PJ Media

PJM Special Coverage: Wisconsin & Hawaii

Feb. 20, 00:51 am PST — Hawaii Final: Obama Wins By More Than 3 To 1

The semi-final results from the Hawaii Democratic Presidential Caucuses: Barack Obama 76.2%, Hillary Clinton 23.8%.

The turnout was over 37,000, more than twice the highest forecast and many times the previous record turnout. Thousands more reportedly came to the caucuses, but left because the caucus sites and their organizers were overwhelmed by the turnout.

Obama grabbed a 3 to 1 lead in the early returns and held on to it every step of the way.

This marks the 10th victory in a row for Obama in the past two weeks, after it became apparent that he had eked out a very narrow delegate victory over Clinton in their 22 contests of Super-Duper Tuesday.

Obama’s 17-point victory in Wisconsin — a state in which Clinton led by a large margin until several weeks ago, and which the Clinton high command determined they had a good chance to win just this past Friday — shattered the Clinton coalition. But Obama’s 52-point victory in Hawaii, the state of his birth, in which his forces simply overwhelmed the aging traditional state Democratic machine headed by longtime Senator Daniel Inouye, has to be quite satisfying and enjoyable for the freshman Illinois senator.

Every one of Obama’s victories in the past two weeks has been by a landslide, and the Wisconsin blow-out was actually by one of the smallest margins. The Obama tsunami in island state in the middle of the Pacific gave him one of his largest margins of victory.

One should never count out the Clintons. However, the limits of their capabilities have been fully exposed since the beginning of the year. Hillary has two debates with Obama coming up this week and the next. Thursday in Texas, and next Tuesday in Ohio.

She and her increasingly incredible campaign have to hope to force a major Obama miscue between now and the round of primaries on March 4th, which they say constitutes the former first lady’s latest electoral firewall. Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Obama began yesterday trailing in the first three of those states, but with already closing numbers. But Rhode Island should fall to him. So Clinton needs to win by huge margins in Texas and Ohio to even begin to pull back up in the delegate race.

She’ll take her first step on the comeback trail this morning in New York with a speech redefining her candidacy. Her theme? She’s “the only choice” for president.

Feb. 20, 00:55 am PST — CNN’s “Live” Hawaii Coverage

I just noticed CNN running what seems to be a pre-recorded “live” report from Hawaii on the presidential caucuses. They even have one of their top correspondents there. So much for the 24/7 promise of global cable news.

Feb 20, 00:41 am PST — More Color From Our Projected Obama Victory In Hawaii

With organizers overwhelmed by the record turnout in the Hawaii Democratic caucuses, the count is going very slowly. But Barack Obama has an overwhelming 3 to 1 lead over the increasingly embattled Hillary Clinton in the early going.

Correspondent Saundra Schwartz, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University, checks in with her experience on the island of Oahu: I drove home through late afternoon traffic, and caught the report on NPR of the Wisconsin primaries at 5:00. About 30 minutes later there was a drive time telephone interview that Obama gave to a local reporter earlier today. Obama hit upon all the local issues, singling out traffic, tuition, and the environment as top concerns for people in Hawaii.

The caucus sites were open from 7:00, but people had arrived early to line up. I voted at Niu Valley Intermediate School, the caucus site for District 18, consisting of the coastline of East Oahu between Kahala and Hawaii Kai (a relatively affluent suburban area of Honolulu).

When I arrived at 6:30, there was already a line snaking around the school ground. There are no tradewinds today, so the air is still, albeit a little muggy but a pleasant evening to stand around outdoors. There must have been well over a thousand people. No one I spoke with could remember such a long line for any event, much less for an election. People waited patiently, chatted with neighbors, There was real excitement in the air: it’s not often that Hawaii is seen as a critical state in a national election, and this is the first time in history that someone with roots in Honolulu has gotten so close in a national election. There were more Obama signs than Hillary signs. Volunteers reassured everyone in line that everyone would have a chance to vote. I did not notice any reporters or media there.

The caucus workers were not prepared for such a large turnout. No one in line seemed to know what the process was or if they were registered democrats. As a precaution, many people filled out blue party registration cards-mostly photocopies of cards, as a site ran out of cards. There were seats on the lanai (porch) outside the caucus site where rows of senior citizens awaited their turn to vote. People were very friendly in line. Obama people passed out oatmeal cookies and cheezits. Behind me was standing a young couple. As they scanned the long line, the young (haole, or “white”) woman pointed out that her boyfriend was the only “popolo” there (pidgin for “African American,” generally used in a derogatory sense–as is “haole” as well, for that matter). They were proud Obama supporters. I asked if they would still vote if he didn’t win the nomination, and they enthusiastically said they would.

The voting was held in the hot and crowded cafeteria. There were lunch tables for each of the subdistricts, marked with handmade signs (like you have at a table in a restaurant.) Once the line reached the cafeteria, voters were let into a door and had to cross through the crowd to the opposite side of the cafeteria. It was a very confusing process which, as I learned after asking several people, actually involved three separate steps: one was to verify that voters were registered as a Democrat, the other was to verifying in which subdistrict they were registered to vote, and the last step was to go the sub-district’s table and vote. By the time I made it to the last step, it was close to 8:00 p.m. and they had run out of ballots and were making them there from plain white paper torn into quarters. Voters had to write the name of their candidate and the ballots were collected in manila envelopes. Then that was the end of it. If the margin is as large as it is expected to be, that’ll be a relief, because the process was quite chaotic.

Feb 20, 00:15 am PST Barack Obama has a huge lead over Hillary Clinton in the early returns of the Hawaii Democratic Presidential Caucuses.

Based on the returns thus far, the caucus turnout is projected at well over 40,000. The highest projection prior to tonight was 18,000, which would have been a caucus record in itself.

You can click here to monitor the returns for yourself. I will be staying up, in contact with correspondent Andrew Walden on the Big Island and others in Hawaii, to cover and analyze the results.

11:53 PM PST – Huge Hawaii Turnout Delays Vote Count

I’m hearing that the turnout for the Hawaii Democratic presidential caucuses is not merely record-shattering, it has delayed caucuses, and hence counts, for hours.

And, odd as it may seem, and I am being ironic, that record turnout is not really for Hillary Clinton.

Correspondent Andrew Walden reports from America’s Paradise in the Pacific: It has been a long time since Hawaii played a deciding role in any Presidential election. The opportunity to have an impact in the close contest between Clinton and Obama has drawn out thousands of Hawaii Democrats.

Record turnout is being reported from Democratic Party Caucus sites across the state. A line snaked out the door of Hilo High School cafeteria, the District 2 Hilo caucus site. Caucus organizers struggled to be heard over an underpowered PA system. The room quickly became hot as the crowds filled the precinct tables to vote for a presidential delegate slate tied to either Obama or Clinton. An estimated 500 to 600 people were in attendance. At District 3 Hilo and District 4 Puna lines formed to vote at precinct tables several hundred people were present at each caucus. If these numbers are typical, the statewide total of all 51 House Districts voting at 75 sites could be 50,000 voters-more than twelve fold increase over the last presidential caucus in 2004 and far beyond the predictions of 12,000 from Democratic Party sources and 15-18,000 from the Hawaii Obama campaign.

Honolulu’s AM-830 reported heavy turnout and jammed parking around Oahu caucus sites located in Aiea, Kailua, Nuuanu and Hawaii Kai. Walden has also compiled reports from the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspapers.

The Advertiser reports: 3000 at one caucus site at Manoa, Oahu. — Clare Hanusz, 39, said this was her first caucus anywhere and she decided to do it for the first time “because Hawai’i finally matters.”

Over 200 people voting 4-1 for Obama at one single precinct on Kauai.

The Advertiser
also reported: Koko Head Elementary School’s caucus site ran out of blue Democratic Party registration cards around 7 p.m. At Kailua District Park, more than 1,000 people stood in two separate lines that snaked around the pool, gym and baseball fields. Only four volunteers staffed tables at the entrance as others passed out blue Democratic Party cards. At Kawananakoa Middle School cafeteria’s caucus site, overwhelmed volunteers had to open up the school’s auditorium to handle the overflow crowd of 1,200 people. Patrick Stanley, the caucus site’s coordinator, said he did not expect voting to end until 10 p.m.

At Hilo’s District 2 and 3 caucus sites, on the Big Island of Hawaii, voting was done by 8:15pm and ballots were being counted.

The Star-Bulletin reports: Before the 7 p.m. start of voting, hundreds of people were reported outside caucus sites, including in Kalihi, Mililani, and Wailuku, on Maui. Democratic Party officials are expecting a record Maui turnout to exceed 10,000 voters, compared with the roughly 4,000 people who voted in the last caucus in 2004. Party officials don’t expect to start announcing results until after 9 p.m., however the large turnout may push that late into the night.

Many voters reported not being members of the Democratic Party-they were allowed to sign up on the spot. Others were clearly new to the process and looking for assistance finding their caucus location. Many were motivated by the fact that for the first time in years, Hawaii might actually make a difference in the outcome of the primary race. The strength in Hilo 2 and 3 should indicate strong union-organized get out the vote efforts-a plus for Hillary Clinton. But the strong showing in District 4 Puna will be a big plus for Obama. The vote totals will be a measure of the shifting balance of power within the Hawaii Democratic Party.

As of 9:30 PM Hawaii time, no results were released by state Democratic Party officials.

11 PM PST – Obama Shatters the Clinton Coalition

Well, I told you throughout the afternoon what would happen in Wisconsin, based on reports on the ground and the early exit polling. And that’s what happened. Another big landslide for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, it will take some time to get the results from Hawaii, far out in the Pacific.

Obama broke what seemed like a close race in Wisconsin. going into the weekend into a huge victory in a state with favorable demographics for what has been the Clinton coalition. Which Obama is now shattering. Clinton had a large lead in Wisconsin until several weeks ago. And at the end of last week, just a few days ago, her campaign felt she had a real shot to win there.

Incidentally, the word, as reported by several other outlets, was that Clinton, who again neglected to do the normal thing of congratulating the victorious candidate, would speak before the polls closed in Wisconsin. Instead, she chose to speak after John McCain, perhaps hoping to throw Obama off his own plans. I suspected she would try to preempt Obama’s schedule, and so did not report it.

Instead, Obama spoke, knocking Hillary off the air, and keeping her off the air for good, as he went for over 40 minutes. Which was not a coincidence.

The exit polls, as I reported hours before the polls closed, that Hillary was seen as an unfair attacker. Most of her campaign in Wisconsin was negative, and there is no reason to believe that that will not continue as she continues to her Alamo on March 4th, in the form of the Texas and Ohio primaries. In which she must now not only win, but win overwhelmingly in order to avoid failing even further behind in the delegate count.

Perhaps Obama’s most memorable line before a boisterous crowd of 20,000 in Houston, Texas? “Houston, we have lift-off.”

I reported most of this stuff to you hours ago, but to recap: Obama split white women, her fundamental base, with Hillary. He won single women. He split married women. He won 60% of white men. He won urban voters, as usual. He also won suburban voters. He split rural voters, one of Hillary’s few bulwarks in Virginia a week ago. He dominated among independents, and among crossover Republicans.

Hillary’s speech was very negative. I expect the negativity to continue, in campaign appearances and in debates over the next week. For a very simple reason. The positive is not working for her.

Meanwhile, in a preview of what may well be to come, John McCain, as I reported hours ago, focused on Obama. His themes? “Inexperience” and “empty rhetoric.”

For his part, Obama excoriated Washington solutions with “the same old folks with the same old solutions.”

Yet for all the inherent competitiveness in that prospective general election match-up, Obama and McCain are fundamentally positive, upbeat figures.

McCain needs to stay positive, because the fact is that the independents he has always counted on are flocking to Obama. As are a great many moderate Republicans. As in Virginia, Wisconsin moderate Republicans crowded into the open Democratic primary to vote for the freshman Illinois senator.

There are moves Obama can make to neutralize McCain’s fairly obvious moves against him.

But that is another column.

6:12 pm PST — John McCain Strikes

As I told you in the mid-day item below, Team McCain sees taking down Barack Obama as one of its very highest priorities.

So as I write this, John McCain is delivering his victory speech with long passages going after Obama.

6:10 pm PST — On What Has Happened with Bill Clinton

So, what is up with former President Bill Clinton?

Once the ace campaigner of, perhaps, not just US but global politics, the onetime Arkansas wunderkind intervened very effectively on behalf of his wife’s reeling presidential campaign to help her narrowly pull out utterly critical wins in New Hampshire and Nevada. Since then — aside from helping her hold off Obama in California on Super-Duper Tuesday, which result was also a factor of Obama’s chessboard strategy — he has been at best a mixed blessing. And more recently, he has been irritating many again with his comments in Texas and Ohio over the Presidents Day weekend.

I’ve spoken yesterday and today with some major backers of the Clintons, who know them well. Here is a paraphrase of their view.

Their longtime maximum leader is seen as something akin to an out-of-shape professional athlete. In that it has been years since he was on the campaign trail as a mere mortal. Now he exists in a somewhat unreal bubble, traveling around the world where he’s been greeted everywhere with unquestioning adoration, hanging around with the super-rich.

In a very real sense, in this view, he is seen as having lost his touch.

In 2000, Al Gore didn’t let him campaign for him. In 2004, he couldn’t campaign due to his heart surgery. (John Kerry, in a different view, is known to believe that Clinton did not want him to win.)

So, in this view of some who know him well, the former president thinks he is better than he is, and as a result gets too cute by half.

4:15 pm PST — More Wisconsin Exit Poll Thoughts

Some more internals from the second wave Wisconsin Democratic primary exit polls.

Among women: Barack Obama 51%, Hillary Clinton 49%. Among independents: Obama 63%, Clinton 34%. Among families with incomes under $50,000 per year: Obama 51%, Clinton 49%. Among union households: Clinton 50%, Obama 49%.

3:40 pm PST — Hawaii Story: Checking In From America’s Paradise In The Pacific

Correspondent Andrew Walden reports: Hawaii Democrats were surprised when 4000 people turned for the normally sleepy Democratic Presidential caucuses in 2004. For 2008, Democrats are predicting a much larger turnout–with projections up to 20,000–participating in district level or precinct level party caucuses. Hawaii’s senior Senator Dan Inouye even made a rare return visit to the islands with his new fiancée to staff the phone banks for Hillary Clinton along with the heavyweight AFSCME-affiliated Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Facing off against Inouye are Obama supporters led by former Vietnam war protester Rep Neil Abercrombie. Abercrombie rallied 700 supporters at Honolulu’s Farrington High School last night pointing out: “The emotion is all what it is about. It is all for Obama.”

Ducking for cover are Senator Dan Akaka and Representative Mazie Hirono. As with all Democratic senators and members of congress, both are “super delegates”. But they have declined to endorse either candidate. Hirono backed John Edwards in 2004. Much of the campaign team which won Akaka’s tough 2006 Democratic primary battle against Representative Ed Case is working for Obama.

Campaigning on the ground in Hawaii is Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. Soetoro-Ng, a private school history teacher, has appeared at several rallies underlining Obama’s connection to the state of his birth. For the Clintons, Chelsea swept through Oahu and Maui plumping for her mom.

For Clinton as for Kerry the support comes from the government employees unions and the weakening Inouye machine. HGEA, joined on the phones by Inouye-who usually is too diffident to even show up-is concentrating on mobilizing their membership for the caucuses tonight.

For Obama, the support comes from Abercrombie’s urban Honolulu organization bolstered by the influx of thousands of wealthy new-age Northern Californians and Obama’s own energetic campaign organization. These newcomers flexed muscle (to derisive catcalls from the rest of the state) in the latter half of 2007 by blocking the new inter-island Superferry from serving Kauai and protesting it on Maui. On both islands they have taken control of the Democratic Party organizations as Hawaii locals continue their exodus to the mainland. Obama campaigners were spotted yesterday on the street in the Big Island hippie enclave of Pahoa, rounding up likely suspects and directing them to show up at the caucuses. About 4000 people have signed Democratic Party cards in the lead up to the caucuses.

The Hawaii election commission does not record party registration information. To join one must contact the party organization directly. So in spite of running Hawaii as a one-party (Territory and then) State from 1954 until the election of Republican Governor Linda Lingle in 2002, only about 24,000 people are actual members of the Democratic Party. Caucus goers have the option of joining the Party on the spot at the caucus in order to participate and the Obama supporters are taking full advantage.

3:19 pm PST — More Early Exit Poll Thoughts

In the second wave Wisconsin exit poll numbers in the Democratic presidential primary, the emphasis on change was favored over the emphasis on experience, 52% to 24%.

Hillary Clinton was seen as the most unfair attacker of the two Democrats.

27% of the voters so far in the Democratic primary were registered independents.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were tied in the category of who is best qualified to be commander-in-chief.

More than 60% viewed Obama as the best choice to unite the country and the best choice to beat John McCain.

3:00 pm PST — Exit Poll Thoughts

Based on consideration of the early exit poll numbers below and some additional information, which includes word that the Wisconsin Democratic primary has a significantly higher proportion of $50,000-and up voters than four years ago, at the moment it looks positive for Barack Obama.

John McCain will have a sizable win.

2:35 pm PST — First Cut on Wisconsin Exit Polls

Here is the first cut on exit polls from the Wisconsin primary.

So far, Wisconsin Democratic primary voters are critics of globalization. 70% said U.S. trade with other countries takes more jobs from Wisconsin, and less than 20% said it creates more jobs for the state.

As in earlier primaries, most Democrats are very worried about the state of the economy. Republican primary voters were not as pessimistic.

About one in seven Democratic voters said today is the first time they were voting in a primary.

As usual, men outnumbered women in Republican primaries and, as usual, the reverse was true on the Democratic side. 90% of the voters in each party were white. About 40% in each party were college grads.

2:05 pm PST — Obama Closing Gap in Ohio

As we’re waiting on the votes tonight in Wisconsin and Hawaii, the Survey USA robopolling outfit has a new tracking poll of the Ohio Democratic primary, completed Sunday and Monday. It shows Hillary Clinton’s lead there cut in half over the past week. Today it’s Hillary 52%, Obama 43%. A week ago, it was Hillary 56%, Obama 39%.

Clinton has been counting on big wins in the March 4th primaries in Ohio and Texas, where she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have campaigned most of the past week. Obama has closed the gap in Texas down to 5 points in this organization’s tracking poll, and now this. Intriguingly, he hasn’t been in either state during the time in which these polls have closed up.

There is a huge generation gap in this Ohio poll. Among voters 65 and over, Hillary leads 65-30. Among voters 18 to 34, Obama leads 57-37. There’s also a big gender gap. Among women, Hillary leads 62-34. Among men, Obama leads 55-39.

12:13 am PST — In Case You Were Wondering Who Team McCain Is Out To Take Down

… Cindy McCain, wife of the senator, who does not engage in the back-and-forth of the campaign whirl, took a hard shot this morning at Michelle Obama at the McCain campaign appearances in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

“I’m proud of my country,” she declared. “I don’t about you if you heard those words earlier. I’m very proud of my country,” she said.

Cindy McCain was referring to Michelle Obama’s remark yesterday that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of America, now that her husband is doing so well at generating a wave of enthusiasm for his presidential candidacy.

McCain himself can’t attack his opponent’s wife. But his wife can.

It is a core element of Team McCain’s strategy to find ways to bring Barack Obama back to earth. They have been looking for ways to chip away at Obama-mania, starting with the senator’s Chesapeake Tuesday disparaging of Obama’s rhetoric at his own Virginia victory party.

They know how to run against Hillary Clinton. Obama is more of a phenomenon, with much greater appeal to the independent voters McCain has always seen as his turf in national politics. If he is not the Democratic nominee, they’re probably just as happy.

11:50 am PST — $100 Per Barrel Oil, Turmoil in Cuba and Pakistan…

… and the national political press corps is essentially focused on the parsing of a handful of polls, with many misremembering the numbers, tit for tat charges of “plagiarism” of speech lines, and discussion of what other media types are saying.

Because, you know, it’s all about us. (To borrow a line from the classic movie, Broadcast News.)

Is anyone asking John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, at their public appearances today, to discuss in depth what it means that oil has again gone over $100 per barrel, Cuba is confronted with a post-Fidel — though not post-Raul — future, and Pakistan is sorting through its governance after a tumultuous election? All of that happening today, mind you, as the Pakistani election was yesterday and word of Castro’s resignation came in the middle of the night.

A rhetorical question, of course, as the answer is clearly no.

10:46 am PST — Hawaii Sunset

With expectations of a record turnout in tonight’s Hawaii Democratic presidential caucuses, results will nonetheless come in very late tonight and in fairly leisurely fashion.

Perhaps that is to be expected in America’s slice of paradise in the middle of the Pacific, the most multi-racial state among the 50, where Barack Obama was born in 1961. The weather is great, as you can see by clicking here.

Correspondent Andrew Walden says: “I expect Obama will win big here, but the details will be telling.”

He notes that Dennis Kucinich got a quarter of the vote in the Hawaii caucuses four years ago, finishing well behind John Kerry. And he won on the island of Maui, in what was clearly the high water mark of his two presidential campaigns. “I expect his people to go for Obama,” says Walden.

But the turnout tonight in Hawaii will dwarf that of 2004, so the Kucinich factor does not appear to be a major one.

Walden is going to visit two local caucuses in the Hilo area and report on them.

Hilo is the second largest city in Hawaii, after Honolulu, Obama’s original home town. Hilo is on the island of Hawaii, which is known as the Big Island, so as not to confuse with the state as a whole. Honolulu is on the island of Oahu, which is also the site of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor.

“The Dems,” Walden reports, “just had a knock down internal fight over open vs closed primaries. Open (the old boys and unions) beat Closed (the gays and enviros) but only after the AFL-CIO threatened to cut off funds and Inouye laid down the law.”

Closed primaries, he notes, would give disproportionate influence to the far left wing of the Hawaii Democratic Party.

09:54 am PST — The Candidates on Castro’s Resignation

Global events are huge this year in presidential politics. Today we’re looking at Monday’s vote for Pakistan’s national parliament, and how that plays out and what it means. And, of course, Fidel Castro’s resignation as president of Cuba.

All three of our potential presidents — John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton — issued statements critical of the Castro regime and calling for a democratic state in Cuba.

John McCain:

“Today’s resignation of Fidel Castro is nearly half a century overdue. For decades, Castro oversaw an apparatus of repression that denied liberty to the people who suffered under his dictatorship.

“Yet freedom for the Cuban people is not yet at hand, and the Castro brothers clearly intend to maintain their grip on power. That is why we must press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections.

“Cuba’s transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when – not if. With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they will truly be free. America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough.”

Barack Obama:

“Today should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba’s history. Fidel Castro’s stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba.

“Cuba’s future should be determined by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime. The prompt release of all prisoners of conscience wrongly jailed for standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would mark an important break with the past. It’s time for these heroes to be released.

“If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades. The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring the Americans together.”

Hillary Clinton

“As you know, Fidel Castro announced that he is stepping down as Cuba’s leader after 58 years of one-man rule. The new leadership in Cuba will face a stark choice-continue with the failed policies of the past that have stifled democratic freedoms and stunted economic growth-or take a historic step to bring Cuba into the community of democratic nations. The people of Cuba want to seize this opportunity for real change and so must we.

“I would say to the new leadership, the people of the United States are ready to meet you if you move forward towards the path of democracy, with real, substantial reforms. The people of Cuba yearn for the opportunity to get out from under the weight of this authoritarian regime, which has held back 11 million talented and hardworking citizens of the Americas. The new government should take this opportunity to release political prisoners and to take serious steps towards democracy that give their people a real voice in their government.

“The American people have been on the side in the Cuban people’s struggle for freedom and democracy in the past and we will be on their side for democracy in the future.

“As President, I will engage our partners in Latin America and Europe who have a strong stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, and who want very much for the United States to play a constructive role to that end. The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba.

“The events of the past three days, including elections in Pakistan and Kosovo’s declaration of independence, are a vivid illustration of people around the world yearning for democracy and opportunity. We need a President with the experience to recognize and seize these opportunities to advance America’s values and interests around the world. I will be that President.”

09:19 am PST — Wisconsin Update: Big Turnout, Better Weather?

In Wisconsin, state election officials are predicting a 35% turnout, the highest in 20 years.

The last time that many people turned out for a presidential primary in Wisconsin was in 1988, which had competitive races in both parties, Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson on the Democratic ballot and George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole on the Republican side.

This time around, the action is primarily on the Democratic side, as the Republican nomination is decided and GOP turnout has been much lower than Democratic turnout in previous contests.

Correspondent Tom Bozzo in the Madison area reports that the election day is already well underway, “with signs that there is a powerful light source in the sky, so I imagine preparations for a high turnout won’t be in vain.

“Polling of the race suggests that Obama will roll up a double-digit margin over HRC, and that’s
consistent both with the chatter over snow-shoveling and the open primary format.

His wife Suzanne, he reports, voted just after 9 AM. She was voter number 225. “So turnout,” he notes, is brisk but the short ballot is keeping the line short.”

07:49 am PST — Where Are They Today

The candidates themselves today have all moved on from today’s contest states, looking ahead to future contests. John McCain makes a stop in Wisconsin, to show he’s not taking support for granted, but he is the Republican presidential nominee essentially no matter what happens. Tellingly, Mike Huckabee is down most of the day. After taking three days in the Caribbean for a speaking gig through Sunday.

In the real contest, on the Democratic side, Barack Obama is hitting Texas for the first time in weeks, with two new polls showing him surprisingly in striking distance of Hillary Clinton in this latest of her firewall states, which votes on March 4th. Hillary Clinton is in Ohio, another big state on March 4th, which she not only needs to win, but win big.

Daughter Chelsea is in Wisconsin today trying to buck up Hillary’s youth vote. Husband Bill, the former president, is in his second day of fundraising in California. Last month, the couple had to put an emergency $5 million from their newfound post-presidential wealth into her campaign. Another such infusion will stir up more questions about how that money was made.

Barack Obama is campaigning in Texas today. He holds an economic roundtable discussion which is then followed by a town hall meeting in San Antonio. Tonight he holds a major election night rally in Houston.

Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Ohio today. She holds an economic roundtable discussion in Parma and has a rally in Youngstown.

Bill Clinton is raising money for his wife’s campaign in California. The events are private.

Chelsea Clinton is campaigning today for her mom in Wisconsin, with events in Oshkosh and Madison.

John McCain has a rally in Brookfield, Wisconsin followed by a press conference in Columbus, Ohio. He will host an election night party tonight in Columbus, Ohio.

Mike Huckabee has an election night event in Little Rock, Arkansas.

05:54 am PST — Game Day: Wisconsin And Hawaii

Another big day begins in presidential politics, with the Wisconsin primaries in both parties and the Hawaii Democratic caucuses. While Republican John McCain has been the presumptive nominee since his backbreaking California primary win over Mitt Romney two weeks ago, a question remains about how swiftly he consolidates his party and deals with remaining opposition from Mike Huckabee. Which leaves the real races between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, two brand new polls indicate a tightening race in the March 4th Texas primary, along with Ohio Hillary’s latest firewall in the race. CNN has Hillary leading by only two points, while Survey USA gives her a narrow 5-point edge. Clinton leads only among Texas voters 65 years of age and older.

In Wisconsin, the National Weather Service is forecasting a chance of afternoon snow showers and flurries Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to be in the single digits in the northern Wisconsin and in the teens in the more populous southern part of the state. You can monitor the Wisconsin weather situation in its communities around the Badger State via this link.

The weather in Hawaii, of course, is gorgeous.

In today’s contests, Obama has a slender edge in Wisconsin, a state which should go to Clinton, and Hawaii, where he was born and where I see no polls. Until recently, Clinton led in Wisconsin, which is 92% white, with only a 6% black population, and a huge white blue collar vote. There’s also a sizable college grad vote, which is why candidates like Gary Hart have been able to win there. Hart, of course, is white.

Obama has campaigned steadily in Wisconsin, where Governor Jim Doyle announced his support, and Hillary had mostly left the state to former President Bill Clinton and other surrogates – though she’s running attack ads – until late last week. But a big storm has disrupted the plans of both candidates, causing them to cancel their planned rallies yesterday around the state. So Hillary, whose campaign has launched a furious set of attacks on Obama, spent all of yesterday campaigning around the state.

The polls indicated a close race going into the weekend. And there have been a couple of late public tracking polls taken over the weekend — wildly at variance with one another — which points up the difficulty of weekend polling. And when you throw in a national holiday weekend (yesterday, of course, was Presidents Day), it becomes even more problematic.

While Obama has won the last eight straight contests since Super-Duper Tuesday, Wisconsin is a state which should be good territory for Clinton. In addition to being 92% white, with the black population only 6%, the socioeconomic structure of the state generally matches the core structure of the Clinton enterprise.

Working class folks are a group that Clinton has counted on to date. The Wisconsin Democratic primary electorate has a higher proportion of blue collar workers than the national Democratic electorate as a whole. Roughly 40% of Democratic primary voters this year make less than $50,000 per year. But 50% of Wisconsin primary voters in 2004 are in that category. While half that constituency is white on a national basis, the figure for the Wisconsin primary is over 80%.

With the campaign in rather desperate straits, Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson yesterday accused Obama of plagiarism, a charge designed to upset Obama’s aura of authenticity on the eve of the Wisconsin primary and Hawaii caucuses. Obama’s supposed sin? Using some lines also used by and suggested to him by a longtime close friend and advisor, Deval Patrick, the first black governor of Massachusetts.

The lines in question, used in reply to Clinton’s charge that “words are cheap”: “Don’t tell me words don’t matter! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words! ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words – just speeches!”

Patrick immediately put out a statement: “Sen. Obama and I are longtime friends and allies. We often share ideas about politics, policy and language. The argument in question, on the value of words in the public square, is one about which he and I have spoken frequently before. Given the recent attacks from Sen. Clinton, I applaud him for responding in just the way he did.”

The flow of a speech is going to get awfully choppy if the speaker properly attributes everything suggested by advisors and aides. As a frequent ghost, and having seen much from my columns turn up elsewhere, not infrequently in a speech, I can tell you the obvious; it doesn’t happen. And since Clinton herself is not a writer, that’s not a good road to go down. Especially since her wealth — although the $5 million came from a joint account with her husband, she says it’s from her book deal — comes from a book with major ghost writing.

The Hawaii caucuses are today as well, and overshadowed. In part because of the flight time out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean for the contest in Barack Obama’s state of birth (he was born in Honolulu), the candidates themselves have not been there of late, instead sticking to the big upcoming contests on the mainland.

But former first daughter Chelsea Clinton has been campaigning heavily for her mom in Hawaii. She’s countered by X-Men co-star Kelly Hu, a Hawaiian native, Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie, and Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. On Saturday, Chelsea campaigned in several locales, including one near Diamond Head. On Sunday she had a rally on Maui. Life can be unfair. http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080216/NEWS01/802160347/-1/NEWS01

Clinton is backed by Hawaii’s longtime top Democratic, Senator Daniel Inouye, and a big public employees union. But the Clintons probably don’t expect to win in the Aloha State. Hawaii state party officials are expecting a record surge of participants in tonight’s caucuses.

I speculated that Mike Huckabee might surge on John McCain in Wisconsin as he did in Virginia this past Tuesday, where he caused the presumptive Republican nominee some tense moments and embarrassment. But he can’t do it if he’s not around. Huckabee went to the Cayman Islands on Friday, staying till Sunday night, for a speaking gig.

What was he doing in the Caribbean at this seemingly odd moment? Giving what apparently is a lucrative lecture. Which involved his hanging around the conference, or at least its general vicinity. He’s not on the public payroll and is not a really rich guy. But if he had a real shot in Wisconsin, would he be doing this? Probably not. This indicates that he will be playing ball again with McCain, with whom he is on friendly terms.

Here is how the day’s voting will unfold.

Wisconsin Democratic Primary
Polls open at 5 AM Pacific and close at 6 PM Pacific.
74 delegates, proportional representation.

Wisconsin Republican Primary
Polls open at 5 AM Pacific and close at 6 PM Pacific.
40 delegates, 24 winner take all by congressional district and 16 statewide.

Hawaii Democratic Caucuses
Polls open at 9 PM Pacific and close at 9:30 PM Pacific.
20 delegates, proportional representation.