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Tea Parties: Conservatives' New Media Launch?

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Apr 19th 2009 12:20AM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, USC, Media

The "tax day tea parties" this week marked arguably the most visible sign of a conservative uprising since before Bush 43's presidency, with over 300,000 estimated attendees across nearly 350 cities nationwide.

But the larger impact embodied by these protests is a bit more subtle: It shows that conservatives have discovered new media in a very powerful way.

Political campaigns of all ideological viewpoints have long gathered e-mail lists of supporters and built professionally-designed websites to serve as their online presence. But only recently has the Internet evolved to serve as a global town hall, with activists uploading pictures and videos from events held around the world, and networking tool, with registered organizers pooling resources and sharing plans.

In the last election season, both Barack Obama and John McCain created social networking sites and event registration tools in addition to Facebook pages and a YouTube channel. The Obama campaign was more successful with these tools for a variety of reasons (younger base of supporters, ridiculous talent on staff), but the online media landscape is changing so rapidly that conservatives have a real chance at surpassing the most impressive techniques of the '08 cycle.

Beyond the ideological debate behind Wednesday's protests, the fact remains that hundreds of events, sometimes thousands of miles apart, were linked together by the power of social media, as organizers coordinated events online and exchanged pictures (video, stories, etc.) afterward.

More on new media after the jump...

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Alaskan Republicans Ask for Begich's Resignation

Tony Romm

Posted:  Apr 3rd 2009 11:49AM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, American University

Now that federal prosecutors have abandoned their ethics case against embattled Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the state's leading Republicans have asked Stevens' successor, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, to defend his seat in a special election.

The latest round of Alaskan political boondoggling began earlier this week when the state's GOP chair, Randy Ruedrich, publicly attributed Begich's close, 3,700-vote victory over Stevens last November to "a few thousand Alaskans [who] thought that Senator Stevens was guilty of seven felonies." Gov. Sarah Palin then echoed that assertion in a separate interview on Thursday, telling the Anchorage Daily News, "Alaskans deserve to have a fair election not tainted by some announcement that one of the candidates was convicted fairly of seven felonies, when in fact it wasn't a fair conviction."

To Ruedrich and Palin, the ideal redress would be a prompt do-over, triggered by Begich's resignation. The vacancy would then permit Stevens, who was indicted in July for failing to disclose gifts he received while in office, to attempt a new campaign without the looming threat of legal action.

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Congress Begins Talk of Ending Cuba Embargo

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Apr 3rd 2009 1:41AM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, News, Notre Dame

Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, is trying to urge changes to the nearly 50-year-old economic embargo against Cuba.

Lugar, in a March 30 letter to President Obama, said the embargo against Cuba, which has been in place since 1962 to protest the government set up by Fidel Castro, "undermines our broader security and political interests in the Western Hemisphere."

Lugar asked Obama to appoint a special envoy to start direct talks with Cuba's communist government and end opposition to Cuba's membership in the Organization of American States, The Washington Post reported. Lugar pointed to the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago as a good place to make changes in U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba.

Lugar is also the co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would end restrictions on travel to Cuba except for in cases of war or direct threats to health and safety. As it stands now, Cuban Americans with relatives on the island are allowed to visit once a year. Travel to Cuba by all U.S. citizens has been prohibited in varying degrees since 1963, the Post said. The State Department lists who exactly is allowed to travel there. It's a hard list to make, which is a shame, because the forecast for the next week is in the 80s.

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The Superstitious Defense of Norm Coleman

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Mar 31st 2009 10:24PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Boston University

The Minnesota Senate race is getting closer to an end, and Norm Coleman probably won't win. A three-judge panel ruled on Tuesday that at most, 400 ballots questioned by Coleman, who is barely losing to Al Franken, can be recounted in court in about a week.

The news is great for Franken and Democrats, who are that much closer to getting 59 seats in the Senate, a very powerful number that can potentially dust off threats of Republican filibusters. But Coleman and the Republicans aren't giving up. They have raised millions of dollars to fuel the recount, delaying either senator from working on Capitol Hill.

Yet money may not be enough to win this legal battle stemming from Nov. 4, at least according to Coleman's lawyer, who suggested Tuesday that supernatural forces had something to do with the unfortunate rulings.

"We said that this court's Friday the 13th order is wrong, and now their almost April Fool's Day order is equally wrong," said attorney Ben Ginsberg, referring first to the February 13 ruling that discarded some ballot categories as grounds for recounting.

Obviously I'm no legal expert or scholar of law, but I don't think it's absurd to suggest that when the defense brings up scary bad-luck days like Friday the 13th or "almost April Fool's Day," its options may be running thin.

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This Again? Some Still Claiming Media's Obama 'Swoon'

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Mar 23rd 2009 1:44AM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Boston University, Media

Kevin Ferris's op-ed today titled "Media's swoon over Obama" even reached the commentary pages of Japan's largest newspaper, The Daily Yomiuri, where I first read it. I wonder how many other people took it seriously.

Ferris, an editorial page editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, uses a new documentary about campaign coverage to rehash the old argument that during the 2008 race, "the media let us down in nearly every respect."

Fine. Let's hear what you've got to say.

Pointing to a spot in the anti-Obama, anti-media documentary by John Ziegler, Ferris rages over how it is the fault of "the media" that lots of facts about Sarah Palin stuck with voters, while many facts about Barack Obama did not. He notes how voters remembered Palin's expensive wardrobe, Bristol's pregnancy and Tina Fey's impersonation. But "what didn't sink in" about Obama was, according to Ferris/Ziegler, his "background in Chicago politics, his association with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers."

Never mind that referring to Obama's "background in Chicago politics" is too vague to mean much. Do these men really think that the American public didn't hear enough about Bill Ayers? I can still hear Palin's sound bites in my head from every stump speech she gave referring to Obama "palling around with terrorists."

The anti-media, anti-Obama crowd is apparently still seething over its claim that the mainstream media didn't cover Obama's relationship with Ayers. Is that so? What about this front-page New York Times article titled, "Obama and '60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths," that ran above the fold a month before the election? Don't forget the Times's story the very next day, called, "Palin, on Offensive, Attacks Obama's Ties to '60s Radical."

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Meg Whitman Hands Out Free USB Bracelets

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Mar 1st 2009 5:23PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, USC

It may not have been as evident in this weekend's CPAC conference with the typical bumper stickers and bombastic speakers, but a growing number of Republicans are moving to close the technology gap with 2010 campaigns in mind.

Consider the innovative USB bracelets handed out by Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's campaign at the California Republican Party Convention. The 512MB flash drives contain a two-minute campaign video with space left for other files, so it can be used for daily tasks while bearing Meg Whitman's campaign message around the user's wrist.

For the former eBay CEO, the bracelets are a strong reinforcement of her theme, "A New California." But their price tag -- up to $8-$12 apiece, a quick Web search suggests -- threatens to undercut Whitman's desired image as a fiscal conservative.

UPDATE 6:31pm: Whitman campaign spokesman Mitch Zak says in an e-mail that the campaign distributed close to 1,000 USB bracelets at the state party convention, at a cost of around $7 apiece. The idea came from senior advisor Jeff Randle, according to Zak, and "the response was phenomenal."

Zak adds: "We liked them because they allowed people to show their support for the Campaign, we were able to share a video produced to engage people in the effort and it's something that people will keep and use most likely for the duration of the Campaign. It's a great value and demonstrates the power of technology and creativity Meg wants to harness to create a New California."

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Romney Wins 2009 CPAC Straw Poll... Preemptively Loses 2012?

Tony Romm

Posted:  Mar 1st 2009 8:52AM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, American University

WASHINGTON D.C. -- After conceding at the annual gathering only a year earlier, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney serendipitously eked out a symbolic victory in the Conservative Political Action Convention's (CPAC) presidential straw poll, held here on Saturday.

According to Politico, Romney, who received only 20 percent of the CPAC vote, was closely trailed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (14 percent), Texas Rep. Ron Paul (13 percent), Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (13 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (10 percent) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (7 percent). Also on the ballot were South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite the wide array of choices, however, nine percent of CPAC attendants said they were undecided.

Yet, this is hardly Romney's first CPAC straw poll win -- in fact, in 2007 and 2008, the former Massachusetts governor trounced his competition, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who the party inevitably nominated.

Luckily for Romney, he is not the only GOP candidate to have lost a general election despite an impressive CPAC poll victory. Rather, he conforms to a historic norm, one whereby the winner of the conference's symbolic poll rarely reaches the general election:

Poll year CPAC poll winner
Winner's political future
2008 | 2007
Mitt Romney Ironically conceded at CPAC in 2008
2006 | 2005 Sen. George Allen, R-Va. Defeated by Dem. challenger Jim Webb in 2006 Virginia Senate race
2004-2001 GOP held White House
2000 George W. Bush Won presidency
1999 Former Undersecretary of Education Gary Bauer Dropped out after New Hampshire primary
1998 Steve Forbes Won only two delegates in 1996, dropped out after taking 3rd in Delaware in 2000
1995 Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Tx Received less than 1 percent of the 1996 presidential primary vote; joined 2008 McCain campaign

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Student, 20, Fighting For Right To Run For Office

Joshua Chaney

Posted:  Feb 23rd 2009 7:46PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, News, Muskingum College

Brett McClafferty, a now 20-year-old Cleveland State University student, came up one single solitary vote shy of becoming mayor - at the age of 19 - of Streetsboro, Ohio in May 2007.

Shortly after, city officials put a charter amendment on the November ballot of that year raising the legal age to run for mayor or council from 18 to 23. The amendment was approved by 59 percent of voters.

But now McClafferty is back and intends to run for city council. The law discriminates against young people, he said, and if the Portage County Board of Elections refuses to certify his candidacy he plans to file a federal lawsuit.

"I'd like to see the courts acknowledge this law is unconstitutional and arbitrary, McClafferty told the Akron Beacon Journal. "I think this is a fight for young people across the country. It's a slippery slope. If you acknowledge an age requirement is legitimate, there is no reason all municipalities can't start adopting them."

Proponents of the amendment in age requirement likely want to ensure candidates have more life experience. However, renewed access to and interest in politics, especially online, might mean that a college student has as much knowledge of government as your average 50-year-old.

A former president of the council who chaired the city's charter review commission told the Beacon Journal in 2007 that the commission's members decided on 23 because the age would give candidates five years to go to college, go to the military, or work for five years.

Ohio requires a person to be 18 to run for most state and local offices. The age of 18 affords citizens the right to vote, among many others.

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Carly Fiorina "Considering" Bid to Oust Barbara Boxer in 2010

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Feb 21st 2009 7:36PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Small Campus, Big Story, Breaking News, USC

SACRAMENTO, CA -- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina indicated today that she might seek the Republican nomination in 2010 to challenge incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

In a meeting with California College Republicans, Fiorina acknowledged that she is "considering a run for Barbara Boxer's seat" in the U.S. Senate. The room of young Republicans erupted with applause at the mention of Boxer's name. The Senate Democrat is a staunch liberal and the subject of much ire in conservative circles.

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Meghan McCain: No Secret That Republican Party's Not Internet Savvy

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Feb 21st 2009 6:28PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Culture, News, Media, Notre Dame

Meghan McCain, the 24-year-old daughter of former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, put out an interesting article this week on The Daily Beast talking about the GOP's Internet shortcomings.

Is she laying the groundwork for a Chelsea Clinton-Meghan McCain presidential showdown in 20 years?

McCain, who writes that she was an independent before she registered as a Republican for Father's Day last year, maintained a blog during the presidential contest., "Musings on Politics from a Pop Culture Girl," is a cute site and Meghan does a good job of showing behind-the-scenes shots from the campaign.

She made the Straight Talk Express look fun, but the site didn't get that much coverage during the campaign.

McCain writes in her Daily Beast article that when she suggested starting a blog to record her experiences following her father's campaign, some people didn't know what a blog was. She doesn't name names, so we don't know if it was, maybe, John McCain himself.

She writes that she found the Republican Party's lack of technological know-how frustrating.

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Plouffe: Off The Record, Under Scrutiny

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Feb 12th 2009 5:56PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Local, Media, Notre Dame

David Plouffe, the chief campaign manager for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, filled my e-mail inbox for months with news about his candidate. Now that the campaign is over, he still wants to keep our relationship confined to e-mailing.

Plouffe made a speech Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., but requested that it be off the record.

He was speaking as part of the Transitions 2009 event, sponsored by Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies. Other than Plouffe's speech, the rest of the event is on the record.

Politico was originally a sponsor of the conference, but backed out because they didn't want to be involved in "an off the record talk with a newsworthy person."

A letter sent by Donna Leinwand, the National Press Club president, to the Washington Speakers Bureau, which reprsents Plouffe, was posted on the Club's Web site. Leinwand said she was troubled by Plouffe's request that the speech be off the record, saying it reduces the "free flow of information" and "would run contrary to the spirit of President Obama's recent executive order and statements in support of a more open government."

Whether you voted for Obama or not, you cannot deny that he ran a brilliant campaign, which Plouffe orchestrated. It's a campaign many want to learn more about, that's probably what Plouffe talked about at the Press Club. By requesting the speech go off the record, he made it a bigger story than it would have been.

Maybe Plouffe was planning all along on e-mailing us the transcripts of his remarks so he could bypass the media. If so, I'm still waiting for that e-mail to arrive.

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How to Avoid Testifying in Alaska

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Feb 8th 2009 3:12AM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Boston University

You remember Troopergate, the investigation into Sarah Palin's alleged misconduct over firing a state trooper for personal reasons. You may also remember that when Alaska's state senate asked Palin's husband to testify in the case because he may have been involved, he refused, as the investigation ensnared the family amid the election.

But it turns out that apparently, in Alaska, there are no penalties for ignoring subpoenas.

On Friday, the Senate (with 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans) found Palin's husband and nine other state employees in contempt of the law for ignoring the subpoenas. Yet they issued no penalties, even though they are allowed to give the offenders up to six months of jail time, plus fines.

This all may seem a little complicated. Here's an analogy: Let's say you're the head of a big company, and you want to embezzle lots of money. But since you don't want to get caught, you tell your subordinate to do it. When he refuses to steal the cash, because he wants to obey the law, you fire him. Now, when the fired employee sues you for firing him unreasonably, you refuse to show up to court.

Normally, you'd be held in contempt of court for refusing to comply with a subpoena, which is a legal order that you testify on the record. You'd be punished for not obeying the court's orders.

But in Alaska -- as we've seen before -- the law doesn't really run in a straight line.

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GOP's First Black Chairman Annoying GOP's Racists

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Feb 1st 2009 9:20PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Culture, Breaking News, Boston University

It ain't the best time to be a white supremacist.

As if the inauguration of the country's first black president isn't enough to make you yearn for the days of Jim Crow and racially divided water fountains, the Republican Party sure isn't helping by electing the first black chairman of its national committee.

Michael Steele, black and a former Maryland lieutenant governor, took the helm of the RNC last week. Certainly his victory was propelled by Barack Obama's election, although the GOP's rife racist bloc is sick of all this change and equality.

David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and Republican congressman from Louisiana, called Steele -- or "Obama Junior" -- a "radical Black racist" who will spur the majority of Republicans to leave the party and start their own (presumably racist) political group.

Duke claims to have told a Washington Post reporter, "I am glad these traitorous leaders of the Republican Party appointed this Black racist, affirmative action advocate to the head of the Republican party because this will lead to a huge revolt among the Republican base," as posted on his website.

He continues: "As a former Republican official, I can tell you that millions of rank-and-file Republicans are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore! We will either take the Republican Party back over the next four years or we will say, 'To Hell With the Republican Party!' And we will take 90 percent of Republicans with us into a New Party that will take its current place!"

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Obama's New Pawn in Political Maneuvering

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Jan 30th 2009 9:25PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Boston University

The Democrats came so close in November to dominating Washington, but, to quote Agent 86 Maxwell Smart, "missed it by that much." Assuming that Al Franken did in fact beat Norm Coleman in Minnesota, the Dems have 59 Senate seats -- just one short of the filibuster-proof, super-powerful 60.

But there are ways to get what you want.

Consider the case of Judd Gregg, a three-term Republican senator from New Hampshire who is up for reelection in 2010 in an increasingly Democratic state. (In November, voters ousted Republican Senator John Sununu in favor of former governor Jeanne Shaheen.)

Barack Obama is reportedly considering Gregg to be his Commerce secretary, an open slot since Bill Richardson pulled out of consideration amid an ethics investigation in New Mexico. Normally, as we've seen recently in Illinois and New York, governors replace senators by choosing a replacement of the same party -- because a state's governor and senators usually have the same party affiliation, as chosen by voters.

But New Hampshire is different. Gregg is a Republican, but the governor, John Lynch, is a Democrat. Granite State voters are often referred to as independent-minded; when I covered Gregg and Sununu for the Union Leader, the two senators and political analysts repeatedly stressed that independence is more important in New Hampshire than in any other state.

So if Obama picks Gregg, that leaves a space open in the Senate for Lynch to potentially fill with a Democrat of his choice, giving the majority party 60 solid seats, enough to pass sweeping legislation without worrying that Republicans will use the power of filibuster, a somewhat dated technique that allows a party with 41 senators present to block any legislation by simply talking on end for hours until the other party gives up. (The record goes to the late Strom Thurmond, who rambled for more than 24 hours while opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1957.)

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Palin's Legacy: Selling Her Shoes for $2025

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Jan 29th 2009 11:22PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Culture, Boston University

Now, now, settle down, everybody. Before you jump to conclusions, read this disclaimer from Sarah Palin's niece, who put up the Alaska governor's shoes for sale on eBay:

"These shoes were bought in a small store in Juneau, AK. They were NOT paid for by the RNC. They were purchased by Sarah!!!"

But, nonetheless, the Folksy Governor of the West's ruby-red high heels that she wore at the Republican convention last year did indeed sell for more than $2,000 on eBay. The shoes are "Naughty Monkey Double-Dare pumps." Sure, because when I think Sarah Palin, I think naughty monkey.

The niece obtained the footwear after asking her aunt for them because she liked them. Turns out they "don't fit to (sic) well," but if you look them up "on a serach (sic) engine," you can read all about their storied history.

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