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Archive for August, 2008

GOP convention: Jill Buck leads CA volunteer effort

I caught up with Jill Buck of Pleasanton at the RNC’s delegate party Sunday night in Minneapolis. She was late but through no fault of her own: The police-escorted shuttles buses for the California delegation went to the wrong convention center.

The delegate party was in downtown Minneapolis; the buses went to the Xcel Center in St. Paul. The two downtowns are about 10 miles apart,

I know how that happens. My college and I believed our credentials were at Xcel but you can’t get into Xcel without your credentials. So, we went to Minneapolis. While we were in Minneapolis, McCain was doing a press conference via a live feed at Xcel.

But Buck wasn’t discouraged. She is one of the most optimistic people I know.

I persuaded her to talk on video for me about her plans to help put together a volunteer effort for Hurricane Gustav.

Posted on Sunday, August 31st, 2008
Under: Political conventions, Republican politics | No Comments »

GOP convention: Lead-up spins like a top

I landed in Minneapolis Saturday afternoon and within an hour, the Republican National Convention delivered something conventions almost never do: Surprises.

It began at the airport at baggage carousel No. 9 with an all-female barbershop quartet at the airport. (Is that a Minnesota thing? Hey, I love Prairie Home Companion, so I’m not complaining.)

But within an hour of checking into my hotel room near St. Paul at the Sheraton, the entire Republican convention seemed to be in as much peril as the residents living along the Gulf Coast in Hurricane Gustav’s path.

Out of concern for the potential victims of Gustav, expected to hit land on Monday, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney pulled out of Monday night’s speaking schedule. Pundits squabbled on cable TV about whether the Republicans should cancel the whole shebang. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger begged off, citing California’s unresolved budget mess.

No way did Republicans want that split screen showing a balloon drop and big party scene next to people clinging to trees and hanging from rescue helicopters above raging flood waters.

By Sunday afternoon, presumed presidential nominee John McCain held a press conference and announced the GOP would truncate Monday’s floor session and conduct only the bare minimum business. The party, under its rules, must convene on Sept. 1, adopt a platform and elect its officers.

The rest of the convention would be on hold pending Gustav’s impact on the Gulf states, said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

But by Sunday night, GOP spokesman Hector Barajas told my colleague Mary Anne Ostrom of the Mercury News that he expected McCain to show up Thursday night as scheduled. He told delegates they should plan on staying around all week. The California GOP was changing the tone of its events and renamed its Monday night party into a “reception” where they planned to would raise money for Gustav victims.

Okay. I’ll try to keep up but I’m starting to feel as though I’m in the eye of Hurricane Gustav and can’t tell which way is up.

Posted on Sunday, August 31st, 2008
Under: Political conventions, Republican politics | No Comments »

Not going to St. Paul? Watch it here.

The Alameda County Republican Party is hosting a nomination acceptance speech watching party at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, in its Pleasanton campaign headquarters, 4637 Chabot Dr. Suite 102; if you want to help them phone-bank for John McCain, arrive at 5 p.m. Contact them at 510-638-3414 or to let ’em know you’re coming.

The Contra Costa GOP is having a party at 6 p.m. that night too, hosted by co-hosted by California Republican Party Vice Chair Tom Del Beccaro and Jeff Elfont. RSVP to Contra Costa Republican Party Executive Director Michael Caporusso at or 925-930-9551 and he’ll tell you where it is.

Or, find a house party close to you.

Posted on Sunday, August 31st, 2008
Under: Elections, John McCain, Republican Party | No Comments »

GOP convention: Uncertainty reigns

Even the most scripted political convention planners cannot write the script for Mother Nature.

A massive hurricane bearing down on the Gulf Coast is creating havoc with plans for Monday’s opening session of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

President George Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were scheduled to speak Monday but GOP sources say the storm could alter those plans.

Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is unlikely to speak Monday night. He has said he will not come to the convention unless the California Legislature passes a budget and we know how well that’s going. (It’s not.)

A Caliifornia GOP source says the gavel will come down at 7 p.m. as scheduled. But CNN reports the Republicans may transform the evening into a telethon-type benefit for the victims of Hurricane Gustav. No one really knows what will happen. Stay tuned.

“All we know is what we’re hearing in the news,” said McCain delegate Jill Buck of Pleasanton.

Posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2008
Under: Political conventions, Republican politics | No Comments »

This week in big-time campaign cash

Topping this week’s list of big ($25,000 or more) spenders on California campaigns and committees are the power utilities stepping up to oppose Proposition 7, which would require California utilities to procure half of their power from renewable resources by 2025: Rosemead-based Edison International and affiliated entities put up $3 million Monday (bringing its total so far to more than $13.7 million), and San Francisco-based PG&E Corp. and affiliated entities put up $1 million the same day (bringing its total so far to almost $13.9 million).

Equality California put up $1 million Tuesday (bringing their total so far to more than $6.5 million — $5.2 million from this committee and the rest from other affiliated PACs) to oppose Proposition 8, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Palm Desert retiree Murray Kors (related to Equality California executive director Geoffrey Kors?) gave $25,000 Tuesday to oppose the measure. Meanwhile, in support of the measure, Irvine-based Fieldstead & Co. — the personal philanthropic organization through which banking heir Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson Jr. funds conservative causes — put up $100,000 Monday; Bosco Legal Services private investigator R. Scott Jones of Riverside gave $45,000 Tuesday; Intel Corp. finance specialist Richard Patterson of Folsom gave $40,000 Sunday; and Escondito homemaker Dran May-Reese gave $25,000 Tuesday.

Brooklyn, N.Y. retiree Bob Wilson put up $700,000 Tuesday in support of Proposition 5, which would expand state funding and oversight for treatment and rehab programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees while reducing criminal penalties and limiting courts’ authority to lock up offenders who violate probation or parole. And New York City financier George Soros, among the nation’s top drug-reform funders, gave $400,000 Thursday.

The Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States gave another $55,000 Tuesday (bringing its total so far to almost $3.42 million) to support Proposition 2, which would prohibit confinement of certain farm animals in ways that doesn’t let them turn freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association anted up another $250,000 Thursday to oppose Proposition 11, the legislative redistricting reform measure; the prison guards’ union previously had given state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s Leadership California Committee $602,000 with which to fight the measure, but this was its first donation directly to the “Citizens for Accountability – No on Prop. 11” committee. The Democratic State Central Committee of California had given $75,000 to oppose the measure a day earlier. In support of Prop. 11, former state Senator Rebecca Morgan of Los Altos Hills gave $50,000 and Marketing Investors Corp. of Dallas gave $25,000, both Monday.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
Under: campaign finance, Elections, General, same-sex marriage | No Comments »

Some thoughts on Sarah Palin

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain‘s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate is fascinating any way you cut it.

Palin is extremely popular in her state, enjoying approval ratings that’ve ranged as high as 80 to 90 percent. In a state beset by other Republicans’ scandals, she has made ethics and earmark-slashing — even her fellow Republicans’ earmarks — the cornerstones of her administration. Palin opposes abortion choice; supports capital punishment; opposes same-sex marriage but issued a veto which effectively granted benefits to same-sex partners of state employees; and is a lifetime National Rifle Association member. She’s a mother of five, the eldest of whom is in the Army and scheduled to ship out to Iraq next month, and the youngest of whom was born just this April with Down syndrome.

However, the Alaska Legislature — where Republicans control the state House and a bipartisan coalition runs the state Senate — has hired an investigator to probe whether she or her aides improperly pressured the Public Safety Department to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper who’d been in a divorce and child-custody battle with the governor’s sister; Palin fired the department’s commissioner in July, but said it had nothing to do with her sister.

A chief GOP criticism of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama — who was a state Senator for seven years and now a U.S. Senator for less than four — is that he’s too inexperienced to be president. Yet McCain has picked a running mate who’s younger than Obama and whose experience consists of four years as a citycouncilman and six as mayor of a town of 6,700 people (roughly two-thirds the size of Emeryville for all us East Bay folks), and now less than two years as Alaska’s governor.

Clearly part of McCain’s calculus in choosing Palin is the hope that she’ll attract female voters — be they Democrats, independents or Republicans — who are still irked that Hillary Clinton didn’t win the Democratic nomination. And in trying to pull those Democrats and independents, he’s putting faith in the idea that gender will trump policy in these voters’ hearts and minds. Perhaps he’s also hoping that having a 44-year-old running mate will balance voters’ concerns about his own age (again, happy 72nd birthday, Senator).

The Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President blog — launched in late February 2007, less than three months after she was sworn in as governor — is beside itself with joy.

Thoughts, anyone?

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Elections, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin | No Comments »

Election merchandising, good and bad

Every presidential campaign brings an avalanche of marketing, and this one’s no exception.

Some of it’s not bad, actually. It’s hard not to get a chuckle out of “72 Things Younger Than John McCain” by Joe Quint and “ObamaMania: The English Language Barackafied” by the editors of Slate, both recently released by Simon & Schuster’s Fireside imprint. The former is a fantasia of stuff that has come into the world since McCain was born 72 years ago today (happy birthday, Senator!) — including penicillin, Spam, the ZIP code, latex paint, the Slinky and 49 out of 50 U.S. governors — and the latter is a lexicon of Obama-inspired terminology — including the Barackolyte (“a devotee of the Dalai Lobama”) and Obamamatopoeia (“an excellent Barack Obama impression”). Neither book requires undue brain power, and neither is meant to: With McCain cracking wise about his own age and with Obama inspiring new heights (depths?) of rhetorical devotion, these books feel lightly amusing without being mean-spirited. (As I’ve blogged earlier, I have no patience for political humor based solely on partisan spite.)

Some of the marketing involves building a brand rather than selling a product. I got an e-mail yesterday from Chicago PR firm BIGfrontier announcing its recipe for the Obama Baracktail, “a red, white and blue cocktail designed specifically to celebrate Barack Obama’s official announcement as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. BIGfrontier is known for having developed the K’Tini, a wildly popular martini based on a marinated sauerkraut stuffed olive that reinvigorated the entire category of sauerkraut.”

(Note to self: “Reinvigorated Sauerkraut” is a good name for a band.)

The Baracktail recipe: two ounces of white Puerto Rican Rum (“signifies unifying every part of our country”); half an ounce of pomegranate juice (“signifies a healthy America”); and half an ounce of cherry juice (“signifies a sweetened economy”), shaken with one teaspoon of foaming sugar (?!?) and two ounces of club soda, poured into a frozen glass (“signifies Chicago”) and garnished with a skewer of blueberries.

Um, I’ll just have a rye Old Fashioned, thanks.

Said BIGfrontier honcho Steve Lundin: “We were thinking of developing a cocktail to commemorate George Bush’s last day in office, but couldn’t find ingredients that left a bitter enough aftertaste.”


And from the low end of the political marketing spectrum comes Obama Rocks.

Yes, rocks. With the Obama logo on them. For $6.99 each.

This is the brainchild of “two fifty-something sisters (one from Palm Desert, California, one from Mt. Vernon, MO)” looking to make a quick buck, and possessed of a backyard full of Ozark jasper and chert.

“A few days later, an epiphany! The Obama Rock was born,” says the news release. “Not the indigenous Jasper rock, but a smooth-surface, patriotically designed ‘species Obamarum rockus.’ It’s meant to be a lasting keepsake to commemorate a special time in American history.”

The California sister, Cheryl Glancy, says in the release, “I kept thinking that there was some kind of Divine intervention going on as to why I am still here in Missouri. Now I think I know.”

Me too, Ms. Glancy. Me too.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Elections, General, John McCain | 4 Comments »

Dem convention: Signing off, headed to St. Paul

The fireworks are over and security is trying to throw the press out of Invesco stadium, unsuccessfully, mind you. We’re a stubborn lot, especially on deadline.

The CNN groupies oogling Cooper Anderson have disbursed. I never knew cable television personalities had groupies.

Obama delivered an impressive speech. He was bold and confident. He was clear and concise.

And he set the tone for the upcoming campaign: Attack McCain’s politics, not his character. It remains to be seen whether the outside groups on both sides of the political aisle will subscribe to it but it is a worthwhile and worthy goal.

I was skeptical about this outdoor stadium idea. The stage seemed too grand with its Greek-like columns and the atmosphere too much like a rock concert. It was still way too long at nearly six hours. I worried that some of the delegates would have trouble sitting in the sun for so long. The fireworks were a little scary, frankly. I like my fireworks a little further afield than inside a stadium with 84,000 people.

But now that it’s over, I liked it. There were many memorable moments, some big and some small but the delegates — and myself — will surely take away a sense that democracy is sometimes worth grand gestures.

Next up, I’m headed to St. Paul for the Republican Convention. I’ve never been to Minnesota so I’m looking forward to seeing a new place and listening to different set of Americans exercise democracy.
Look for my “GOP convention” posts to start Saturday and my coverage next week of the nomination of John McCain and his vice president.

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
Under: Political conventions, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Thursday’s DNC video highlights

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson:

2000 Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Al Gore:

And I’ll post Barack Obama‘s presidential nomination acceptance speech as soon as I’ve got a clean clip…

UPDATE @ 9:23 P.M.: Here it is…

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
Under: Al Gore, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Democratic Party, Elections | No Comments »

Dem convention: Finally, Obama is on the stage

This is what these Democrats have been waiting for, the words of their new presidential nominee as they embark on the next three-month campaign for the White House against Republican John McCain.

Here’s the greeting they gave Obama when he came out on stage at Invesco stadium in Denver.

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
Under: Political conventions | No Comments »