nominating contests in more than 20 states on Tuesday, independent political groups — whether so-called 527 groups, political action committees, nonprofit organizations or trade unions — are stepping in to help fill the void. The efforts of these groups, particularly 527s, which are named for a section of the tax code under which they fall, worry campaign finance watchdogs because many can take unlimited contributions from donors and have limited oversight.

Voters should ask why 527s exist in the first place. They grew in the dark, like fungus, from the peculiarities of campaign finance legislation — the kind espoused by the same watchdogs worried now about their influence. The crusaders tried to chase money out of the process by limiting donations and classifying cash as “hard” and “soft”, forcing people who wanted to contribute to the process to find other vehicles for their political activism.
Now that money gets raised and spent outside of the control of the campaigns and the political parties. That reduces the accountability for both functions, creating risks for candidates as well as some legal firewalls. If a 527 breaks the law, lies about an opponent, or acts unethically in some other manner, the candidate can claim some separation from its operations, but it still does plenty of political damage to the campaign. The entire process encourages dirty politics while limiting the ability of the principals to put a stop to it or for the voters to hold them accountable for their actions.
It also allows candidates like Obama to lament the existence of 527s while benefiting from their work. Obama, Edwards, and Clinton all served in the Senate, and Obama and Clinton still do. If they wanted to eliminate 527s, they could have proposed their elimination. Better yet, they could have demanded an end to three decades of futility on campaign-finance reform and instead focus on removing limits in favor of immediate and full disclosure of all donations and expenditures, allowing the voters to determine for themselves whether the funding sources represent their interests. All we have done in 34 years since Watergate is further obfuscate the money trails and the accountability.
We’ve heard enough laments about 527s and their operations. If Senators running for the Presidency haven’t introduced bills that eliminate the problem by this time, then they’re simply not serious about the problem.

On Closed Primaries

A number of commenters in my threads from Florida’s primary seem confused about what a closed primary means, and what its limits are. Michelle Malkin and Flip Pidot also blogged about this overnight, but miss the point of exit polling showing voter inclinations and not actual registration. Having lived most of my life in closed-primary states, I can tell CapQ readers that the exit polling should surprise no one.
Florida’s rules on primary voting and registration are clear:

Florida is a closed primary election state. That means, only voters who are registered members of the two major political parties (Democrats and Republicans) may vote in a primary election for partisan candidates. Registered minor political party voters and voters who register without a party affiliation are not eligible to voter for major party candidates in a primary election. However, if all candidates for an office in an election have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, all qualified voters, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in the primary election. Also regardless of party affiliation, all registered voters can vote on issues and non-partisan candidates.

Closed-primary states typically prepare three ballots for their primary elections: Democrats, Republicans, and non-partisan. When a voter comes to the polling center, their listing carries their registration, and they receive the applicable ballot. That way, the state and the political parties can assure themselves that only registered Republicans even see the Republican candidates on the ballot, Democrats likewise, and independents and minor-party candidates only see the non-partisan races and initiatives.
This depends on registration, of course. Florida requires any registration changes to take place at least 29 days before an election. In my experience in California, independents would often re-register as either Democrats or Republicans in order to participate in primaries, and then re-register again as independents for the general election. It’s perfectly legal, and it is part of the normal primary process. Most of the time it makes no difference at all, because most primaries of late have not had the same wide-open quality of this one after the first three or four states.
In this case, exit polls show “party identification” statistics that put 20% of the voters outside of the Republican Party. That’s their stated personal identification, not their actual party registration for last night’s primaries. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature, and it’s unavoidable — unless major parties want to stop re-registering voters altogether. I’m actually a little surprised that only 3% of the vote came from re-registered Democrats, considering the uselessness of their own primary this year, which still attracted over 1.6 million voters to the 1.8 million who voted in the GOP contest. Three percent of that vote would have been 54,000 voters, and yet McCain won by almost 100,000.
Republicans need to look elsewhere for answers. No one robbed us of a closed primary in Florida. Even among self-identified Republicans in this exit poll split equally between McCain and Romney, so it isn’t as if Republicans didn’t significantly support the winner of this contest.

An Impressive Win

With more than two-thirds of the precincts reporting, John McCain has won an impressive victory in Florida’s Republican primary. Many people questioned whether Senator McCain could win a closed GOP contest, as up to now he had won in New Hampshire and South Carolina through the assistance of crossover voting from Democrats and independents. Those questions have now been answered, at least in Florida.
What does this mean for the Super Tuesday contests coming up in a week? It appears that the race has narrowed down to McCain and Romney. McCain will enter February 5th with more delegates, but only 10% of what he needs to win the nomination. He will have a great deal of momentum and credibility, and Romney will have relinquished some. Almost certainly, McCain becomes the favorite to win the nomination.
However, Romney has a better national organization and more resources to run in 21 states simultaneously. He can negate some of the momentum and make this a delegate chase, and could very possibly come out of next week with a delegate lead. It won’t be easy, especially since the McCain win in Florida will only bolster McCain’s lead in the coastal states.
If the race really does come down to McCain and Romney, then Romney could also benefit from conservative disaffection with McCain. In the GOP, there exists a very real resistance to McCain, and that could find itself focusing on Romney as the anti-McCain. It’s not the most positive phenomenon, but Romney may find it essential for a national victory.
Rudy Giuliani may hold the key. Rumors have floated that Giuliani will withdraw and endorse McCain. If he does, that may be enough to push McCain even further towards inevitability — or it may not have any effect at all. Rudy’s speech in Florida strongly hinted that he has come to the end of the road. If so, we will know soon; the Republicans will debate in California tomorrow night, and Rudy won’t bother to appear unless he plans to contest elections on Super Tuesday.
At least for this evening, John McCain deserves some accolades. He hung tough and showed he could beat the field in a closed primary, and not by an insignificant amount, as his vote gap over Romney already exceeds 70,000.
UPDATE: McCain, in his victory speech, made a very clear attempt to be gracious towards all of the candidates, including Romney, and reach out to Reagan-coalition conservatives. Rumor has it that McCain is considering a visit to CPAC next week. I hope he does make an appearance there and speak as honestly and forthrightly about his candidacy with the foot soldiers of conservative activism. If he does win the nomination, he will need those activists behind him.
UPDATE II: He also insists that judges must understand their limited role in applying law and not creating policy. I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t get added after the John Fund article.

Florida Live Blog (Update: McCain Wins)

Some of Florida’s polls will begin closing in a few minutes, but don’t expect any reports until after all the polls have closed at 8 pm ET. Some exit polling has already gotten published, but nothing conclusive; Jim Geraghty has the data, but it won’t provide much clarity. One interesting datapoint: Florida officials apparently believe that one-third of the vote will come from absentee ballots.
More coming — keep checking for updates, which will appear in reverse chronological order…
8:57 and Final – McCain wins an impressive victory. Did Democrats help? No. Despite some speculation that voters would re-register to cast spoiler votes in the Republican primary, Democrats cast 1.4 million votes in their own primary with 76% of precincts reporting. That’s about the same as the Republicans.
8:21 – Rudy Giuliani sounds like he’s giving a valediction, and he’s talking about his honorable opponents. He jokes about Ron Paul winning all the debates. He’s also talking about the responsibility of leadership being the continuance of the fight, but not necessarily in an election. Now he’s talking about running an “uplifting” campaign — in the past tense. He’s out.
8:19 – It’s getting wider now. McCain has a five-point gap with 62% of the precincts reporting.
8:11 – Fox calls it for John McCain, and that sounds right at this point. It should be a significant move for McCain.
8:06 – I’m about to go on air with Jack Riccardi. McCain has a four-point lead. Giuliani is about to go on air, but it’s unclear what he’ll say.
7:54 – Rudy to endorse McCain? That’s what Time’s Mark Helperin reports, via Jim Geraghty.
7:51 – McCain now has a 40,000-vote lead with 46% of the vote in the books. This is beginning to look insurmountable. If I were in McCain’s bus, I’d be preparing the champagne.
7:45 – On with Rick Moran at the moment. McCain up by three, and Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade still not reporting.
7:35 – Computer problems had me shut down for a little while, but not much changed in the meantime. With 38% in, McCain has 23,000 votes more than Mitt and a 2-point lead.
7:09 – CNN’s exit poll didn’t ask for conservative-moderate-liberal affiliation, so we won’t get that kind of data from it. Romney just caught up to within a point with 28% reporting; looks like something big’s coming in for Mitt.
7:05 – Still a three-point McCain lead with 22% of the precincts reporting, but the panhandle could have some surprises. Rudy Giuliani still says he will participate in tomorrow night’s debate in California, but it’s hard to see him elbowing his way into the race.
7:00 – CNN’s exit poll shows 49% of Florida voters being senior citizens. That has to help McCain.
6:59 – Polls closing. McCain still leading, although Fox says that Romney did better among absentee voters.
6:55 – With 15% in, McCain is increasing his lead. He has a 20,000-vote gap and a four-point lead. It’s the first figure that should be worrying the Romney camp.
6:49 – With 12% reporting, McCain still up by 3% and 13,000 votes. Could be trouble for Romney ….
6:44- Something just broke big for McCain. He’s up 4% and 13,000 votes with 9% reporting.
6:39 – With 7%, the race is still too close to call, with McCain leading by a single point. However, Giuliani clearly will finish out of the running in either third or fourth. He’s still only getting 17%, and that’s been very constant. He’s ahead of Huckabee by four, but the panhandle may change that. Ron Paul is a nonexistent 3%.
6:35 – Putnam County’s electronic machines will cause a delay in the reporting. Lovely.
6:33 – And just like that, Romney grabs the lead by 100. Should be lots of fun tonight!
6:31 – With roughly a hundred twenty thousand votes counted, McCain leads — by 1200. That’s good enough for a one-point lead with 3% of the precincts reporting.
6:26 – Romney pops into the lead momentarily, but it’s way too early. This will change several times over the course of the evening.
6:24 – Here’s a potential problem for McCain — the exit poll at Fox has him only leading Romney among veterans by a single point, 37-36.
6:21 – More Fox exit polling; Romney scored 40-25 over McCain with self-identified conservatives; McCain cleaning up among seniors and Hispanics.
6:16 – First few precincts coming in, and no big surprises yet. McCain has a four-point lead over Romney, and Giuliani is twelve points back. It’s with less than 12,000 votes counted, though.
6:06 – Fox has started sharing their exit-poll results and they have a few interesting results. 43% felt that Charlie Crist’s endorsement was important, and the plurality of those went with McCain. However, 500,000 voters cast their ballots before the endorsement. Those making up their minds today broke 38%-37% for Romney. Giuliani voters chose Romney as their second choice, indicating that Romney might get a boost from those abandoning Rudy, but it was only by 3 points over McCain.
In other words, still super tight.