Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has opened a big lead in national polling
for the Republican presidential nomination.
** IRAN MAKES MORE DIPLOMATIC MOVES, EYING THE “WOUNDED TIGER.” In addition to the forthcoming multilateral talks with the US on stabilizing the Iraq crisis — they say they are deciding whether to participate, but you know they’ll be there — the Iranians are making a number of other moves. For one, Iran will reopen a number of embassies in Latin America. Which could also be a provocative move, providing operating facilities for the skilled Iranian intelligence service. Firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under fire from multiple quarters at home on multiple fronts, will go to Saudi Arabia to discuss how the Shia power of Iran can work with the Sunni power of the Saudis, rather than be at crosspurposes, as they frequently are now.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, decidedly undead, has just criticized Ahmadinejad for being overly provocative, joining the resurgent former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the big winner in the recent elections for the religious oversight body called the national Assembly of Experts. Said Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative cleric who has frequently worked with Americans: “The Americans brought their troops with high spending to Iraq and Afghanistan. The only thing they did was to remove Iran’s enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. They are like a wounded tiger and we must not ignore this.”
** NUNEZ TO TESTIFY BEFORE U.S. SENATE ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who authored California’s landmark climate change bill last year with former LA Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, testifies tomorrow morning on the plan before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, now chaired by California’s Senator Barbara Boxer. He’ll discuss the hybrid regulatory/market-oriented approach being developed to implement the rollback of greenhouse gas emissions in the world’s fifth largest economy. Nunez has recently spoken about the bill at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he got quite a lot of attention, especially in the absence of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, then unable to fly long distances due to his skiing mishap, as well as the National Conference of State Legislatures.
** HILLARY AND OBAMA TO GO HEAD TO HEAD SUNDAY IN SELMA, ALABAMA. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will speak simultaneously in black churches just a half block apart on this coming Sunday, the 42nd anniversary of the bloody and pivotal civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. Then they will join civil rights veterans and others for a commemorative march over Edmund Pettus Bridge. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential frontrunner, and the Clinton Administration was very popular with African Americans. But the upstart Obama, despite his exotic background — son of a Kenyan Muslim father and a white woman, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii — that is outside the mainstream of the African American experience, is coming on fast. Clinton leads in the Southern primaries, but the black vote is very big, as much as 50% in the Alabama primary, which Jesse Jackson won in 1988.
** SAN FRANCISCO’S “BLOOD ALLEY” APPROACH TO GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE TO GET BIG BANG BONDS UPGRADE. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the state transportation commission has today adjusted its position on the allocation of the big infrastructure bonds package passed by California voters last November, and will provide major funding to upgrade the picturesque yet quite antiquated approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Assemblyman Mark Leno also put out a statement, saying that he had been assured yesterday by the director of the state transportation department that the matter would be taken care of. In that vein, as it were, NWN was also assured yesterday by an advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that, at least in future years, your host will be less likely to die while driving toward the Golden Gate. Such a relief.
Newsom outlined the issue in his statement: Today the California Transportation Committee voted to approve in $405 million in SHOPP funds to rebuild Doyle Drive. The span – which is close to 70 years old – has never been upgraded to cope with increased traffic, comply with modern traffic safety standards, or deal with seismic vulnerabilities. Doyle Drive is considered to have the highest level of seismic vulnerability of any major bridge approach in the state.
Doyle Drive is also the only major bridge that has an approach with no median barrier to keep cars from getting into head-on collisions. Simulation models show that if Doyle Drive were to be shut down due to earthquake damage, traffic would be brought to a crawl on all other major Bay Area bridges and bridge approaches.
** MARKETS BEGIN TO STABILIZE. Shanghai, which started the global flu epidemic on stock markets, gained some earlier, leading to a mild recovery on the New York stock exchange today.
** REPUBLICANS WANT TO MOVE UP NEVADA PRESIDENTIAL CAUCUS. With the Bush White House noting the wave of attention accorded last week’s Nevada Democratic presidential forum in Carson City, Nevada Republicans are now looking to move up their caucus, too. Just not as soon as the Democrats, who will hold the second-in-the-nation contest next January 19th.
** MCCAIN BEEFS UP FINANCIALLY. John McCain, trailing in private polls for the California Republican presidential primary behind Rudy Giuliani, announced a roster of 70 Californians on his national and state financial committees. Five are national finance co-chairs: Former Ambassador to Spain George Argyros, a billionaire real estate figure indicted a few years ago in Orange County, Donald Bren, longtime California billionaire and Republican powerhouse controlling the Orange County-based Irvine Company, John Chambers, head of Silicon Valley power Cisco Systems, Jerry Perenchio, the billionaire media mogul who controlled Univision, and Gary Shansby, an investment manager who built the consumers goods powerhouse Shaklee Corp. Other familiar names on the list include former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, former Governor Deukmejian chief of staff Steve Merksamer, and Marty Wilson, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fundraising overseer.
** CLINTON AND EDWARDS TO CALIFORNIA. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards will bring their presidential campaigns to California later this week.
** NEVADA DEMOCRATS NOT CAVING TO “NETROOTS.” It looks like that ballyhooed campaign by MoveOn.org and Daily Kos to force the Nevada Democratic Party to drop Fox News as it broadcast partner for the August Democratic presidential debate in Reno is not working.
** U.S. TO TALK WITH IRAN AND SYRIA ON IRAQ CRISIS.The US will formally engage in multilateral talks on settling the Iraq crisis in March and April with a number of nations in the Middle East, including two previously formally barred from talks with the US, Iran and Syria. Engagement with Iran and Syria on Iraq was one of the key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, much excoriated by the right and officially shunned by the Bush Administration, although back channel contacts have been underway throughout, as reported on NWN. Secretary of State Condi Rice acknowledged the obvious, yesterday telling senators: “This is one of the key findings, of course, of the Iraq Study Group, and it is an important dimension that many in the Congress have brought to our attention. We’ve listened, and I want you to know that.”
** CLINTON’S LEAD OVER OBAMA DIMINISHES, GIULIANI’S LEAD OVER MCCAIN GROWS. The new ABC/Washington Post poll shows some major early developments in the presidential race. This new poll shows that Rudy Giuliani’s 7-point lead over John McCain, 34% to 27%, has tripled, and the former New York mayor now leads the Arizona senator by a better than 2 to 1 ratio, 44% to 21%. Hillary Clinton’s lead over Barack Obama has diminished to 12 points, due to a surge of support for Obama among African American Democrats. Clinton led last month, 41% to 17%. Now her lead over Obama is 36% to 24%. Al Gore, who says he is not running, has 14%, and John Edwards is at 13%. With Gore out of the mix, Clinton gains the most, leading Obama 43% to 27%, with Edwards at 14%.
On the Democratic side, Obama has been drawing unusually large crowds, including 20,000 people in Austin, Texas last Friday afternoon in the rain. He leads Clinton on the measure of who is most inspirational. She, however, leads on the question of who is most experienced, most electable, the strongest leader, closest to the respondent on issues, and identifying most with the respondent. Most Democrats think Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War was appropriate at the time. Only about 12% of Democratic primary voters think she should apologize, a constant refrain from partisan bloggers.
The sharpest change in the race is on the Republican side, where Giuliani has expanded tremendously and McCain has wilted. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has not said he’s running, is at 15% in the poll, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, also wilting, at 4%. With Ginrich removed from the mix, Giuliani’s lead over McCain grows to a whopping 53% to 23%.
Giuliani is seen as the clear leader among Republicans as the strongest leader, most inspiring, and most electable. McCain has a slight edge as most experienced. McCain, who has been getting the brunt of the flak nationally for his role as leading supporter of the Iraq surge outside the White House, is hurt in the poll by his age, just as Romney is hurt by his religion, Mormonism.
** BILL RICHARDSON SAYS NO NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, the Democratic presidential candidate and former ambassador to the United Nations and US energy secretary, yesterday renewed the call for a positive campaign pledge he issued last week at the Nevada presidential forum in Carson City.
** Monitor computer memory prices on a daily basis. Prices are stable.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are in the $59 to $61 per barrel range, off of highs for the year to date on yesterday’s global stock market tumble, amidst some concern that a recession may be in the offing.