WILLIAMS: Thanks to our candidates for being here on a snowy night in the great city of Cleveland, Ohio.
A lot has been said since we last gathered in this forum, certainly in the few days since you two last debated.
Senator Clinton, in your comments especially, the difference has been striking. And let's begin by taking a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: You know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored and...
And, therefore, I think it's important that you stand up for yourself and you point out these differences so that voters can have the information they need to make a decision.
You know, for example, it's been unfortunate that Senator Obama has consistently said that I would force people to have health care whether they could afford it or not.
You know, health care reform and achieving universal health care is a passion of mine. It is something I believe in with all my heart.
CLINTON: And every day that I'm campaigning -- and certainly herethroughout Ohio, I've met so many families, happened again this morningin Lorain, who are just devastated because they don't get the health
care they deserve to have.
I'm in the Media Filing room with more than a hundred laptop-pounding reporters. The debate will start in about ten minutes and I'll post my reactions as it goes along.
9:03 pm: No rules for this debate, just "reasonable time limits on answers." Good luck with that!
9:10 pm: Brilliant way to open, showing tape of Clinton making nice at the last debate and then lashing out at Obama. Clinton goes with calling Obama's tactics "disturbing," a word choice that makes her sound reasonable, matter of fact. She is not showing any visible anger. Insists that her plan will cover everyone and be affordable. "We should have a good debate that uses accurate information."
9:15 pm: Clinton has jumped in twice, cutting off Williams. Obama isn't able to get a word in. Clinton is beginning to look distinctly angry. They are both shaking their heads while the other speaks. This isn't helping either, but Clinton is the one who needs to come off better.
9:19 pm: Ridiculous. Clinton complains about getting the first questions every time. Refers to the SNL skit. Groaning and booing in the media room. That didn't go over well.
9:27 pm: Clinton tries to disagree with Russert about being inconsistent on NAFTA, but it doesn't come off as credible because Russert laid out too many examples.
9:29 pm: They've been talking about NAFTA for over ten minutes, and Obama is finally getting into the emotional side, the impact on workers and families who lose their insurance and pensions along with their jobs.
Politico reports that the National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) today, making the supposedly endangered freshman legislator look even better for re-election:
The National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) for re-election today, giving the freshman congressman key credibility among gun owners as he runs for re-election in a largely rural and solidly Republican district.
"During just my first term in Congress, the NRA and I have already forged a strong working relationship as we both seek to protect the gun owners and sportsmen in the 18th Congressional District,” said Space in a statement. ...
Republicans have had trouble recruiting credible candidates to challenge Space, despite the district’s Republican tilt. The four Republican candidates who have filed for the state’s March 4 primary have hardly raised any money in preparation for the campaign. ...
The NRA’s endorsement suggests that prospect for Republicans is increasingly unlikely, and that Space’s long-term prospects of holding the seat may be better than even he once expected.
Space has done everything necessary to lay the groundwork for continuing in office, with great fundraising, visibility, casework, and attention to issues his constituents really care about. I think he's in terrific shape to not only stay in for a second term, but for about as long thereafter as he wants.
Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray (D-Grove City) discusses his recent decision to endorse Barack Obama, which included thinking about who he wants to be in the White House during his twin daughters' formative years:
This was a tough shot to get -- I had to sneak around the side of the Hardball set and squeeze as much telephoto capability as I could out of my little digital camera, zooming in there between the spectators, light stands, and technicians. I guess my efforts didn't escape his attention, judging by the look on Chris Matthew's face.
That's Chuck Todd sitting next to him. Shortly after this shot Matthews spoke to a couple of Ohio superdelegates, Clinton supporter Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Obama supporter David Wilhelm.
This compares to 52% to 43% a week ago. Clinton is basically holding her ground with women voters at 58% to 36%. Obama is at 75% to 23% among African American voters, 55% to 39% among male voters.
The margin of error is 3.6 points.
While I was gearing up and getting my butt down to the Wolstein Center I missed some big developments in the news:
* Greg Oden, star player for OSU's 2006-2007 Big Ten Champion and national runner-up team, endorsed Barack Obama today. From the Obama campaign:
The number one overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, Oden is a first-time voter, and he decided to speak out about this election because he believes America is at a critical juncture.
So the narrative running up to the debate at my alma mater tonight is, "How will Hillary turn things around?" Will she go negative/aggressive. Will nice-Hillary or nasty-Hillary show up. Even if she hits a "home run" will it be enough?
Do I have that right?
[Dear media tools: that's "Convocation Center," not "Convention" Center.]
Note that the story isn't about what Obama will do, that the nomination is his to lose with all the momentum he's gained over the last month.
I'm not complaining, just making the observation. Obama is just chugging along -- saturating the airways, overloading auditoriums -- which is boring to write or talk about. Hillary may or may not hit on a winning strategy, but it certainly seems like her campaign is trying anything and everything hoping something sticks. It certainly is interesting if nothing else.
Tonight very well may be the last time we see these two in a debate. That alone makes it significant. I believe that as long as Obama keeps his cool, he wins. Senator Clinton needs to win "Tiny Tuesday" by such a significant margin even Texas and Ohio "wins" won't be enough unless she scores a true blow-out. A good debate performance is just one step, and probably not enough.
What she really needs is something she can't control, which is the unstated truth that this nomination is now Obama's to lose, and he can if he finally "loses it." She needs him to try some kind of, "There you go again" moment that lacks any sense of graciousness.
Hillary needs to goad Barack into saying, "Shut up, Bitch."
Ain't ever going to happen, but wow, would that be good TV.
When Jill and I arrived around 2:00 p.m. there were supporters for both candidates camped out on the corners of Prospect Avenue and 21st Street, waving at the traffic and pedestrians.
The driver of a huge dump truck honked for Hillary. A bus turning the corner seemed to slow down, allowing the passengers to rap on the windows and wave to the Obama people.
A number of Clinton supporters are wearing black tee shirts that say "Meet Me In Ohio," a reference to her purportedly spontaneous televised tirade in Cincinnati on Sunday when she said to Obama, "Meet me in Ohio and we'll have a debate on your tactics." If we didn't know already, the tee shirts signal what this event is all about. Clinton is going on offense, hoping for a knockout blow.
Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern, Executive Director Doug Kelly, and Director of Targeting John Hagner are giving a presentation to the press on the party's strategy for 2008. Here's a tiny bit of Redfern's introduction:
UPDATE: Doug Kelly and John Hagner did a powerpoint presentation about Ohio and ODP strategy. In broad terms, the party is working very hard on developing a knowledge base about Ohio voters and a micro-targeting strategy to deliver a fine-tuned election message. One surprising slide showed that 49% of the Democratic vote in 2004 came from counties that touch or are north of the Ohio Turnpike, which runs across the northern edge of the state -- I had not thought about it that way before.
Another display identified the Ohio congressional districts with an odd number of delegates (OH-03, OH-06, OH-16, OH-17, and OH-18). In those districts a candidate can win more delegates than his or her opponent by winning only 51% of the vote, as compared to about 60% needed for a net delegate gain in districts with an even number of delegates. Looking at the display, the travel schedules of the candidates and their surrogates suddenly made more sense.
John Kerry won 16 counties in 2004 and lost 72; Ted Strickland flipped those numbers perfectly in 2006 by winning 72 and losing 16. The Strickland map of counties won has a beautiful big expanse of blue across the middle and right-hand side -- except for Holmes County, which sticks out like a big red thumb.
The GOP had a massive advantage in knowledge about voters in 2004, but no state party has spent more money than the ODP in 2006 and 2007 on micro-targeting, Hagner said.
The photo is from reporter Sabrina Eaton's story at The Plain Dealer's political blog, Openers, as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) became the first former 2008 presidential candidate to endorse Sen. Barack Obama at a press event in Cleveland this morning.
Eaton reports that the potential damage of an increasingly divisive campaign fight between Obama and Clinton was the immediate cause for Dodd making this announcement. As to his chosen candidate, Dodd cited Obama's crossover appeal:
Dodd compared Obama's capacity to attract GOP voters with former Republican President Ronald Reagan's appeal to Democrats.
"It goes beyond just the issues," Dodd said, citing Obama's "ability to reach and touch the hearts and souls of Americans."
This is a big one for Obama.
Join fellow Clinton supporters in cheering and waving for the TV cameras, then watching the debate at a rally.
Details after the break.
Hillary Clinton will convene an "Economic Solutions Summit" at Ohio University Zanesville on Wednesday afternoon, bringing together governors, business, labor and political leaders and working families from across Ohio and the nation to outline solutions to the great challenges facing America.
The Obama campaign invites you to show your support by joining a crowd of cheering, sign-waving Obama fans for the benefit of TV cameras outside the Wolstein Center in Cleveland.
Details after the flip.
In preparation for tomorrow's rally with Obama, there will be a sign-making party on February 16th at 7:00 PM at the Obama campaign's Ohio State University headquarters, 2240 N. High St., Columbus, OH.
Here are some photos I took with my cell phone this morning when I picked up my official press credential at about 8:45 a.m. Cleveland got three or four inches of sticky snow overnight and much more is expected during the course of the day. The roads are already slushy, but not impassable.
I was impressed that Clinton supporters were already on hand with four of these large signs, waving to the morning rush hour traffic along Prospect Avenue. A police officer herded the ones on the Wolstein Center side of the street across to the other side while I was walking by. There will be a line of bicycle racks along Prospect with supporters of the two candidates arrayed for the media as the event draws closer.
This enormous banner, with spotlights trained on it, will be the backdrop for introductory bits on the TV networks.
This is the set for the MSNBC show "Hardball with Chris Matthews," which will be broadcasting from this location from about 5:00 p.m. as I understand it. This is in the Spin Room, located in a practice basketball court in the basement, where The Plain Dealer and NBC News also have locations set up. I will be in the spin room as various elected officials and dignitaries give interviews before the debate, and where surrogates for the candidates will present their views about what happened in the debate when it is over.
Here is the NBC News backdrop in the Spin Room. During the debate itself I will be in the Media Filing Room on the fourth floor, live blogging the debate. Jill Miller Zimon of WLST will be in the press areas as well, and the two of us plan to communicate with the Meet the Bloggers contingent over at the studios of local NBC affiliate WKYC-TV 3.
The Wolstein Center will be cleared out for a security check around 11:00 a.m. this morning. I will return there about 1:00 p.m. and plan to post furiously for the rest of the day and evening.
Thanks to Jeff for the invitation to update you all on Cleveland City Council's "Fighting Foreclosure and Abandonment Forum" for the Presidential campaigns Wednesday morning.
We learned Monday that Fred Hochberg, Dean of Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy in New York City, will represent the Clinton campaign at the Forum, which starts at 10 am in City Council Chambers at 601 Lakeside.
He'll join Obama Senior Advisor Mark Alexander at the front table.
More about the Fighting Foreclosure Forum here. And, just posted...
American Research Group has not been the most reliable pollster of late, but for what it is worth their new poll released today has Clinton out in front by ten:
4% Someone Else
Clinton leads 53% to 35% among Democrats, Obama leads 54% to 36% among independents.
The poll sample is 600 and the margin of error is 4 points. It was taken February 23-24.
Michelle Obama will meet with voters in Warren, Akron, Canton, Zanesville, Athens, and Chillicothe on Wednesday and Thursday, but not further details are yet available. I will add them to the events calendar (right sidebar) when I get them.
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory announced his endorsement of Barack Obama at today’s “Keeping America’s Promise” Rally at the University of Cincinnati. Mayor Mallory is a Superdelegate and will cast his vote for Obama at the Democratic Convention in Denver this summer. He joins fellow Ohio Superdelegates Sonny Nardi and David Wilhelm in supporting Senator Obama.
“Barack Obama is inspiring and exciting people in Cincinnati in way I haven’t seen before, bringing new people into the political process because they believe in his message that when we come together, anything is possible,” Mayor Mallory said. “We know the challenges we face are steep—finally providing a quality education for every child; making sure that every American has health care. But we also know that with the right leadership, we can put the partisanship and the special interests aside and finally make progress again for working people. I’m endorsing Barack Obama today for the same reason that so many Cincinnatians are supporting him: because we know he’s the candidate who can bring about the change we need.”
Mallory joins African American big city mayors Mike Coleman of Columbus, Frank Jackson of Cleveland, and Jay Williams of Youngstown in supporting Obama.
At the press orientation and preview for tomorrow night's debate at Cleveland State University, ODP Chair and superdelegate Chris Redfern called the event "the most important debate so far" as we build up to "what looks like the most important primary." Both candidates "understand that Ohio is essential to their success, not only in the primary election but also in the general election." He also said that "whoever wins Ohio will win the nomination," although he immediately qualified that statement somewhat:
If Hillary Clinton wins in Ohio and shows success in Texas, then that shows her a path to the nomination. ... If Obama wins here and in Texas, then he will be the nominee.
He also reiterated that he will remain neutral through the course of the campaign. "Hell, I want to make it interesting," he added. However, he said, he is aware that every word he utters will be dissected by bloggers in an attempt to divine which way he is leaning.
At a press availability outside the arena at the Wolstein Convocation Center, Redfern spoke to reporters along with CSU President Michael Schwartz, WKYC President and General Manager Brooke Spectorsky, and NBC Debate Producer Phil Alongi. They described the incredible scramble to get this event pulled together in just 14 days. Valerie McCall, speaking for Mayor Frank Jackson, said that he "could not be more eager to support something that will be a defining moment not just in the election but in history." But Redfern is the one who really put it out there. "If they had all of the debates here in Ohio, that would be the best, saving everybody a lot of time and energy," he said, "since we all know that Ohio will be the most important state in the election."
"Hillary Clinton is in big trouble," said Dean Debnam, president of PPP, in the polling memo. "As recently as a week ago many polls in the state were showing her with around a 20 point lead. The race is trending heavily toward Obama and time is on his side with another eight day before the voting."
Rumors that former John Edwards support, Ohio Blogger Mark Adams finally getting off the fence and deciding to reject Hillary's advances (and cookies, even the chocolate chip ones) was the deciding factor in beginning this groundswell of support for the Illinois Senator cannot be confirmed.
Jane Mitakides (D-Dayton) is on the air:
Here is the script:
[Jane Mitakides:] This election is about change and a future of opportunity for all Americans.
As a member of the St. Elizabeth Development Board, I fought government policies that denied healthcare to families who left welfare for work.
Now, I’m ready to fight for jobs, fair trade, and education.
Let’s end the era of no-bid contracts and work towards real solutions.
I’m Jane Mitakides and I approved this message because I believe real change starts with us.