Friday, April 13, 2007

Gently Roasted

In case you're wondering, Wednesday's roast was more of a gentle basting. I had trained for far worse than I actually received. And when Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is the funniest guy there--well, it shows how much it helps to have a staff of people helping you to be funny. Two jokes: Phil said I didn't deserve a full day in my honor, so he issued a proclamation that 10-11 pm would be my hour in the City of Phoenix, but that I should enjoy myself because he'd be in bed by then. And our friend Marcy Shaffer's song, "This Sam is Your Sam," included the wonderful line, "Despite that smile/He gave us Kyl." Also, about a dozen people got or took credit for introducing Beth and me. Success has a thousand fathers, etc.

The next morning, one of my new partners asked how it went and if I'd actually had fun, because some people are uncomfortable being the center of attention. I said I didn't know anybody like that.

East Valley Tribune, Apr. 8, 2007

It wasn’t a good week for the "I’m inevitable, so fall in line" campaign strategy. The 2008 presidential race’s first big test, first quarter fundraising, wasn’t kind to alleged frontrunners. While it’s still very, very early, it’s just too, too tempting not to enjoy some schauenfreude at their expense.

Sen. Hillary Clinton tried to direct the news cycle by leaking to Matt Drudge her finance totals. Drudge responded with banner headlines, "AMERICA LOVES HILLARY" and "Hillary in blowout with $36 million."

Drudge’s call had a couple of problems, however. First, $10 million of Clinton’s total came from her 2006 Senate campaign, money which wasn’t raised during the quarter or for her presidential race. Second, $6 million more came from high-dollar contributors who "maxed out" by giving both $2,300 for the primaries and more for the general.

When Sen. Barack Obama announced his fundraising totals, knowledgeable observers quickly realized that Drudge called the wrong winner. Obama raised $25 million in the quarter, nearly the same total, but with more available for primary use, $23.5 million to $20 million.

Hoary political rules-of-thumb haven’t done so well lately, but campaign veterans tell you that the best source of future contributions is people who already gave, so Obama’s roster of nearly 100,000 contributors, mostly smaller donors and twice Clinton’s total, should be an advantage going forward. Also, Clinton’s $10 million transfer from her Senate campaign account reminded people that she spent $37 million on that campaign running against a doomed no-hope nonentity.

There’s some justice that the Clinton campaign’s little dance with Drudge (and shameless courting of the Murdoch-owned New York Post, which actually endorsed her in 2006) didn’t work. Leaking to Drudge makes perfect sense; as a ‘winger, he’d want Hillary to be the Democratic frontrunner (the better to scare Republicans into swallowing their doubts about their own candidates), and he often sets the media agenda for "real" reporters. But too many insiders know too much about fundraising to let a Drudge headline be the whole story. Clinton should remember that if you lie down with dogs, you need to get out of it more than just fleas.

The supposed GOP frontrunner, Sen. John McCain, started his week with a one-hour tour of Baghdad’s Shorja market, claiming that he could "walk freely" in the city. That is, if "walk freely" means being escorted by some 100 U.S. soldiers, 3 Blackhawk helicopters, and 2 Apache gunships, plus wearing body armor.

McCain saw his unimpressive poll numbers matched by disappointing fundraising. He finished third among Republicans with $12.5 million, well behind Mitt Romney’s $20.5 million and Rudy Giuliani’s $15 million. Not only did McCain raise less than half of what Clinton and Obama each raised, McCain also fell behind John Edwards’s $15 million (twice his 2004 total), too.

Romney’s numbers were a record -- until Clinton and Obama announced their results. Similarly, ever since the Federal Election Commission started keeping track, Republican candidates have always raised more money than Democrats, but this year it’s the reverse; the Democrats together raised $78 million ($15 million via the Internet), the Republicans $51 million.

But the most schauenfreude-ish news is that McCain’s campaign reacted to their fundraising problems by bringing in former Sen. Phil Gramm and Fred Malek. As a presidential candidate, Gramm raised millions, and got Arizona Republicans to schedule a special early taxpayer-funded primary designed for his benefit, only to drop out of the race the week before the Arizona vote. Malek, as ordered by President Nixon who thought Jewish economists were after him, prepared a list of top Bureau of Labor Statistics staffers whom Malek suspected were Jewish. Two Jewish staffers actually got demoted. Malek denies having anything to do with the transfers, claiming that he only counted Jews, and anything else that happened wasn’t his department.

So much for "Straight Talk": Underperform, then call in two of America’s least savory money types to bail you out. I hope Sen. McCain kept that Baghdad flak jacket; it might come in handy here, too.

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