Today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday. This state holiday in California is commemorated
here with this United Farm Workers video featuring the comments of Robert F. Kennedy,
Edward James Olmos, Martin Sheen and music of Santana.
** CESAR CHAVEZ DAY. Today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday, a state holiday in California and several other states. Chavez, of course, was the co-founder (with Dolores Huerta) and longtime president of the United Farm Workers union. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has become, to the surprise of quite a few people but not NWN, a friend of the farmworkers union, was at Cesar Chavez High School in Delano (southern Central Valley, near Bakersfield) on Thursday with members of the Chavez family to present a portrait of the late Latino civil rights leader. A few of the students passed out during the ceremony. It was probably more the heat than the excitement. Sorry, Governor, it probably wasn’t the prospect of True Lies 2.
** BEATTY BIRTHDAY REDUX. I had a long talk this afternoon with New York-based Warren Beatty biographer Peter Biskind, on the occasion of the longtime movie star/director/writer/producer/politico’s 70th birthday. We agreed that Beatty, who still looks great, turning 70 means that none of us — meaning me — are 24 anymore. Biskind is one of the top film writers in the world, having been, among other things, editor of Premiere magazine when that was the key movie magazine, and is the author of the seminal book on the “New Hollywood” cinema of the 1970s — which Beatty’s classic Bonnie & Clyde did much to usher into being back in 1967 — “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.” He is the main movie writer for Vanity Fair. His biography of the elusive Beatty, the only Golden Globe winner in each of the past five decades, will be done, ah, sometime in this decade. Incidentally, Jack Nicholson, Beatty’s longtime pal and running mate, turns 70 next month.
So influential was the rather anti-heroic New Hollywood approach to cinema in its time that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, then an immigrant bodybuilder trying to break into Hollywood, aspired for a long period of time to being a serious dramatic actor, in the vein of Dustin Hoffman. Picture that. He became friendly with Beatty, who was a role model for Schwarzenegger in terms of controlling a Hollywood career, and Nicholson, who turned Schwarzenegger on to a famous acting coach and was instrumental in his being cast in his first real Hollywood picture, Stay Hungry, for which Schwarzenegger won a Golden Globe as best newcomer. (Ironic, given Beatty and wife Annette Bening’s leading role in torpedoing Schwarzenegger’s ill-fated “Year of Reform” special election initiative agenda in 2005.) But that, as we say, is a story for another time. Beatty, incidentally, has known California First Lady Maria Shriver since she began talking. He was President John F. Kennedy’s personal choice to play him in PT-109 which, with typical yet ever courtly cheek, Beatty turned down.
** CALDERON ACKNOWLEDGES TROUBLE CHANGING CALIFORNIA TERM LIMITS. LA area state Senator Ron Calderon, chairman of the Senate Elections Committee and author of the law authorizing the new early California Presidential primary, acknowledges that it will be difficult to change the state’s term limits law. The law, narrowly passed in 1990, has become entrenched since then. It currently allows a total of 14 years in legislative service, a maximum of only six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate. An initiative backed by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez would drop the overall limit to 12 years, but allow all 12 years to be served in one house, grandfathering several current members, such as Senate leader Don Perata, into even longer terms. Calderon acknowledges that the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll released yesterday shows that it will be difficult to pass that initiative next year. He suggests that the current term limits law be challenged in court, by a termed out member of the Legislature. Actually, that already happened, several years ago. I don’t remember the year, but then state Assemblyman Tom Bates challenged the existing term limits law. He is now the mayor of Berkeley.
** WEBB IN L.A. Virginia Senator Jim Webb, the former U.S. Navy secretary in the Reagan Administration whose victory in November gave the Democrats their narrow majority in the U.S. Senate, appears this Sunday at a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer. The place? Billionaire Ron Burkle’s LA estate, Green Acres, site of last Saturda night’s hugely successful fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. Boxer, whose seat is not up again until 2010, seems to be hearing the ever so light footsteps of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Webb, one of the most highly decorated Marine combat officers of the Vietnam War, delivered the memorable Democratic rebuttal to the State of the Union address in January and is a hot ticket around the country.
** WARREN BEATTY BIRTHDAY.Hard though it is to believe, old New West friend Warren Beatty is 70 today. There is far too much to say about this guy. So let us suffice by noting that he and wife Annette Bening are in a desert city which figures very prominently in our presidential politics now, founded by a character he memorably portrayed. The fun never sets, and the classic Beatles tunes roll all the time.
** SPRING BREAK! The California Legislature, having accomplished tremendous things — uh, like what? (Ed.) — is off on spring break for more than a week.
** BLAIR WON’T NEGOTIATE. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, nearing the end of a decade in the office, won’t negotiate with Iranian radicals over the release of the 15 British sailors and marines seized a week ago in the Persian Gulf after they inspected a merchant ship under the guidelines established by the UN Security Council. Iran reneged on an earlier commitment by its foreign minister to release the only woman among the 15 Brits seized by naval elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Instead, the Islamic republic released more showcase video of her, this time with her calling for American and British forces to leave Iraq. A sentimennt obviously written for her by her Iranian captors.
Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, not in Armani, hooks up
with Donald Trump.
The new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll is very good news for the Democratic and Republican frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. It’s actually good times in the Golden State for the two most famous representatives of the Empire State.
The former New York mayor and acclaimed 9/11 figure Giuliani has a big lead in the Republican primary over John McCain and others. He’s sitting at 33%, while John McCain is at 19% and the slow-starting Mitt Romney, despite oodles of publicity, is at 7%. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 14%, but he’s not a declared candidate, despite his active schedule and somewhat active fundraising. (He’s raised about two million bucks for a personal PAC.)
Current New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton is also in a strong position, though not as strong as Giuliani’s, in the Democratic primary. She leads rookie phenom Barack Obama — who has twice drawn huge crowds to rallies in Oakland and LA — 35% to 24%. She also raised $2.6 million at a fundraiser at billionaire Ron Burkle’s famed (think Myrna Loy) Green Acres estate in LA last weekend, which I believe is an all-time record for a presidential campaign fundraiser at a private home in California.
The plucky John Edwards, who would be giving Clinton fits right about now had Obama not emerged late last year and early this year, is third with 14%. And New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, in some ways the best qualified of the candidates — two-time landslide winner as governor in a swing state, renowned global trouble-shooter, veteran ex-congressman/House Intelligence Committee member and holder of two Cabinet posts in the Clinton Administration: UN Ambassador and Secretary of Energy — is slowly but steadily emerging from the land of the asterisks, running fourth now with 6%.
In Obama and Richardson, incidentally, we are seeing the emergence of what might be called the Bulworthian universe. In that satirical Warren Beatty film, the rapping former matinee idol called for, in character, a world in which everyone blanks one another till all the races meld together. Obama is the product of a union between an African father and a white American mother. Richardson, the first major Latino candidate, is the product of a union between a white American banker and a Mexican mother, born in LA and raised in Mexico City.
In any event, Obama is the only Democratic candidate who has shown any relaxed confidence in public campaigning in California so far. Clinton, who actually did much better than Obama at last weekend’s Las Vegas Presidential forum, still hasn’t had a real public campaign event in California. Unless you count her appearance with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, where the pair urged people to pick up their trash.
In sharp contrast to Clinton, the Republican frontrunner, Mayor Giuliani, has shown a notable facility in speaking to large Californian crowds. He wowed the state Republican convention last month and served up a tasty luncheon feast to a big Silicon Valley crowd.
Giuliani, unlike McCain and the others, has a strong theme going. He is presenting himself, in an intellectually coherent yet accessible way, as being in the Churchill/Reagan lineage defending Western civilization, something quite credible given his dramatic role with 9/11. He hasn’t been very accessible to the press, but he has been more accessible than Clinton, McCain, or Obama.
California is absolutely key for Giuliani. He is not the candidate of the right-wing Republican “base,” a vote that may or may not manifest itself in the early states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. I expect Giuliani to do well in Nevada, where he has a clear lead. The other first group states are unclear. So he must win California in order to win the nomination.
Clinton is another matter. Hers is “the name you know” in the Democratic Party. She can survive early losses. She’s in a dead heat in Iowa, leads in Nevada, and leads in New Hampshire. South Carolina will be a challenge for her, with Southern white males inclined to go for fellow Carolinian and blacks increasingly — following the endorsement yesterday of Jesse Jackson — inclined to go for Obama. So she may well need a Golden State win, also.
Which she is well positioned to get. The Clintons have a long and happy history in California. Bill Clinton inherited most of the Gary Hart network here and built upon that, in the process turning California into the mostly blue state we think of it as today. Hillary Clinton has that base, as well as the calling card of being the first major female candidate for president, a card she is increasingly playing as she is challenged by various would-be movement types among her legion of critics.
But in order to win California, Clinton is going to need to get outside her comfort zone shell, something she has yet to do in all her appearances here as a candidate. (She was actually quite forthcoming campaigning for then Governor Gray Davis a few years ago, but that is another matter entirely.)
One noteworthy caveat to this first major public poll of the new, early California Presidential primary is that Fred Thompson was not included in the Republican soundings. The one-term senator from Tennessee-turned Law and Order TV star has started stirring up some real attention. My guess is he hurts and perhaps kills Romney if he runs, since he is a consistent conservative, and draws from Giuliani, since they both have established media images as resolute leaders on the various screens we all use in our lives. (Thompson also memorably co-starred in a couple of blockbuster movies, notably The Hunt For Red October and In The Line Of Fire.)
It’s a new inning for presidential politics in California.
British SAS (Special Air Service) commandos engage in a firefight in Afghanistan.
SAS would be at the heart of any hostage rescue mission in Iran.
** THE JESSE JACKSON FACTOR. Barack Obama just scored a very key endorsement in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Reverend Jesse Jackson said today that he is supporting him. Jackson, of course, was the first major black Democratic presidential candidate, finishing third in the 1984 Democratic contest and second in the 1988 Democratic contest. I could write thousands of words about Jackson, but we’ll keep it short for now. Jackson is very important because he represents the black American, as distinguished from the multi-culti American, experience of African Americans, the latter of which is more in the somewhat exotic Obama mode (white mother, Islamic Kenyan father). He was a top aide to Martin Luther King, and was there when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, embracing the civil rights leader as he died.
Jackson is one of the most important figures in the history of African American politics. I remember 1984 very well, when my friend Gary Hart was somewhat unaccountably running late for the Iowa debate, which was utterly key to the emergent success of his dark horse presidential candidacy. It’s a much longer story, but we had to delay the start of the debate — which required some fast talking, I assure you — and convnce Hart’s Secret Service detail, driving him in from Omaha, Nebraska rather than the snowed-in Des Moines airport, to drive at very high speed on icy roads to get him to the Des Moines convention center in order to make the delayed time. It all worked, and when Hart arrived, he immediately went into his friend Jesse”s dressing room to chat. When they emerged, good things happened. For them. Hart emerged from the debate as a major figure, going on to move from fifth to second in Iowa, winning New Hampshire and another 25 states after that. Jackson took a half-dozen states and became the most important black political figure in America.
Jackson has long been associated with the Clintons, and his endorsement of Obama is a major blow to their effort to block Obama’s emergence with a massive black vote in the primaries. I think it is safe to say now that if Obama wins in either Iowa, Nevada, or New Hampshire, he will then win in South Carolina, which will set off a cascade of Southern victories for Obama. Barring, of course, a major mistake by the rookie candidate.
** IRAN DIVESTMENT BILL LOOKING GOOD. California Democratic legislative sources say the prospects for legislation by San Diego area Assemblyman John Anderson, a Republican, and Orange County Assemblyman Jose Solorio, a Democrat, look good. The bill passed the state Assembly’s retirement committee yesterday on a 4 to 1 vote. It would require the state’s two massive public pension funds, the Public Employee Retirement System and the State Teachers Retirement System, to divest from foreign firms doing business with Iran. The firms affected would include Daimler Chryslter, Hyundai, and Siemens. The Teamsters union is stongly in favor of the bill. The Service Employees International Union dropped its early opposition. But the state’s two teachers unions unsuccessfully opposed the bill at yesterday’s hearing, arguing that the pension fund board should make investment decisions independent of the political environment. Not a stance they took during the struggle to divest state funds from firms doing business with the late apartheid regime in South Africa.
** BRITAIN-IRAN STANDOFF CONTINUES. Dashing hopes of an early resolution, Iran has refused to release the lone female prisoner among the 15 British sailors and marines seized by radical Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval elements as they executed a routeine merchant vessel search in the Persian Gulf. While British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he wants a swift and peaceful solution to the crisis, multiple sources indicate that planning is well underway for a special operations solution involving British and US special forces in a search and rescue mission inside Iran. At the core of the operation would be the British SAS (Special Air Service) — seen in action in the video above — which served as the model for many of the world’s top special operations forces, including those of the United States, beginning with the Green Berets established by President John F. Kennedy and continuing through the super-secret Delta Force.
One notable element of the present crisis is that a low-intensity but very real “intelligence war” seems to be already underway between Western and Iranian forces. A leading Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated, some say by the Israeli Mossad. A top Iranian general and leading intelligence official defected recently, apparently after several years of providing intelligence to the US and others in the West. A leading Israeli defense ministry official was apparently assassinated in Europe. Iranian agents have been discovered — surprise! — operating inside Iraq, and five Iranian officials, ostensibly diplomats, but operating without proper diplomatic credentials, have been captured and detained inside Iraq by US forces. Then there are the guerilla attacks inside Iran, carried out by Iranian dissidents, of whom there are many, and reportedly backed by US and British special ops forces.
How might an SAS-led hostage rescue mission go inside Iran? Well, SAS has carried out many operations which remain secret. One that was not, in 1980, involved the taking of some 20 British citizens, who were held inside the Iranian embassy in London by a half-dozen Islamic jihadist militants. SAS assaulted the embassy and rescued the hostages, swiftly killing all but one of the Iranian radicals in the process. But operations in another country are more problematical.
The Israeli Sayeret Matkal, working against very poorly-trained Third World soldiers in Uganda, pulled off the fabled raid on Entebbe in 1976, rescuing over 100 hostages at the airport there. 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the operation, verus only three hostages and just one Israeli — the commander of the operation, future Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s brother. But an attempt to rescue American hostages at the US embassy in Tehran in 1980 failed due to a mishap with helicopters in a sandstorm at the rendezvous point known as Desert One. Much has been learned since then, of course. On both sides. The Israeli military, for example, suffered notable setbacks in its largely unsuccessful war last year against Hezbollah. All Israeli hostages taken last year remain in the hands of Hezbollah.
Only 31%, notes PPIC director Mark Baldasarre in his statement, back the move to allow legislators to serve up 12 years, all of it in one house. (Currently they can serve 14 years, limited to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.) This stands in sharp contrast to a private poll by proponents of the term limits change, the results of which they gave to me a few weeks ago.
In that poll, 59% favor the change, while only 33% oppose it. What accounts for the discrepancy?
Well, putting aside the obvious fact that one poll could be right while the other could be wrong, term limits change proponents point out that their poll, by David Binder and Associates, gave respondents arguments for both sides of the proposition. The PPIC poll asks the question flat out: “Under current term limits, a legislator is allowed to serve six years in the state assembly and eight years in the state senate. Would you favor or oppose a change in term limits that would allow members to serve up to 12 years of total legislative service in either branch?”
One advocate pointed out that there is not yet a ballot title or description from California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office, arguing that that will provide a fairer test.
Also in the interim was state Senate leader Don Perata’s widely publicized lockout from their taxpayer-funded offices of three Democratic senators for attending a Moderate Caucus dinner (believe it or not, one top Democrat told me as it was happening that I was “the only person who would pay any attention”) and Schwarzenegger’s slow recovery from his Christmas skiing mishap, which put a serious crimp in his activities. (He’s fine now and walking without support.)
Another difference is that the state’s political leaders were much more highly rated in the poll presented by term limit change advocates. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had a 68% job approval rating from California voters in that poll. In the PPIC poll, his approval has slipped from January, to a still high 56%. The Legislature had a 49% job approval rating as an institution in the private poll. PPIC has it at 39%, a full ten points lower. Still, that is the highest approval for the Legislature since October 2004, when Schwarzenegger’s first phase of bipartisanship was still in full swing before his ill-fated “Year of Reform.”
First Lady Maria Shriver is also highly rated, as are new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at 53% among likely voters, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, 59% and 53%, respectively.
Yet another difference may be that the PPIC poll shows a darkening mood among California voters, perhaps reflective of their very dark view of the national scene. The halo effect of Schwarzenegger’s landslide re-election victory, in which he inundated the state with feel-good advertising and was constantly moving about talking about how well things were going in the Capitol, is wearing off.
And seeping in are California voters’ dark views of the national and global scenes, as well as increasing fears about economic prospects. In January, 55% felt things were on the right track in California. Now only 45% feel that way. 51% now think that bad economic times are ahead, while only 39% felt that way in January.
President George W. Bush reached a new low in the PPIC poll, with only 29% job approval among likely voters. It’s even lower among all California adults. Tracking almost exactly with Bush’s thoroughly dismal rating is California’s view of his Iraq policy.
California voters like the impact of Bush’s new “surge” strategy in Iraq no better than they did the versions that preceded it. Two months after the surge was announced, 74% say they disapprove of Bush on Iraq. That includes 40% of Republicans.
Strikingly, the water from the poisoned well of Iraq has spread to other potential military expeditions. 54% of likely voters say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran than it is to take a firm stand against Iranian actions, a posture backed by only 39%. There’s a sharp partisan divide there, with Democrats and independents strongly opposed — 60% plus — to any conflict with Iran.
The PPIC poll is unalloyed good news for backers of redistricting reform, and mostly good news for Schwarzenegger and other advocates of a comprehensive health care package. 66% of likely voters favor an independent commission doing redistricting every 10 years rather than the Legislature; only 22% are in opposition.
On health care, 65% of likely voters agree with Schwarzenegger that Californians should be required to have health coverage, with costs shared between employers, providers, and individuals. But breaking out different components of the approach yields a slightly different answer. 67% of likely voters back the employer mandate to provide health insurance or pay into a state fund. 69% would require individuals to have health coverage, with low-income people taken care of by public programs. But only 30% think doctors and hospitals should pay a fee to help cover the costs of health care.
Another wrinkle emerges, once again, with attitudes toward illegal immigration, which 21% of voters, the highest of any issue area, regard as the state’s top issue. Illegal immigrant children would be covered in the Schwarzenegger plan. While most think that illegal immigrants should be able to apply for work permits, opposition to drivers licenses for illegal immigrants remains widespread and entrenched. 64% are still opposed. Most also oppose providing health care coverage for illegal immigrants.
Now we get to the presidential primary. Tomorrow I will focus heavily on the California presidential primaries for both Republicans and Democrats. For now, here are the quick numbers in the first major California public poll in the new early presidential primary.
On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani has a big lead, 33% to 19% over John McCain. Newt Gingrich (not a declared candidate) has 14% and the much ballyhooed Mitt Romney is at 7%. Fred Thompson, who may make a big stir in the race, was not included in the poll.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton enjoys a significant lead over Barack Obama, 35% to 24%. John Edwards is third with 14% and Bill Richardson continues his slow but steady advance from the land of the asterisks with 6%.
As I said, much more about the presidentials in tomorrow’s column.
** SCHWARZENEGGER TAPS NEW EDUCATION SECRETARY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just appointed a new secretary of education. He is David Long, an Iowan who has 21 years of experience as a classroom teacher and since 1999 has been superintendent of schools for Riverside County, in Southern California’s fast-growing Inland Empire, where he oversees 23 school districts with more than 400,000 students. He ran two other big school districts in the region for the 10 years before that after coming to California from Mason City, Iowa — a familiar locale from the Iowa Presidential caucus — where he taught in the classroom and was an athletic coach before going into management. Long, a Republican, also chairs an advisory committee for the U.S. secretary of education on safe and drug-free schools.
Most of the questions from the press just now were on other topics, such as the reform of the state’s massive insurance fund now underway by Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a tragic auto accident involving a now former Schwarzenegger appointee to a state board, and Schwarzenegger’s daughter’s cell phone usage. The appointment of Long is actually a key building block in Schwarzenegger’s long-term plans.
The former action movie superstar intends next year to be his year of education reform, as this year is focused on health care and prisons, and last year on infrastructure and climate change. The education secretary, while a Cabinet-level post, can be either a key coordinator for administration resources and advisor to the governor, or more of a supernumerary position. This is in part because authority on education is diffused between a state Board of Education, the governor’s education secretary, and the elected state superintendent of public instruction. The latter post is held by Democrat Jack O’Connell, largely though not entirely backed by the powerful teachers unions, notably the giant California Teachers Association.
Schwarzenegger’s first education secretary was his old friend Dick Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor who ran an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2002, in which he was torpedoed in the Republican primary by $10 million of attack ads from the incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis. Davis preferred to run against a conservative Republican, rather than the moderate Riordan. Riordan had strongly considered running for governor again in the 2003 recall, but didn’t get his campaign act together and Schwarzenegger jumped in instead, shocking virtually all observers, including some of his own staff.
The new governor made Riordan his education secretary, but the post didn’t really take. Riordan became best known for making what he thought was a joke about a little girl’s name, an opinion which was not widely shared. I reported some time after that that Riordan would be leaving the post shortly. Schwarzenegger’s staff described my report as “a rumor.” The next day, they had a different story, that Riordan had actually secretly resigned a month earlier. Something which Riordan said he hadn’t known.
The next education secretary was Democrat Alan Bersin, the former San Diego superintendent of schools and a Bill Clinton appointee as U.S. attorney. While there were no embarrassments, the teachers unions didn’t like Bersin and this one didn’t particularly take, either. Though not because of their criticism, more, perhaps, because the major focus was elsewhere. Next year will be different in terms of focus, and it will be interesting to see Long emerge in what will be a key new role in the Schwarzenegger administration.
** THREE-WAY DEMOCRATIC RACE IN IOWA. The new Zogby telephone poll (not the unreliable Internet poll) of likely Democratic caucus voters in next year’s first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential caucuses indicates a tight three-way race there. The poll, which was taken after John and Elizabeth Edwards announced the return of her cancer and after former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack endorsed Hillary Clinton, shows Edwards’ once firm lead in Iowa has fallen into a statistical three-way tie with Clinton and Barack Obama. The numbers from the poll, conducted among more than 500 likely Iowa caucus voters on March 26th, are: Edwards 27%, Clinton 25%, and Obama 23%.
In January, Edwards led with 27%, Obama followed with 17%, and Clinton was third with 16%. The 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee is running in place in Iowa, with most of the movement in the direction of the former first lady and New York senator.
Says pollster John Zogby: Obama, the freshest face in the Democratic field, enjoys an enormous lead among very young respondents, while Clinton leads narrowly among those in their mid–20s. Edwards ekes out a lead among those age 35–54, winning 29% support, compared to 22% each for Obama and Clinton. Edwards and Clinton are tied for the lead at 25% among those age 55–69, while Clinton holds a narrow 33% to 31% lead over Edwards among those age 70 and older. Obama does poorly, winning only 7% support among the oldest Iowa voters.
Edwards leads slightly over Obama among those with college degrees (29% to 25%), and also leads among those living in households with incomes between $75,000 and $99,000. Clinton leads among those with high school diplomas, and among those living in households with incomes under $75,000.
Edwards appears to be the darling of both the very liberal and the moderates, while Obama leads among liberals. Edward wins 33% support among those who describe themselves as “progressives,” compared to 20% for Obama and 19% for Clinton.
Among liberals, Obama leads with 33%, compared to 23% for Clinton and 21% for Edwards. Among self–described moderates, Edwards leads with 35%, compared to 23% for Clinton and 19% for Obama.
Nearly three out of four respondents (74%) said they were more likely to support a presidential nominee who would stand by what he or she believes in regardless of whether or not they could win the general election, while 22% said they are more likely to support the candidate who can win the presidency.
Through much of 2003, we saw exactly what we see here. Three out of four voters wanted someone who would stand up for their beliefs no matter what, and they flocked to the campaign of Howard Dean. He built up a head of steam through the fall as his numbers solidified, but then, that changed dramatically three weeks before the caucuses, when voters started to abandon Dean and headed into the Kerry or Edwards campaign. It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself eight or nine months from now.
Half of the likely caucus–goers (50%) said they would prefer a candidate who is someone they consider a moderate, while 28% said they would prefer a nominee who is more liberal, and 14% said they would like a more conservative Democratic Party nominee.
The top three finishers in the Democratic field all have very strong support – 98% of Edwards backers said their support is “strong” or “very strong,”, while 97% of the supporters for Obama and Clinton said the same. However, Clinton appears to have the edge in terms of intensity, as 44% of her supporters consider their support to be “very strong,” compared to just 25% of Obama’s backers who said the same.
These results contradict some of the emerging conventional wisdom about the campaign; namely that Obama is the candidate of college-educated, upscale voters, that Clinton’s support is soft, and that caucus state Democrats are all activist liberals.
** FORBES BACKS GIULIANI, CANDIDATE IN LAS VEGAS TODAY. Former conservative Republican presidential Steve Forbes, CEO of the Forbes magazine empire, has just endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president. Forbes will serve as a national co-chair and a senior policy advisor for the campaign.
Giuliani is in Nevada today, where he leads in early polling for what Nevada Republicans intend to be the second-in-the-nation contest. He has a public event in Las Vegas at 5 PM.
The British Admiralty announced that the two rigid inflatable boats containing the UK personnel were 1.7 nautical miles within Iraqi waters. The Iranians claim they were in Iranian waters, but apparently first provided a set of coordinates which are actually in Iraqi waters.
An F/A 18 Hornet launches off the deck of USS Eisenhower. The US Navy has
begun its largest Persian Gulf exercise since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
** NUMBERS, WE GOT NUMBERS. I’m going through quite a few polling results, from California and elsewhere. Very interesting stuff which will dominate much of the late week coverage at NWN. Not out of line with what you’ve been reading here.
** ARNOLD’S PRISON BREAK. Although the Legislature is about to break again for Easter recess, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said today that he thinks they are close to a solution on the California prison crisis. A federal court is threatening to take over the system, which is now terribly overcrowded, and might set an arbitrary cap on the overall number of prisoners, leading to release of criminals still doing their time. Schwarzenegger says that would be “a disaster. We could have dangerous criminals roaming the neighborhoods.”
Although some critics see no progress, Schwarzenegger does. The state Assembly yesterday passed a bill allowing judges greater discretion in setting sentences. The US Supreme Court earlier this year threw out California’s sentencing law. Schwarzenegger says he believes a solution will be found because one must be found. It’s not unlike the infrastructure bill last year. For long stretches of time, there was no apparent progress. But it ultimately came together.
** CARRIER BATTLE GROUPS CONDUCT WAR GAMES OFF IRAN. Two U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle groups have begun an exercise in the Persian Gulf. The groups, which center on the USS Eisenhower and USS Stennis, are conducting air strike and air and sea defense operations. This is the biggest naval operation in the Gulf since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. US forces promise to respect the territorial waters of Iran, which extend twelve miles from shore into the Gulf. Meanwhile, the stand-off between Britain and Iran over the seizure of 15 British sailors and marines is in its fourth day.
** GIULIANI TO NEVADA. With the Nevada Republican Party in the process of moving its presidential caucus up to January 19th, which would match the Nevada Democratic caucus as the second-in-the-nation contest, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani travels to Nevada tomorrow. Giuliani leads in early polling in Nevada, with John McCain running second.
** ARNOLD’S WATER WEEK CONTINUES. After touring a Central Valley dam and speaking to Fresno community leaders yesterday about his plan to add more above ground water storage, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this morning tours the state Department of Water Resources’ operations center in Sacramento and discusses the water portion in Phase II of his Strategic Growth Plan. Schwarzenegger wants to spend $6 billion upgrading water transfer systems, expanding water storage, and conserving natural waterways. He’s making his pitch for more water storage based on population growth and the impact of the greenhouse effect on the Sierra snowpacks. Many environmentalists prefer conservation efforts to water storage, which led to the derailing of moves to add one or two dams to last year’s Phase I of the Strategic Growth Plan. The Fresno Bee editorialized this morning in favor of a new dam outside Fresno.
** ANGELIDES ASKED GARRY SOUTH FOR MONEY. Democratic strategist Garry South reveals that he, too, received the e-mails last week from unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides asking for money to advertise against 19 California Republican members of Congress urging them to vote for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s anti-Iraq War legislation. The advertising was to run well after the vote itself. South is Angelides’ most public critic in the Democratic Party. “Who knows what he was thinking?,” asks South. “it’s like his campaign last fall against Arnold Schwarzenegger. Inexplicable.”
** WHAT IS PHIL ANGELIDES DOING? So the landslide Democratic loser of last year’s California governor’s race has set up a group called Stand Up For California. And has been e-mailing people on his list asking for money to fight the Iraq War. Probably not why people were supporting him for governor, and a notably unsuccessful issue for him, as viewers of the NWN video of his big anti-war rally last fall have noted. But perhaps a rallying point for someone trying to keep his political career alive.
Yet here is where it gets quite peculiar. Last week, Angelides was e-mailing his list asking for $10,000 to fund unspecified advertisements against “19 members of Congress” from California standing in the way of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill to withdraw troops from Iraq by the fall of 2008. Who were the 19? All Republicans, as it happens. Which was odd in itself, since passage of the bill was actually dependent on the votes of Democrats, more than a few from California, who were refusing to vote for the Pelosi bill because it wasn’t radical enough. The Republicans were all opposed to the bill anyway, and Phil Angelides is one of the last people on the planet to convince them otherwise.
Then it got even more peculiar. Late last week, Angelides e-mailed his list again, saying he was still $8,500 short — meaning he had only raised $1,500 for this peculiar venture — and needed it by April 1st to do the advertising needed to pass the Pelosi bill by moving those 19 Republicans. Actually, as NWN readers know, the vote was last Friday. April 1st is next weekend. Unless this was a big April Fool’s joke by the always amusing Angelides, these moves make no sense at all. Not unlike his general election campaign last year.
** VILSACK ENDORSES HILLARY. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race after appearing at last month’s Nevada Presidential forum in Carson City, today endorses Hillary Clinton for president. This will be a major boost for her in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, where she has been trailing John Edwards. Here is what Vilsack says in in his endorsement statement:
When I first ran for governor of Iowa in 1998, many people didn’t give me much of a chance. But not Hillary. She told me she’d do everything she could do to help, and she followed through. She stood by my side, and Iowa is better for it. She helped ignite the spark that changed Iowa from a red state to a blue state.
By standing with Hillary now we’ll help show that we are strong enough to win back the White House — and America will be stronger and better for it.
** BRITAIN-IRAN CRISIS CONTINUES. In a surprise for global oil traders and some others who back their bets on the future with dollars, the UK-Iran crisis over the seizure of 15 British sailors and marines on the Shatt Al Arab continues. Iran has still not turned over the British personnel, who had just inspected a merchant ship suspected of smuggling into Iraqi waters, and is making loud noises about trying them for illegally crossing into Iranian territory, if not for espionage itself. Meanwhile, Britain, as one might suppose from its history, is giving away nothing. Time for Iran to find a face-saving move.
** IT’S WATER WEEK FOR ARNOLD. As distinguished from Waterworld. That was not a Schwarzenegger picture, it was a Kevin Costner picture. Not that bad, actually, and much more popular than supposed. Actually … Governor Schwarzenegger will be focusing on California water issues this week. Water storage, and water transfer. Today he will be in the Fresno area, where he will tour a dam and give a speech. Quite a few of his Republican colleagues want a dam in the Fresno area, and thought they were going to get one last year in the Big Bang Bonds infrastructure package, before being shot down by state Senate Democrats.
NWN video of the second Nevada Presidential forum, the second in the 2008
Democratic race, featuring former North Carolina Senator John Edwards,
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and
New York Senator Hillary Clinton. *
It’s the victory of Horace Greeley. The 19th century newspaper editor and presidential candidate famously advised, “Go west,” and so today’s presidential candidates have. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani were both in California over the weekend.
Giuliani visited a diner in Oakland and fundraised in Orange County and San Diego. Clinton raised an amazing $2.6 million at a Hollywood fundraiser at billionaire Ron Burkle’s Green Acres estate and picked up another million bucks in Silicon Valley. The New York senator and former first lady more than answered the challenge laid down last month by Barack Obama’s Hollywood fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton, principally organized by billionaire David Geffen, who then notoriously ripped the Clintons in a catty Maureen Dowd New York Times column. Geffen’s business partner, director Steven Spielberg, has a fundraiser for Clinton next month at his home.
Meanwhile, Nevada Republicans are in the process of moving their presidential caucus up to match the Democrats’ second-in-the-nation contest on January 19th. They’ve seen how much attention the Silver State is suddenly getting and want in on the action.
In addition to all that, all but one of the Democratic presidential candidates were in Nevada Friday and Saturday, participating all on the same stage Saturday in a forum focused on health care issues at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). (Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, who did well at the first Nevada forum last month in Carson City, couldn’t make it to this one.)
John Edwards impressed again with his detail and presentation, and received much sympathy throughout for the plight of his wife Elizabeth, who was in attendance. Barack Obama showed tremendous presence, but the “Politics of Hope” has its limits. Bill Richardson was fine, but this is not his strongest issue. Hillary Clinton was much better than she was in last month’s forum in Carson City and appeard to be the favorite of the mostly labor crowd. She was quite free-wheeling and knowing. In fact, she sounded suspiciously like her husband the President.
I shot about an hour-and-a-half of footage inside the hall with the candidates and have produced the 10-minute video above showing highlights and flavor of this second Nevada Democratic presidential forum.
As you can see, Clinton and Edwards got the best responses from the largely labor crowd Saturday morning at UNLV. Edwards has by far the most detailed program to date. He would mostly retain the form of the current system in his transition to universal health care, although consumers would have the option of choosing a single-payer system, seeking greater efficiencies through more use of technology, electronic records keeping, and more affordable drug purchasing programs. He says this will require new revenue, and describes the need to acknowledge this as a test of presidential character. How much more revenue? $90 to $120 billion per year. How would he pay for it? By repealing President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.
Edwards also garnered tremendous sympathy from the crowd and the other candidates for the cancer crisis that he and his wife Elizabeth, who was in attendance, are now going through.
The other top Democratic candidates were more vague in their programs. Bill Richardson seemed somewhat improvisational on stage, although perhaps that is a mark of his style. He said that universal health care could be achieved by the end of his first year as president, without additional cost. Also calling for mental health to be covered, Richardson was asked about the inclusion of illegal immigrants in any universal health care plan, a controversial aspect, as was noted by moderator Karen Tumulty of Time magazine, of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal in California. “They’re children,” replied Richardson, to big applause from the audience.
Barack Obama began with tremendous presence and verve. But as you can see from the video, he does not yet have a program and he rather swiftly came down from the high of his entrance to a set of high-flown yet rather ambiguous principles. He said he would not rule out a tax increase to achieve universal health care, which he has taken of late to saying he would achieve by the end of his first term to distinguish himself from frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s vow of achieving it by the end of her second term.
For her part, Senator Clinton probably ended with the best response from the crowd. Reminiscent of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who was not in attendance, the former first lady moved around the stage and was in a knowing, semi-folksy, frequently wisecracking mode. “I have the scars,” she declared of her unsuccessful 1990s drive for universal health care, as the crowd laughed.
Saying that too many Americans have health coverage that doesn’t actually cover them as she recounted the story of a nurse she met last week in Texas who makes $38,000 a year and spent half that treating her illness, Clinton vowed that she would make insurance companies actually provide the coverage they promise. Noting that the Human Genome Project will soon reveal that “We all have pre-existing conditions,” she said that it is especially important that pre-existing conditions no longer be a bar to coverage.
In the latest Nevada poll, Clinton leads the Democratic presidential field, with Barack Obama second, John Edwards third, and Bill Richardson pulling up into fourth.
Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel also participated in the forum. The farther away the candidates get from the lead in the field, the more embracing they are of single-payer health care.
Meanwhile, noting the attention that Democratic presidential candidates are paying the state and not wanting to be left out, Nevada state Republican leaders have informally decided in a conference call to move their state presidential caucuses up again, this time to the same January 19th date that their Democratic counterparts have. The decision must be taken formally by the state Republican executive board and the party’s state central committee next month, but that is expected. Republican Governor Jim Gibbons is on board with the plan.
This move, assuming it is formally adopted, will make Nevada the second contest in the Republican presidential race, as it is now in the Democratic presidential race. It will also lead to a substantial penalty in delegates to the Republican National Convention from the Silver State, as it is against national party rules, but the numbers aren’t that big to begin with.
They’re all coming west now, for the early caucus in Nevada and the early primary in California. Horace Greeley would be proud. Of course, he is long dead. Having ended up losing control of his newspaper, Greeley died not long after being driven mad by his losing presidential campaign. I’m sure this will end up much better.
* Thanks to the Las Vegas Presidential forum sponsors — the Service Employees International Union, the Center for American Progress, and the Nevada Democratic Party — for allowing NWN video coverage of the event itself, something not possible at last month’s forum in Carson City.
With Russia moving against the Iranian nuclear program by refusing to supply nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor project — the Islamic republic has at least three other nuclear projects going, but none in which nuclear enrichment efforts can be easily construed as being for the purpose of nuclear power rather than nuclear weapons — Iran may be feeling that the nuclear issue and the Iraq issue are being separated, something that does not seem to be in Iran’s interest as it engages the US and the Western powers on settling the Iraq mess. This may be an attempt to gain some leverage, by seizing the Brit personnel and claiming that they were in Iranian territorial waters while they did their work in the Shatt Al Arab inspecting merchant vessels for possible smuggling, a fairly routine task that would be hard to escalate into a serious charge of espionage.
** DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIALS IN NEVADA. All but one of the Democratic presidential candidates were in Nevada Friday and Saturday, participating all on the same stage Saturday in a forum focused on health care issues at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). I’ll have a full report, with a documentary video, on Monday.
John Edwards impressed again with his detail and presentation, and received much sympathy throughout for the plight of his wife Elizabeth, who was in attendance. Barack Obama showed tremendous presence, but the Politics of Hope has its limits. Bill Richardson was fine, but this is not his strongest issue. Hillary Clinton was much better than she was in last month’s forum in Carson City and was the clear favorite of the mostly labor crowd. She was quite free-wheeling and knowing. In fact, she sounded suspiciously like her husband the President. She raised over $2 million last night at a Hollywood fundraiser.
I shot about an hour-and-a-half of footage inside the hall with the candidates and will produce about a 10-minute video showing the highlights and flavor of this second Nevada Democratic presidential forum.
** NEVADA REPUBLICANS MOVING THEIR PRESIDENTIAL CAUCUS UP AGAIN, TO JANUARY 19TH. Nevada state Republican leaders have informally decided in a conference call to move their state presidential caucuses up again, this time to the same January 19th date that their Democratic counterparts have. The decision must be taken formally by the state Republican executive board and the party’s state central committee next month, but that is expected. Republican Governor Jim Gibbons is on board with the plan.
This move, assuming it is formally adopted, will make Nevada the second contest in the Republican presidential race, as it is now in the Democratic presidential race. It will also lead to a substantial penalty in delegates to the Republican National Convention from the Silver State, as it is against national party rules, but the numbers aren’t that big to begin with.
** A MURKY NEW CRISIS WITH IRAN’S CAPTURE OF BRITS AND MOVEMENT OF THE PRISONERS TO TEHRAN. With special elements of the Iranian navy seizing 15 British sailors and marines on the eve of the UN Security Council’s vote on further nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, and the subsequent reported movement of the prisoners to Tehran, the crisis with Iran enters a new and murky phase. The Brits had just inspected a merchant vessel suspected of smuggling when they they were surrounded in their two small rigid inflatable boats by Iranian gunboats and captured, charged with violating Iranian territorial waters on a much-disputed maritime border between Iraq and Iran.
There has been a recent string of provocative acts by elements of the Iranian navy, as seen in the video above. This, of course, is the most provocative by far.
** A GLITCH IN THE PROGRAM. I encountered a not-so-slight problem at my ritzy resort hotel in Las Vegas very late Friday night/very early Saturday morning. I noticed that the in-room Internet service didn’t work. (No, I hadn’t tried it when I checked in. I can monitor things via blackberry, to the extent I’m inclined to do so.) It would have been a huge problem had it been a weekday, but on weekends, traffic on web sites across the Internet is way down. That is especially true of Saturdays. It begins to pick up again later on Sunday.