Thursday, July 31, 2008

CAMPAIGN 2008 MAIL CALL: A Lonely Day #2

I’m struck by the (low) amount of campaign literature in Wednesday’s mailbox. I suspect the other campaigns are timing their pieces for the same day early ballots arrive or are just asleep at the switch. We’ll see. He’s may take on today’s haul:

Jeff Dial, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Jeff’s campaign sent me another stylistically and thematically consistent postcard titled “IMPROVING EDUCATION”. K-12 education is after all the top issue for voters in legislative races and the top spending priority of the state. Another good piece that builds on yesterday’s. Grade: B+

Frank Schmuck, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Frank’s campaign today sent an envelope with a longish letter, a wordy tri-fold brochure and a palm card with (you’ve guessed it) a dense block of text on it’s reverse. I have a biased toward less-being-more in campaign literature. I suspect few primary voters will settle down to read all of the material. I do like the campaign’s play on his last name (SCHMUCK… That’s Right! Frank Schmuck). It shows the candidate’s maturity and good humor. It also has the effect of relieving voters’ anxiety about his last name. I’m sure it’s a great icebreaker and gets voters off the hook for any embarrassment for their involuntary pause after first hearing it. Today’s mail piece has a distinct low-tech feel, especially in contrast with Jeff Dial’s professional and glossy offerings. Could this be valuable and effective counter-marketing? Does it save enough money to allow for more “touches” by the campaign on primary voters? Maybe. But a four-piece mailing is labor intensive and may not be a money-saver compared to a post card. Also, the voter must do something to see your campaign’s message (open a letter). If this is the only envelope mailing in a series of mailings utilizing various formats then it very well might be effective. However, if future mail pieces employ this cumbersome format, I think Team Schmuck is making a costly mistake. Grade: C-

Jim Ogsbury, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – I got an invitation to an Ogsbury fundraiser at a private residence next week. The event’s theme… Hawaiian Luau. Whatever works I guess. I doubt this is a general campaign mailing to CD5 Republican voters so I won’t be grading it.

Mark Anderson, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – I got a nice phone call from Rep. Mark Anderson yesterday regarding a fundraiser and he mentioned my comments about his last mailer on Willet Creek Dam. It’s nice to see that the candidate reads the blogs and took my criticism in stride. (Hi, Mark if your reading this now.) We talked about his eclectic sign strategy. As my prior comments demonstrate, I appreciate consistency of design and the value of a simple, powerful messaging to boost a campaign. He suggested that his unorthodox sign strategy might be the secret weapon in his campaign’s slow-but-steady approach. We’ll see. Back to today’s mailer… a postcard with testimonials from the famous and the not-so-famous on why Mark Anderson’s the best Republican to challenge Harry Mitchell. House Speaker Jim Weiers is used again along with House Majority Leader Tom Boone to good effect. A national parent of the year and local business leader are shown too. More impressively is a nice quote by Mitt Romney and an effusive endorsement by the American Conservative Union’s David Keene. My suggestion, pump up the Keene and Romney bits and consider building an entire piece around the Keene quote in an effort to deflate David Schweikert’s Club for Growth love. Grade: B

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: “The Dark Knight” is the best superhero movie of all-time, best movie of 2008 so far

Wow. The Dark Knight is an outstanding movie. [More soon]

Look: 9.5

Story: 10

Acting: 9

Goal: 10

Intangibles: 9.5

Overall: 9.5

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CAMPAIGN 2008 MAIL CALL: Early Primary Voting Season Has Begun

I’ll be blogging on the campaign literature I receive in my mailbox as the primary and general election seasons unfold. I’m a Republican who has voted in every state and federal election since I moved to Arizona in 1994. I do miss the odd local election but I’m what the professionals call a high propensity voter. Moreover, I’m a precinct committeeman for the Republican Party and 2nd Vice Chairman of Legislative District 20 Republicans. So, my mailbox should be hit hard over the next few weeks and months.

Without further delay, here’s what I got today:

Jeff Dial, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Jeff’s postcard is very well done and carries through with the design theme that his signs have through the district’s roadways. His sign design is the best in the race. It’s benefited by the ease at which one can display his 4-lettered name. He realizes that his first name is much less important than his last and his simple, clean design exudes competence and sobriety. Back to the mail piece… His top issues are "fighting illegal immigration," "improving education" and "strengthening our economy." He emphasizes his "conservative values" and has nice smiling photos of himself. The part I like the most is the big tagline: THE CHANGE ARIZONA NEEDS. It could easily be viewed as cynical or sarcastic. Either way, it shows a fearlessness uncommon in most cookie-cutter candidates. Grade: B+

Susan Bitter Smith, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – I’m confused. Is Joe Arpaio running for this congressional seat? If I wanted Sheriff Joe as my congressman, I’d vote for him. But he’s not on the ballot. The Bitter Smith campaign sent a (roughly) 8/10 landscape-oriented fold-over booklet that tries to tie the candidate to two far more popular politicians, Arpaio and Ronald Reagan. Does it work? Speaking as someone unmoved by Joe Arpaio’s smoldering sexuality and Capraesque good cheer, I’m unimpressed. Grade: C-

David Schweikert, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – The Schweikert campaign sent an 8/11 magazine-style 4-page mailer that boldly announces the candidate in word and picture on the "cover" (which is suitable for autographing and framing… sign right there David on the flag’s white strip to the left of your elbow…) The inside is less engaging. Too many words. The Bitter Smith piece had the right amount or fewer words than necessary. If you err on this count, err on the side of less rather than more. Your website is for details… which was nicely promoted on the excellent cover by the way. Take the "stuff" crammed on the back page and move it to the centerfold. Grade: B-

Mark Anderson, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – "Representative" Mark Anderson has "a proven record of improving education" on his 6/11 glossy tri-fold brochure that is heavy on K-12 education. I see a nice blue-white-yellow banner in the inside that would have made a fine sign for the intersections of our district. Sadly, the drivers in CD5 are aesthetically assaulted by the Anderson campaign with a motley amalgam of conflicting sign designs. It’s one thing to recycle legislative signs from one election to the next but pick a theme and color scheme and stick to it. When you run for Congress, kitsch is goofy not frugal. The mail piece… wonderful if he were running for state legislature but not Congress. No one really cares what Arizona Speaker of the House Jim Weiers thinks of Mark Anderson. In fact, Jim Weiers’ name ID in CD5 must be in the single digits… even among Republicans. As for "Education Committee Vice Chairman" Rep. Andy Tobin’s endorsement… Grade: D

Proposition 200: Reform AZ Payday Loans – Wow, it’s July. Why am I getting a nice glossy 8/11 fold-over from my friends from the payday loan industry 98 days before the general election? Since the piece doesn’t show "Proposition 200" on it I doubt the average, or well-above average voter will long remember this mailer. It looks like it was printed weeks if not month ago. Its language has a clear defensive tone when it talks about "real" reform as if there’s another option. There was when this was printed apparently, but the anti-industry rival initiative failed weeks ago in its signature gathering effort. Grade: C

That’s it. With my early ballot due at the end of the week, I suspect I’ll be seeing many more specimens tomorrow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

East Valley Tribune: "Group takes aim at Pearce's state Senate bid"

By Sonu Munshi

Rep. Russell Pearce is the target of a new political committee that aims to block the Mesa Republican's bid for a state Senate seat.

Pearce said the organizers of the group, Judgment Matters, are people with ties to the business community who are upset with his staunch support of laws that make it tougher for employers to hire illegal immigrants.

Farrell Quinlan, a lobbyist and former executive with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said only that his group is raising money to "inform" voters about Pearce's record as a legislator. Quinlan did not link the effort specifically to Pearce's sponsorship of legislation that makes it tougher for illegal immigrants to live and work in Arizona. Quinlan did say that the first priority of Judgment Matters is to prevent Pearce from winning the Senate seat in District 18, which includes central and west Mesa.

"We hope to show District 18 Republican primary voters a more complete picture of his public record and show that some of his positions may not represent their interests or views," Quinlan said.

Quinlan did not divulge how many people had pledged support or how much money has been raised thus far.

But voters can expect some "information" to hit their mailboxes around the same time as early ballots arrive at the end of the month.

Pearce, who is being challenged in the Republican Senate primary by Kevin Gibbons, said business groups are going after him because of his support for measures like Proposition 200, the 2004 ballot initiative that barred illegal migrants from receiving state benefits.

Pearce also led the drive for a law that went into effect this year that allows prosecutors to shut down businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

"It's all being done by the open borders, fast food, cheap labor crowd," Pearce said. "These people fought me on Prop. 200, sued me over (the) employer sanctions law and now they're coming at me with a vengeance."

As an independent committee, Judgment Matters cannot coordinate its efforts with Gibbons, but can raise and spend money urging voters not to vote for Pearce.

Pearce said backers of Judgment Matters are the same people who support the Stop Illegal Hiring Act, which he said would "gut" the new employer sanctions law if it is passed by voters in November.

Quinlan is a former vice president of the state chamber of commerce's policy development and communications department. Mark Ogden, a labor lawyer and chairman of Judgment Matters, could not be reached for comment.

Pearce said he believes another newly formed committee, Mesa Deserves Better, is also targeting his campaign. Nathan Sproul, chairman of Mesa Deserves Better, did not disclose the reason behind the group. Sproul is the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party.

But Pearce isn't too rattled by these committees. He said he has enough Republican support to win the Sept. 2 primary.
"I'm the most Republican representative in the Legislature, yet they're trying to take me out because I'm for the rule of law?" Pearce said. "Independent group hoping to be a factor in LD18"

By Evan Brown Political Reporter

There is a newcomer to the Legislative District 18 senate race, and it’s not a candidate. Judgment Matters, a new political action committee, is trying to raise funds for a “primary voter education and mobilization effort in Arizona Legislative District 18” - one that opposes the Arizona Senate candidacy of state Rep. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa).

The group is urging donations so that it can mount “independent expenditures” - usually advertising - against Pearce in his primary fight with Kevin Gibbons.

“A surgically-timed contribution from you and others can help excise Russell Pearce and his strain of politics from Arizona’s legislature,” read the Judgment Matters pitch.

Farrell Quinlan, the Chandler political consultant and former vice president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry who is heading the group, told it is “not partisan-based.”

“There are a lot of Republicans, Democrats and independents who don’t like Russell Pearce’s style of politics,” said Quinlan.

“From the very beginning there are a lot of folks in the crowd that are anti-Russell,” responded Paul Bentz, a political consultant with HighGround AZ who is working on Pearce’s campaign. “I think it’s been very clear and articulated who they are. They’re going after him on being fiscally conservative and a national leader on immigration.”

Bentz said it was primarily “open borders” advocates who were aligned with Judgment Matters. Farrell Quinlan was part of the No on 200 campaign, aimed at defeating Proposition 200, which toughens identification requirements when voting or applying for state benefits as a way to stop illegal immigrations from taking advantage.

Quinlan said he and his group are looking at other races to get involved with, but it will be a “function of resources” whether they engage in those contests or not.

“We’re not in position now of discussing those,” said Quinlan. “Right now we’re focusing on this effort, then we’ll see what happens.”

Kevin Gibbons, Pearce’s opponent, is welcoming the group’s help.

“Our campaign is based upon changing the tone and principle at the legislature and we welcome anyone who would like to contribute to our cause,” wrote Gibbons in an email to “Of course, we cannot and have not coordinated in any way with this group, but welcome their support and anyone else that shares our vision.”

Arizona Capitol Times: "Pair of committees set out to ‘excise’ Pearce from Legislature"

By Jim Small

A pair of committees backed by businesses and other opponents of the employer sanctions law appears to be aiming to defeat the law’s architect this fall in his bid for reelection to the state Senate.

One of the independent expenditure committees will target Mesa Republican Rep. Russell Pearce in this September’s primary election. Farrell Quinlan, a volunteer political consultant for the Judgment Matters committee, said the committee likely will spend money in several races, but the District 18 Senate race between Pearce and Kevin Gibbons is its top priority.

“Rep. Pearce has been a leader of a certain brand of policies, and many people in the business side of the argument have decided to come together,” Quinlan said.

He declined to say who had contributed to the committee or how much had been raised, other than to note there were “a lot of verbal commitments” from the business community.

A letter Quinlan wrote and e-mailed to potential donors asks for “surgically-timed” contributions to “help excise Russell Pearce and his strain of politics from Arizona’s legislature.”

The other committee, Mesa Deserves Better, was created by the chief supporters of an employer sanctions ballot measure that would relax hiring restrictions on businesses. However, committee Chairman Nathan Sproul declined to elaborate on the group’s intent and strategy.
“Mesa Deserves Better is an independent expenditure committee. That is all we are publicly disclosing right now,” Sproul said.

Pearce said he expects both groups will oppose him and characterized their supporters as being opposed to the rule of law.

“They have no respect for the public,” he said. “It’s profits over patriotism.”

Although Sproul would not say whether Mesa Deserves Better would work to defeat Pearce, his involvement indicates that likely will be the committee’s purpose. Through the end of May, Sproul’s two consulting businesses — Sproul & Associates and Lincoln Strategy Group — were paid more than $500,000 to run the campaign for the employer sanctions ballot proposition.

Sproul also has been directly involved with Wake Up Arizona!, a coalition of businesses that formed last summer to oppose the employer sanctions law.

At that time, the group said it planned to work to defeat legislators it viewed as responsible for the law.

Pearce said he was not surprised that opponents of the sanctions law were lining up to defeat him in his bid to replace the retiring Karen Johnson in the Senate. The additional attacks thrown his way won’t change his campaign, or his eventual victory, he said.

“Let them do whatever they’re going to do. I stand solid behind the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Look: 8.5
Story: 5
Acting: 6.5
Goal: 6.5
Intangibles: 7
Overall: 6.5

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: "Hancock" A Little Fun, Forgettable

Look: 7
Story: 6
Acting: 7
Goal: 6.5
Intangibles: 6
Overall: 6

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Toe-Sucker Morris: “Powell, Rice, Lieberman, Huckabee — but not Romney!”

After reading this Dick Morris op-ed more closely, I think it deserves more than just a flip “toe-sucker” ad hominem comment.

First, let's establish a few undeniable facts. Morris is not a conservative. He's not particularly “principled” in a political way which is proven by his ‘bipartisan’ clientele over the years (Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton and Trent “Go Dixicrats in '48” Lott). And Morris is by no means a socialist. He's as rapacious a capitalist as you'll find.

I truly believe Dick Morris was privately pulling for a Hillary Clinton nomination victory and then a Clinton Restoration despite protestations to the contrary. Why? How many more quasi-insider books would a Hillary win have been worth? Morris has been milking the Clinton cow for decades now, he doesn’t want to stop now!

Regardless of his preferences on the Democratic side, Morris was an early and oft critic of Mitt Romney's campaign for president. I remember numerous columns throughout the first nine months of 2007 and before where Morris would discuss the GOP presidential field either without mentioning Romney or simply dismissing him.

Morris' case against Romney as made in the recent column is so stale that the best a major league spin-meister like Morris could do to dress it up is to label it “vintage” or “old school.”

Romney's change of position on gay rights and abortion were so well vetted during his presidential campaign, I dare not try to expand on it here. What I will say though is that Romney did flip but he didn't flop on these issues.

He made “liberal” policy statements as a candidate (in 1994 and 2002) before achieving election that he later 'betrayed' as a public official. That's a flip. A flop would be a return to the old position.

The folks that deserve to be angry at these flips in my opinion are the one's betrayed – the pro-choicers and gay marrriage advocates. I've never understood the conventional wisdom that moving to the conservative position on these and other issues ought to be greeted with suspicion by conservatives, pro-lifers and advocates of the sanctity of marriage. These constituencies ought to be emboldened by such 'evolution' and not be bullied by the mainstream media and non-conservatives like Morris into being aloof from such people. Don’t we want to persuade people on the other side of these issues to move in our direction? If not, why bother engaging in the debate?

Moreover, when it counted, when he was in power and able to do something about conservative social policy, Romney did the right, and Right, thing at the most important time. Judge him by his pro-life and pro-marriage deeds as Governor rather than prior statements as a candidate. Those campaign positions have been specifically repudiated and Romney has clearly stated he was wrong in taking them. Conservatives must welcome converts, not shun them.

So, I contend social liberals rather than social conservatives should be Romney's greatest detractors on the “flip-flop” issue. And morally-challenged Dick Morris' thinly veiled hate-Romney attitude proves this out.

Conservatives decided to support Romney too late in the 2008 cycle to allow him to capitalize on his fundraising and personal wealth advantages over his better known rivals. The John Connally in 1980 swipe makes no sense and is ahistorical especially in light of the 2008 campaign itself.

Rudy Giuliani's 2008 campaign easily bested Romney's in ineffectiveness and profligate spending vis-à-vis delegate totals. Phil Gramm's 1996 bid too was much worse in regard. John Connally? Jeez, what's next? Dusting off some arcane nugget about Bob Taft against Ike in 1952? Let's stay in the here and now.

Is Morris right in essentially calling Romney a loser?

Consider, Romney was (perhaps is) largely unknown to voters outside the Bay State. He was running as a conservative in a conservative Republican presidential contest against no fewer than three rivals with near universal name recognition (John McCain, Giuliani and Fred Thompson). He had to counter their long (decades in many cases of) exposure to voters by spending lots and lots of money to jump start his campaign and introduce himself.

He ended up beating two of these three. Not bad when you consider he was the target of all of the other campaigns because they feared him the most as a rival.

I contend that Romney's failed presidential campaign can be viewed as a qualified success in the sense that he clearly defined himself as an articulate, tough and hardworking leader for conservatives for years to come. After all, Reagan lost his first (1968) and second (1976) runs for the Republican presidential nomination. That's my kind of loser.

As I mentioned, conservatives finally did unite (somewhat) when other candidates withdrew and embrace Romney as their candidate. But it was too late to reverse the outcome of a GOP nominating process rigged with mostly winner-take-all contests.

Also, Mike Huckabee's stalking-horse campaign to split the social conservative vote from the economic and national security conservative blocks doomed Romney's ability to get a one-on-one contest with McCain.

Back to Morris.

His points against Romney on policy (not an authentic conservative) and politics (the money/delegates thing) are lame. Besides, those arguments are designed to sour conservatives and Republicans on Romney. What do they mean to the general election voter? Not much.

Who does the conservatives' best friend (Morris) suggest John McCain pick for a vice presidential running mate? He first offers (pro-choice) Colin Powell then (blank slate on social and economic issues) Condi Rice then (pro-choice and Democrat) Joe Lieberman as veeps. Finally, he pushes former client and the Republican's modern day imitation of three-time loser William Jennings Bryan – Mike Huckabee.

Puh-lez! A McCain/Huckabee ticket could lose 40 states.

What do we take from this column by Morris?

First, he has an unnatural antipathy for Mitt Romney that defies rational explanation. It's got an oddly emotional, personal and deep-seeded quality that begs closer examination. Did Mitt run over Morris' cat or lose him a bunch of money in the market when Morris was short on a company Romney resurrected? Or does he have a problem with a man that doesn't drink alcohol and cheat on his wife?

Could it be that Romney represents the kind of man that Morris and the cynical Beltway political class just don't “get”? Aren't all politicians personal reprobates like Morris? Would the success of the milk-drinking Romney undermine their vision of a corrupt America? Or is he just an anti-Mormon bigot? I don't necessarily see evidence of that but remain open to convincing.

I do think Mitt Romney frustrates and complicates the worldview of the cool kids from the 1960's. And what's so bad about that? I welcome it.

In conclusion, Mitt Romney is not the second coming of Ronald Reagan let alone Jesus Christ (Barack Obama has that shtick working right now.). But he's objectively a rising conservative star who has a bright future in a McCain Administration whether as vice president, secretary of the treasury, chairman of the RNC or whatever.

If McCain fails in November, Mitt Romney will be a strong voice in conservative opposition to the Obama/Pelosi/Hillary regime. He will be a leading candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination and Dick Morris will be free to write more hysterical columns dismissing him.

Keep it up Mitt, if Morris is vexed, you must be doing something right (and Right.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain-Romney Ticket Best for GOP in 2008

The web is all aflutter about John McCain’s pick for vice presidential running mate. Speculation has centered on two leading candidates (unless we are all victims of a giant head-fake which is easily possible.)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and current Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are who pundits identify as the likely pair of finalists.

Both come from “blue” states with only Pawlenty holding out any promise of carrying his home state.

Both are Washington outsiders.

Both are much younger than the septuagenarian John McCain.

Both lay claim to representing the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Both are pro-life.

But these similarities only hint at the true benefits of the two.

Despite today’s CNN report boosting the prospects of a McCain-Pawlenty ticket, the GOP nominee ought to go with the “safe” pick and tap his former rival Mitt Romney as his veep. That conclusion shouldn’t surprise readers of Willet Creek Dam since I supported Romney during the primaries. But this is not just an exercise in accepting half-a-loaf since my guy lost the presidential nomination.

Romney actually compliments McCain’s profile nicely. He’s inarguably an economic expert that can authoritatively counter the relentless gloom and doom messages about the economy coming from the media and Democrats. He’s proven his job creation skills in the private sector and his fiscal accountability credentials by his rescue of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

He’s a relentless champion of conservative causes from the sanctity of marriage to pro-growth tax policy.

Moreover, he’s vetted. We all know how disciplined and sharp Romney is on the stump and in debates. And most important, he literally drinks milk. There are no personal skeletons in his closet that threaten to burst forth and embarrass the ticket.

John McCain should take advantage of Mitt Romney’s undeniable assets as a candidate, fundraiser and campaigner.
I believe a McCain-Romney ticket would bolt out of the gate with an excellent chance to win the election in 15 short weeks. Conversely, I fear a McCain-Pawlenty ticket could become bogged down in our collective learning about the Number Two candidate and finding out if that man is up to the challenge.

Mitt Romney might be the safe pick. But in this case, “safe” is just another name for the smart choice.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Obama/Gore 2008!!! Too Weird? Not Really

There's a movement to make former Vice President Al Gore the running mate of Barack Obama.

Seems a little crazy… a little weird too?

On the contrary, it wouldn't be the first time of double duty as vice president or as veep nominee.

There are actually three instances of something like this in our history.

New Yorker George Clinton (no relation to the 42nd president) served as the fourth vice president of the United States, first under Thomas Jefferson from 1805 to 1809, and then (without interruption) under James Madison from 1809 until his death of a heart attack in 1812, becoming the first vice president to die in office. Jefferson and Madison were close political allies and Clinton did not seek to succeed Jefferson as president. He was happy to continue to serve in the subservient role to the Virginians.

But there is another more interesting example of a vice president for two different presidents.

Calhoun Strandles Adams/Jackson Fued

John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was both the cranky John Quincy Adams' and the volcanic Andrew Jackson's vice president (1825 to 1832) through a quirk in the way we elect our top two executives.

The 1824 election of Adams is the only presidential election to be decided by the House of Representatives when no candidate received a majority in the Electoral College.

At that time, there were no clearly defined parties that nominated a ticket for president and vice president. The "Democratic-Republicans" had four presidential contestants who received various forms of "nomination" ranging from congressional caucus to state legislatures. In the presidential race, Tennessean Andrew Jackson received 99 of 261 electoral votes or 38% – 32 votes short of the number needed to win the presidency. Massachusetts’ John Quincy Adams came in second with 84 electoral votes, former Georgia senator and then-Secretary of the Treasury William Crawford got 41 votes and House Speaker Henry Clay from Kentucky scored 37 votes.

The Constitution requires the top three vote-getters to be considered by the House of Representatives in the event of the Electoral College fails to elect a president. The House elects the president by one vote per state delegation rather than each member getting a vote. As the fourth-place finisher in the Electoral College, Henry Clay was dropped off the ballot. However, he was the Speaker of the House and at the least, had great influence over the House vote. When the state delegations’ votes were counted, Adams had 13 state delegations, Jackson won seven and Crawford four.

Adams became president through what Jackson supporters called a "corrupt bargin" that was revealed, so goes the conspiracy theory, when Adams asked Clay to be his to Secretary of State.

[Note: The 1824 election represented the third presidency in a row where the winner was the serving Secretary of State (James Madison, James Monroe and then John Quincy Adams.) Back then, the Secretary of State post was viewed as the clearest path to the presidency.]

Back to Calhoun… so, the 1824 Electoral College struckout on settling on someone for the top job but was able to decide on a vice president. Calhoun wanted to be in the mix for president in 1824 but failed to secure his home state's nomination. Instead he ran for the second job and won in a landslide to become the seventh Vice President of the United States.

Vice President Calhoun was not party to any "corrupt bargain" and was politically allied to Andrew Jackson throughout the Adams Administration. He was rewarded for his loyalty by being retained as the Jacksonian vice presidential nominee for the election of 1828. The Jackson/Calhoun trounced Adams and a new political party was born, the Democrats.

The first Democratic administration's honeymoon didn’t last long. Calhoun identified himself more as a South Carolinian than as an American. His sectional biases created explosive friction between himself and the unionist Jackson. Calhoun decided after the Nullification Crisis of 1832 that he could best protect the interests of South Carolina as its senator and resigned as vice president.

The Last Bearded Vice President

The other double vice presidential precedent is Charles Fairbanks. He’s the only person to secure the bottom of the ticket nomination from his party for two different presidential nominees in non-consecutive elections.

The Indiana senator was added to Theodore Roosevelt’s ticket in 1904 to fill the vacant vice presidency (VP TR had succeeded the assassinated William McKinley in 1901.) But when the Rough Rider promised not to run for a “third” term in 1908, his loyal veep was passed over for the presidential nomination in favor Teddy’s handpicked-successor, Secretary of War William Howard Taft of Ohio. But Fairbanks wasn’t through with vice presidential politics. He was the Republican Party’s 1916 nominee under Charles Evans Hughes.

And he was that close to achieving the office again. A flip of 1,887 votes in California from Woodrow Wilson to Hughes would have made Fairbanks the VP again after an eight year hiatus.

I’m not sure what to make of this trivia but an Obama-Gore ticket would clearly not be unique.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: “Constantine the Great: The Man and his Times” by Michael Grant

Constantine the Great: The Man and his Times” by Michael Grant is another entry in my “Year of Rome” theme. I have not been able to find a good biography of Constantine so this one had to do.

The author is truly a subject expert but not a very elegant writer. His work suffers in comparison to Anthony Everitt's who wrote two prior “Year of Rome” books I recently read, one on Cicero and the other on Augustus.

Grant does his best to breakdown the various biased accounts of Constantine’s life and times to portray the truth as he discerns it. He succeeds in only the barest sense. I finished the book without really knowing Constantine’s motivations. Where the coherent narrative of a flesh and blood person? Grant is so focused on revealing an unbiased account of the facts culled from Christian hagiography and pagan polemics, we lose the man.

A great case can be made that Constantine the Great was one of the ten most influential humans ever to walk the planet. Grant’s work is valuable but I still await a deeper study of the man.