Happy Thanksgiving
I will be away from the website for the rest of this week, in order to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. I will be up and running again on Monday, December 1st. In the meantime, you can check out my archives, and relive your favorite campaign moments. I have also posted all of my Election 2008 columns for the Portsmouth Herald in the Essays section of the website. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend. See you soon. -Dean
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A Huckabee Spurned?
Presidential candidates expend a lot of energy during the primary season denying that they are in reality auditioning for the number two spot on their party’s ticket. But former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee sounds like he really did want to be John McCain’s running mate, despite his earlier protestations to the contrary. Given how the race turned out, one might think Huckabee would be relieved that he can now regroup for another run at the nomination in 2012, without the political taint that inevitably goes along with being part of a losing general election ticket.
While Gov. Sarah Palin’s future viability as a presidential candidate remains to be seen (and I continue to be highly skeptical), Huckabee no doubt recognizes that his brand of economic populism combined with social conservatism overlaps quite substantially with what we heard from Palin during the general election campaign.  So, perhaps what we are now seeing from Huckabee is not so much sour grapes over 2008, but instead a rhetorical elbow or two being thrown toward the Alaskan governor well in advance of 2012.
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Ain't No New News Here
Now that the media no longer has a campaign horse race to feed the 24-hour news cycle, it is instead preoccupied with breaking the news on various Obama Administration appointments. Even with the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaching, the pace has not slowed at all. One item in particular caught my attention this afternoon. It was the report that two Clinton confidants leaked to the New York Times that Senator Clinton has decided to join the Obama Cabinet as Secretary of State. This initial report was later contradicted by a Clinton spokesman who confirmed talks were progressing, but said no deal had been reached.
So, despite the media’s frantic attempts to move the story forward today, there really isn’t any new news here (cue the old Mellencamp song). We are basically where we were several days ago with this story, although you wouldn’t necessarily come away with that impression from watching the cable news channels. Just moments ago, one of the cable news shows actually reported as breaking news the Chicago Sun-Times report that the talks were “on track.”
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No Secretary for John Kerry?
Ever since Senator John Kerry endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for president a few days after Obama’s second place finish in the New Hampshire Primary, the conventional wisdom has been that an Obama win in November would translate into the Secretary of State gig for Kerry. So, it is a little ironic that Clinton is now the one at the center of speculation over the Cabinet position. In fact, after some initial reports that Kerry was lobbying hard for the job a few weeks ago, he has been largely silent on the whole issue.
If Clinton becomes Secretary of State, would there be some sort of consolation ambassadorship for Kerry? It depends in part on who would get to make the call on those appointments, Secretary Clinton or President Obama. But more likely, Kerry is poised to take over the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee now that its previous chairman, Joe Biden, is the new Vice President-elect. Short of State, this is perhaps the most powerful foreign policy position Kerry could hold, so my guess is he will stay put in the Senate.
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My Fifteen Minutes
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Andy Warhol:Pop Politics exhibition at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, I strongly encourage you to do so before the exhibition closes in early January. Tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the museum’s auditorium, I will join the exhibition’s curator, Sharon Matt Atkins, and Michael Chaney, President and CEO of the New Hampshire Political Library, for a panel discussion of the intersection of presidential politics, celebrity and culture in Warhol’s work. You can find out more information about this special Campaigning with Pop Art installment of the Currier’s ARTalk series here.  I hope you can join us.
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Joe is Good to Go
After months of speculation, Joe Lieberman escaped any serious retribution at the hands of the Senate Democratic Caucus this morning for his role as a McCain campaign surrogate, and for the months of sharp criticism he leveled at Barack Obama’s candidacy. Some reports suggest Obama actually tipped the balance in Lieberman’s favor, which means the predominant spin out of the caucus will be that the move is in keeping with Obama’s promise to transcend traditional partisan divisiveness.
Even though the vote against punishment wasn’t even close, my guess is the caucus will keep Lieberman on a pretty short leash with respect to any possible freelancing he might do with his Homeland Security chairmanship, particularly if it could cause problems for the Obama Administration. With Lieberman returning to the Democratic fold, the party now sits at 57 caucus members in the Senate (55 Dem + 2 ind), with seats in Alaska, Georgia and Minnesota still to be settled.
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Crashing the Party Line, No. 10
You can read my tenth and final Election 2008 column for the Portsmouth Herald/Seacoast Sunday here. I consider some of the challenges facing the New Hampshire Republican Party, as it regroups for 2010. Links to all of my Election 2008 columns can be found (for a little while longer) in the center column here.
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Green Mountain Muster
I recently posted an item on the continuing saga of Joe Lieberman and his status within the Senate Democratic Caucus. There has been some discussion recently of either expelling Lieberman from the caucus, or at a minimum stripping him of his committee chairmanship. Lieberman has suggested the latter would also cause him to bolt the caucus and possibly join Senate Republicans. Thus far, Barack Obama’s position on the matter has been somewhere between a hands off approach and a willingness to let bygones be bygones.
But now senior Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is the first caucus member to come out strongly in favor of stripping Lieberman of his Homeland Security chairmanship.  It will be interesting to see whether Leahy's public stance opens up the floodgates against Lieberman in advance of next week’s caucus vote on his fate. While some senators would like to preserve every Democratic vote, since they are just shy of a filibuster-proof majority, they also know there is more than one way to get to sixty.
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Palin's 2012 Overture
It looks like Gov. Sarah Palin finally got the memo from the Republican Governors Association. Her brief, four-question press conference earlier today at the RGA’s annual meeting in Miami was in stark contrast to the procession of network and cable interviews the former Republican vice presidential nominee has done over the past week. Political observers have marveled at Palin’s newfound loquaciousness in recent days, and, in particular, her suggestion in several interviews that a run for the presidency in 2012 is a possibility.
Several other Republican governors appear increasingly concerned that the immediate focus on 2012 could undercut efforts to win a number of gubernatorial seats up for grabs in 2009 and 2010. I caught Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on cable news last night warning that any Republican governor already focusing on the 2012 horse race is making a big mistake. Barbour is best known for his stint as Chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 1994 Republican Revolution, when the party took control of Congress away from the Democrats. I also heard snippets yesterday of a few other high profile Republican governors similarly trying to turn the media focus away from 2012 speculation. The party line now seems to have reached Palin, as well.
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The Permanent Campaign
If the level of media coverage for the Republican Governors Association’s annual meeting in Miami is any indication, the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 is well underway. With high profile contenders like Gov. Sarah Palin, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Florida Governor Charlie Crist all in attendance, the media will have no shortage of story lines coming out of the three-day event.
It is possible the saturation coverage we are now seeing on the future of the Republican Party and possible standard-bearers for 2012 is being driven by media outlets trying to fill a post-election void in their very popular political horse race coverage. Perhaps interest in an election that is still almost four years away will wane a bit as we approach the holidays and next January’s inauguration of Barack Obama, but I am not so sure.
Aided by 24-hour cable news and internet coverage, the idea of the permanent political campaign has now become fully ingrained in the electoral process. The Republicans mentioned above, as well as a number of other serious presidential contenders, will most likely provide the media with an informal, but continuously running campaign narrative in opposition to the incumbent president, right up until exploratory committees start forming in late 2010 and early 2011.
So, it certainly feels like the invisible primary is not so invisible anymore, and a heck of a lot longer than it once was. And, it is no surprise to me that Barack Obama is bringing David Axelrod, the chief strategist of his presidential campaign, into the White House with him. Presidents Bush and Clinton made similar accommodations with their political strategists, but the grueling campaign we have just witnessed has taken the idea of the permanent campaign to a whole new level.
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Book Smart
I guess this is technically my first post of the 2012 presidential campaign, which will likely pit incumbent Barack Obama against a Republican challenger to be named later. I wasn’t intending to begin writing about the next presidential election so soon, but I couldn’t help myself, once I learned of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's upcoming book tour. Beginning next week, and continuing over the course of 17 days, Huckabee will be hitting 53 cities in 18 states to do publicity for his new campaign memoir, Do the Right Thing. You can view his itinerary here, and also see his Straight Talk Express-style tour bus.
Not surprisingly, Huckabee’s itinerary reads like a roadmap left over from the 2008 presidential primary cycle. Highlights include an early visit to the first presidential caucus state of Iowa, and a bit later to the first southern presidential primary state of South Carolina. In between, Huckabee will hit virtually every major battleground state, including Missouri, Ohio, Florida and Virginia, as well as some traditional Republican strongholds like Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia.
I am sure the trip is partly motivated by the desire to boost book sales, but one can’t help but notice the opportunity this particularly itinerary gives Huckabee to touch base with grassroots social conservatives who are no doubt unhappy with the outcome of last Tuesday’s election.
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Crashing the Party Line, No. 9
You can read my latest Portsmouth Herald/Seacoast Sunday column here. I consider several longstanding questions of campaign strategy, which were finally answered by Barack Obama’s victory. Links to all of my columns can be found in the center column here.
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Snake Eyes
Having gambled massively on the presidential election and lost, there will be no Cabinet appointment for Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman in a McCain Administration. The big question now is whether Lieberman will be expelled from the Senate’s Democratic Caucus, or at a minimum be stripped of his Homeland Security committee chairmanship. There have been several developments on this front in the past 24 hours, including exploratory talks between Lieberman and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about potential membership in the Senate’s Republican Caucus, but the matter is still unresolved.
It seems like there is some genuine sentiment among Democratic Senators for kicking Lieberman out of their caucus, even if it means they will be one seat further away from a filibuster-proof majority. Perhaps if Lieberman had supported John McCain in somewhat less high-profile fashion, he would be in less peril now. But he was as highly visible a supporter of McCain as humanly possible, without actually joining the Republican ticket. We now know that McCain would have preferred this, but he instead settled on Sarah Palin after conservatives threatened to revolt at the convention. For the moment at least, Joe Lieberman appears to be a politician without a party.
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An Offer You Can't Refuse
It has been remarkable to watch the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of the presidential race transform itself overnight into wall-to-wall coverage of the incoming Obama Administration. The first casualty of this presidential transition saturation coverage was shaping up to be the issue of whether Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel would accept Barack Obama’s offer of the White House chief of staff position. But Emanuel’s formal acceptance of the position earlier today short-circuited rampant media speculation over whether the Clinton Administration veteran might actually decline Obama’s offer, thereby tripping up the President-Elect in his first major personnel decision.
I posted a couple of items on Emanuel back in the summer, which discussed his tough political persona and future career prospects. At the time, future White House chief of staff was not on the radar (at least not on mine). Much more likely was an eventual run for Speaker of the House, or Obama's Senate seat should the latter win the presidency. The move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is certainly a sharp departure from that career path for Emanuel, but one for which he is well-qualified.
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Party Platter
Barack Obama’s historic victory last night will keep political observers buzzing for the foreseeable future. But for all of the excitement New Hampshire has brought to the political landscape in recent primary and general elections, last night’s results were a rather anticlimactic affair for the Granite State. The polls closed at 8 p.m., and all of the statewide races were called for the Democrats within 90 minutes. At the presidential level, we’re talking a matter of seconds, as network anchors called New Hampshire for Obama just as the clock struck 8 p.m.
While Democrats across the state were no doubt surprised and made slightly giddy by the significant margins they enjoyed in all of the major races, I couldn’t help but notice that the victories didn’t have the insurgent feel of those experienced by the party in 2006. Even with Jeanne Shaheen’s big win over Senator John Sununu, there was a sense that given all that has transpired in recent months, the seat was hers for the taking. So, as New Hampshire Democrats settle into their new role as the status quo, and Republicans regroup for another challenge in 2010, political observers are left to speculate on whether the proverbial political pendulum will eventually swing back across New Hampshire once again.
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Pausing to Vote
Business was brisk at my polling place this morning. There were no major delays, but I also managed to miss the morning rush by an hour or so. Given that I spend the better part of every four years closely watching the presidential primaries and general election, and that this long cycle is once again coming to an end, you might think I find the act of voting to be anticlimactic. But I actually find the brief ritual more reassuring than anything else.
No matter how crazy the political season gets, I can always count on there being continuity in the electoral process. Each time, I encounter the same stairwell up to the community room where we vote, the same local volunteers who have been signing me in for years, the same red, white and blue striped curtains on the voting booths, and the same optical scan machine that smoothly sucks my completed ballot into its belly.
Also, because everyone is basically in waiting mode for this evening, the day provides an opportunity for a little quiet reflection on all that has transpired over the past two years, and all that is just around the corner for the candidates who win tonight. And, while I am realistic about what difference my single vote will make among the tens of millions of votes cast in this election, like many Americans I derive an efficacy from my participation in the process that is its own reward.
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Crashing the Party Line, No. 8
You can read my latest Portsmouth Herald/Seacoast Sunday column here. I consider the McCain campaign’s argument that unified Democratic control of Congress and the White House would be a recipe for ideological extremism. Links to all of my columns can be found in the center column here.
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