The Times they are a-changin’

The Times (of London) yesterday reported on what looked to me like a political horror story for Barack Obama, involving an Iraqi-born billionaire said by a Pentagon report to have “served as Saddam Hussein’s principle international financial manipulator and bag man”, a multi-million dollar loan conducted through a Central American finance company, and an admission from Obama of “boneheaded mistakes”. Yet it appears to be receiving little coverage in the US, the links in the chain being admittedly rather weak (though since when has that ever stopped anyone in presidential politics?). So Hillary Clinton will evidently have to hope for some other miracle to come along in the four days before the next primaries. The latest polls show Obama streaking ahead in Texas, and closing in fast in Ohio.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

436 comments on “The Times they are a-changin’”

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  1. Dio, here’s the story:

    Interesting result from a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press: If their favored candidate is not the Democratic nominee, a quarter of Hillary Clinton’s primary supporters would defect and vote for John McCain in November, while only 10 percent of Barack Obama’s supporters would do the same.

    This discrepancy seems to be explained by Pew’s demographic breakdown of the potential defectors, as the groups most likely to jump are also Clinton’s bases of support: “One-in-five white Democrats (20%) say that they will vote for McCain over Obama, double the percentage who say they would switch sides in a Clinton-McCain matchup (10%). Roughly the same number of Democrats age 65 and older say they will vote for McCain if Obama is the party’s choice (22%). Obama also suffers more defections among lower income and less educated Democratic voters than does Clinton.”

    Here’s another interesting thing — the Clinton campaign is promoting this stat, both in an e-mail from spokesman Phil Singer and in an item on its “Delegate Hub” Web site.

  2. 349 – FG
    I don’t believe that there will be sufficient undecided super delegates who would be willing to get out and make a statement in support of a candidate until at least after Pennsylvania.

    This race has a while to go yet.

    That is barring massive upsets in Texas and Ohio, or Richardson, Edwards and Gore endorsing Obama.

  3. Off topic

    I just heard a collection of Lib pollies on radio talking about Nelson’s poll diving, and one said “no need to peak too early”!

    I kid you not! LOL

  4. Asanque and Claude. As Asanque has said, Hillary wants the original primary to be counted. There is no way the Party will agree to that as it would mean changing the Rules after the event. Dean has made it clear he will not do this. It’s all speculative, but Governor Crist has said that Florida will pay for the new primary, so that removes a major obstacle. Hillarymay have the decision taken for her, and in those circumstances may figure that she could outdo Obama again. As you say Claude, that propsect may keep her in the race.

    The SDs need to put it beyond reach.

  5. FG
    Any link to Governor Crist’s new primary?
    My understanding was restaging the primary would be prohibitively expensive and no one was willing to pay.

  6. 350 asanque: true, she’d prefer to keep the results she got at the original poll, however, it would seem unlikely that the DNC would allow that. A re-poll would be better than total exclusion, as she’d bet that she would still win, and win solidly (polling in Florida a couple of weeks ago seems to confirm that).

  7. Asanque @ 352. You may be right, but my argument is that they are the only ones who can end this thing and if they wait till after Penn they may do irretrievable damage to their campaign. The media pressure is already starting to mount on Hillary to concede. This will only increase after tomorrow if the maths becomes even more obvious.

    It’s time for the leaders to lead.

  8. KR- There is a flip side to that argument though. More Repug supporters will defect to Obama than than to Billary, so much do they hate her.
    FG- I am almost positive that Billary will keep going after tomorrow, which as you say will say volumes about her character.

    And everyone, don’t forget that tomorrow, Macca will officially become the Repug nominee. That will put extra pressure on the Dems to choose a candidate.

  9. 357 – Claude

    Thank you.

    I’m also of the view that a re-poll is the only fair solution and its good to see a Republican governor actually offering to assist.

    I wonder what will happen to Michigan.

  10. The only current polling (28 Feb) for Florida that I an can find is for democrat vs republican head to head.
    Florida: McCain vs. Clinton Mason-Dixon McCain 49, Clinton 40, Und 11
    Florida: McCain vs. Obama Mason-Dixon McCain 47, Obama 37, Und 16
    Hard to infer a Clinton/Obama figure out of this but perhaps a slight preference to Clinton. (recall that Jan 29 primary had it Clinton 50%, Obama 33%, Edwards 14%). Where would the Edwards voters go Obama or Clinton?

  11. [BLITZER: ……. but what’s happened in Iraq is, what, almost 4,000 American troops are dead. Nearly $1 trillion, $2 billion a week being spent, and Al Qaeda coming up in Iraq, as opposed to not really having much of a presence there before.

    CRIST: Nobody likes war. War is not fun. War is not pleasant. it wasn’t intended to be. But we are a safer country because of what’s happening. They’re on the run, not us.

    And it’s very important, I think, to have somebody in the White House who understands that for America’s safety and America’s security, somebody like John McCain gets it. And he understands how important or safety and security are. And, you know, don’t you think this president deserves a bit of credit for the fact that nobody has been on our soil since September 11th, 2001? ] CNN & Ferny.

    The following reassurances on the strength going forward of the Greatest War Economy on Earth is brought to you by Imbeciles-R-Us:

  12. 363 – Claude
    I’d be confident that Hillary would do no better then 55/45 in Florida and would only win marginally more delegates than Obama in a worst case scenario.

  13. 359

    No doubt there’s something to that, but like all these polls, there’s a fair bit of uncertianty, and there’s still a long way to go.

    Note that Feb numbers for Iraqi deaths was up over 30% on January and the political situation on the ground is still seeting away, with Sunni’s demonstrating their hatred of Ahmadenijad’s visit and the Basra region basically run by competing militia. Meanwhile, the Kurds are fighting Turkey.

    Hmm, looks like ‘success’ to me alright, and McCain’s virtually admitted that if it flares up again, his campaign gets toasted with it.

  14. Dio, here’s what I mean. In an area just cleared of Jihadis, the local Sunni are accepting US money to oust the fundamentalists:

    But they are consistently warned by local Sunni leaders that unless jobs and government positions materialize soon, some of their people will drift back to the extremists.
    “We have to be part of the government,” Mustafa Kamel, a local civilian guard leader, cautioned an American general.
    “If we are not going to be part of the government, the terrorists will come back and the situation will get worse here.”

    …in other words, if the Shia don’t allow us some real political places at the table and some of the spoils, then hey, don’t count on us being on side forever.

    Given the intransigence of al Maliki’s government, I just don’t see the Sunnis getting what they want anytime soon.

  15. KR- I was reading that there might be a new Shiite coalition formed out of the wreck of Iraq. The Shiites control Iran, and are struggling with the Sunni’s in Iraq. The oil-rich part of Saudi Arabia is also a Shiite stronghold. In effect, the Shiites could control crude oil production if they banded together, which they are increasingly doing. They would have preferential deals with China ahead of the US, and would sell their oil in Euros rather than $US. The US is well aware of this and knows that they cannot pull out in Iraq without ensuring a compliant puppet government which will allow them to control the oilfields. Obviously, the US won’t come out and say that but it’s a fairly compelling reason for them to stay there ad infinitum, or at least 100 years.

  16. If Hillary is perceived as putting her personal ambition above the good of the party by not standing down if she does not do well in tomorrow’s polls I reckon she’ll be pushed.
    This is the kind of “old Order” politics we are all heartily sick of. She needs to concede to maintain any credibility: the polls clearly show that Obama has more chance of beating McCain. That should be the end of it.

  17. 369

    The long game (ie oil) has always been the underlying theme to this war, and to pretend otherwise is naive, to say the least. Alongside this is the sectarian war, and of course the Sunni neighbours are looking on horrified as Ahmadenijad arrives to the red carpet welcome in Baghdad. (I mean, they must be asking, what was all that stuff about helping Saddam against the Iranians about if you just open the doors to them 20 years later?). It must be scary to them watching their own fractious Shia population getting all excited about the idea of throwing off Sunni repression.

    Ironically, Bush Snr did not go all the way to Baghdad for exactly these reasons, but it seems to have been entirely overlooked by the Shrub, and just look what a fine mess he’s made of it.

    So it makes the Saudi Shia, like the Turkish or Iranian Kurds, a bit keen to join their bretheren over the border, but of course the House of Saud will make sure that does not happen. One way or the other.

    No doubt the Saudi are asking themselves why their supposed ‘friends’ have done this for them.

  18. FG – The party leadership.
    No doubt many of them are beholden to the Clinton’s from days past, and would have hitched their little red wagons to her when she was the sure-fire winner. But that isn’t the case anymore, and I wondr how much pressure she can bring to bear on the SD’s when it is clear that Obama has a much better chance of defeating McCain.

  19. Dio, as for being there for a hundred years, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? But realistically, standing between the Shia and Sunni and playing referee is not going to gain them anything except casaulties and a heavy bill, so in the end the only real option is to let the Iraqis sort themselves out. All the political meddling and bribery and cajoling will not solve the underlying problem, and I think the best strategy is to withdraw. Iran will support the Shia, the Saudis will support the Sunni, and let the best man win.

    Sorry, it’s brutal, but all this ‘surge’ stuff is really not a solution, it’s just delaying the inevitable. Besides, the US is so overstretched that it’s unlikely to be able to keep the numbers up for another 10 months, let alone 100 years. (I think McCain is trying to say that it will all go ‘peaceful’ so we can keep a small police force there etc. But let’s be honest, the ‘peace’ is not sustainable without the US paying off the Sunni and having lots of boots on the ground.)

    Call me cynical, but this game is more about saving the republican’s hide rather than really solving the problems in Iraq.

  20. That, Jen, is the great unknown – How much pull do the Clintons still have with the majority of the SDs? Up till Super Tuesday you’d have to conclude they had quite a lot. Today, I imagine its a different landscape.

    As for who has the best chance of beating McCain – I don’t think we can know that yet. For reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere I don’t trust the polling on this at present. And even if I did, there’s not much in it. So I doubt the polls will be much influence on the SDs. What will sway most of them is the number of pledged delegates.

    They would also be concerned about a prolonged contest. I’m sure they want to get on with the real campaign asap. The next few days will test their mettle as much as Clinton’s.

    The rug is theirs to pull

  21. In the end, I think the Americans are on a hiding to nothing in Iraq. They will ahve to pull down and allow the Iraqis to have more control. At what threshold will it be before the Iraqis then say “Piss Off” and change all the rules that the Americans are now imposing. What can the Americans then do – start another war to teach them who is the boss?

  22. It’s interesting amidst the Rezco ranting by Hillary, that Obama has not once mentioned Whitewater. Such differences in…..character

  23. Ferny –
    love the gothic cartoon!
    Agreed on the Whitewater sludge. He could have had a field day, but has refrained – I suspect the focus groups are letting him on the secret that the average punter is sick to death of the smearing and innuendo that has been the MO for politics for such a long time: she is out of touch with the new culture emerging from the Dark Ages the neocons have constructed for the past several decades. Maybe she should try out for the Liberal leadership and drag them kicking and screaming into the 1980’s while the rest of us get on with 2008 onwards.

  24. Dio at 369: “The oil-rich part of Saudi Arabia is also a Shiite stronghold. In effect, the Shiites could control crude oil production if they banded together, which they are increasingly doing.”

    Not so sure about this Dio, am digging further.

    “A majority of Saudi citizens are Sunni Muslims. Within Sunni Islam, the strict interpretation of Islam taught by the Salafi or Wahhabi school is the only officially recognized religion.”

  25. Jen and Ferny, 378/9, I’m reminded of JWH and his less-than-polite references to the Ruddster and to Maxine in the days before the election (remember that interview with John and Janette). It was smart of Rudd and Maxine as well as courteous to refer to JWH as Mr Howard, made JWH look ‘mean and tricky’ all over again. Similar dynamics here, perhaps.

  26. and so we wait….the final curtain…our rose coloured glasses worn with open eyes,
    and yes j/v a rose coloured beer or wine to hand and EC cool and Jen vivacous ,
    but do we hear yet concession in the breeze?

    a silent beat in the distance for the last speech as it is already written awaiting the audience to cheer with sadness…..or relief , the dynastry is in the dust of history books now being written ,

    and in unison , the 15 sets of rose coloured glasses are tipped with pleasure ,
    whilst Growler’s snarling grissly snap seems but a smile on an autumn day

  27. Sunni has been the dominant strain in Islam almost from the beginning. Wahabism was only founded in the 18th Century and remained confined to an obscure corner of the Arabian peninsula until the Brits decided to back the Saud family in the 1920s. Then the Saudi state discovered oil and the US took over from the Brits backing the now rich reactionary state. Oil money funded madrassas which have since spread wahabism. In Pakistan, poor kids could get an education at the Saudi funded madrassas that the right-wing generals who have mostly run Pakistan have been unwilling to provide in a state-run education system. The result – the Taliban.

  28. ec- Oh ye of little faith!

    For the first time “the Shiites of eastern Saudi Arabia, the only part of the kingdom where they are a majority, are preparing to win a small measure of political power.” That is also the region where most Saudi oil happens to be.

    Saudi Shiites Look to Iraq and Assert Rights

    Shiites See an Opening in Saudi Arabia

  29. 384

    And the Shiites are treated (or have been, mostly) in the way they were in Saddam’s Iraq ie marginalised. Wahhabism, the extreme form of Isalmic doctrine from which bin Laden springs, sees the Shia as apostates, so no prizes for guessing how well they do in the kingdom. From what I understand, they happen to live over the main oilfields and provide a workforce of locals where they don’t want foriegners.

    Good article in today’s NYTimes about how young Iraqis of both sects are getting totally p1ssed off with the clerics and have started deriding religion and are not very observant. About one third of the incarcerated Sunni say they are doing ‘jihad’ and the rest are doing it for money mostly. It seems the occupation is breaking down the social structures pretty effectively.

  30. GG- That’s a yellow card for that link.

    KR- My understanding is that the Shiites relationship to the Muslims is analogous to the J#ws relationship to the Christians. They have been endlessly oppressed, marginalised and scapegoated. And the Iranians, who are the only Shiite country, are viewed by the Muslims a bit like Israel amongst the West. There is sort of a grudging respect for their grittiness and horrible history, but there is also a lot of suspicion and misgivings which can easily bubble to the surface. I suspect my thought are fairly facile and stereotyped though.

  31. Dio at 384:
    Sure, Doc, the Shiites in eastern Saudi Arabia are getting uppity, but the Wahhabi’s have the political/military power and absolutely control spigot access.
    “could control” don’t butter no parsnips where this little sceptic cut his teeth.

    From your WaPo link:

    “Since Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Saud, brought this region into the kingdom, promising Shiites the freedom to live and worship as they wished, the government has rarely kept its promises, Shiite leaders here say. Though thousands of Shiites work in the area’s oil refineries, they have never risen much above the lowest ranks at Saudi Aramco, the behemoth state oil company whose headquarters are a few miles south of here in Dhahran. “

  32. 387

    Sounds about right to me Dio, but I always tend to think in terms of Irish sectarianism with the Sunni Anglicans and the bogside Shia tykes. There’s a real class thing too, since most Arab Shia live as oppressed groups within Sunni run countries so there’s been that as well. Also, the Shia ceremonies tend to be rather crude, self-flagellation for example, which the Sunni see as primitive.

  33. Is it my rose coloured glasses that I am wearing? I got a sense that the roses are starting to smell nicer for Hillary. Cannot wait until tomorrow. Bring it on!

  34. Finns- You may be on to something there. There is a medical term for the roses smelling better for Billary. It’s called hyperosmia. It’s often associated with temporal lobe epilepsy.

    The symptoms of TLE include episodes of most sensations occurring in the absence of reality esp smell. There are temporal relationships to memory as follows with examples:

    -déjà vu (a feeling of familiarity as in “This President thing seems oddly familiar”)
    -jamais vu (a feeling of unfamiliarity as in “This is real life but I’m going to lose”)
    -a specific single or set of memories (as in “I’m ready to lead” and “The media are trying to pervert the course of history”)
    -amnesia (extreme repression of an unpleasant memory)

    It is normally treated with anti-epileptics but in Billary’s case a couple of hundred thousand voters will partially cure it tomorrow.

  35. Here’s a nice graph of Billary’s superdelegate lead. I think there’s a trend greater than the MOE but I’ll have to check with Dennis.

  36. 393

    No wonder Hillary has launched a new ad:

    child asleep, Hillary voice-over:”Vote for me, or the kid gets it”

  37. Prediction time for tomorrow:
    Texas- Obama 51/49
    Ohio- Clinton 55/45
    Vermont-Obama 60/40
    Rhode Island- Clinton 58/42
    Clinton NOT to concede

  38. Texas: 53-47 Obama
    Ohio: 51-49 Clinton

    2 days to go. tomorrow is the day everyone gets it that Bush/Clinton are finished.
    The day after is when the Heavies move on her.
    When she concedes is up to her and whether she wants a political life of any significance after tomorrow.

    My tip. she concedes before the week is up.

  39. Win Butler from the Arcade Fire made a good point. There has been a Bush or Clinton as President or VP for 28 years now. If Billary does concede gracefully in exchange for VP, it could be a 36 year run for the Bush/Clinton dynasty as POTUS or VP.

  40. Texas (193 delegates): Obama 54% to Clinton 46%.
    Ohio (141 delegates): Clinton 51%, Obama 49%.
    Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (21 delegates): Clinton 52%, Obama 48%.
    Virginia (15 delegates): Obama 65%.
    She conceded before 11 March.

  41. In the betting markets:
    Ohio – Clinton is a hot favourite
    Texas – Obama is a moderate favourite
    Rhode Island/Vermont – Clinton/Obama unbackable respectively

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