Too Close to Call but then Obama moves to a second term

November 7, 2012

Tudor Rickards

A personal and unedited report based on the BBC’s radio coverage. I’m concentrating on the Presidential campaign as the votes are reported State by State

3.00am This and all times in British [GMT] time. Too close to call [TCTC]. No unexpected swings. The key states to be announced are Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Before the statistics indicate anything beyond TCTC inferences, BBC reports an intuitive sense of a ‘gentle breeze’ to Obama. Senate seats going to democrats from several republicans who had made particularly outrageous comments about ‘women’s issues’ such as rape.

3.30am One weary Republican in Virginia points to lack of attention by his party to ‘women and Hispanic votes’.

3.45am Democratic HQ in Chicago. BBC reports that ‘about an hour and a half ago something like a light switch flicked’. [My take: the switch was from belief grounded in hope to belief backed up with more rational analysis of information coming in.

4.00am The micro-evidence in Ohio places attention on Hamilton county, a particular bellwether or indicator of the whole. (‘Big fleas have little fleas…’). In the Pacific States, voting ends. California immediately announces for Obama.

4.15am NBC is the first network to announce for Obama. BBC insists that the result cannot be formally called.

4.19am Barack Obama tweets and calls it for Obama. Fox News calls it for Obama. BBC still refuses to call it formally. Fox news argues with itself whether it can be called yet.

4.24am ABC reports Ohio goes to Obama, and calls the election for Obama.

4. 25am BBC calls it for Obama. I’m going to bed.

Cameron is “Napoleonic” ?

July 30, 2010

David Cameron is labelled “Napoleonic” by a former political opponent who later joined his coalition Government. But the term was used to convey the strengths and weaknesses of the great General’s leadership style

Nick Robinson of the BBC [JUly 29th 2010] tells of conversations he had in the run-up to the General Election [May 8th 2010]. David Cameron, he was told, was the only leader in European politics who could be described as “Napoleonic”. Robinson interpreted this to mean he was the only leader who could successfully make policy decisions confidentially and unilaterally.

Neil Sherlock, an adviser to this and many previous Lib Dem leaders, rang to remind me of what the Tory leader had said in a Radio 4 documentary I had made about Disraeli. Cameron had praised Dizzy for outmanoeuvring Gladstone on the issue of political reform and quoted a historian who said that the former Tory PM had “taken a leap in the dark and then leapt again”. Neil’s view was that anyone who could appreciate Disraeli’s bold risk-taking was capable of replicating it. Chris Huhne told me and his party that Cameron was the only Napoleonic leader left in Europe. In other words, whatever the Tory leader said became Tory policy. Both were proved right.

It is tempting to push the analogy a little further. A Napoleonic leader might be expected to

charm would-be opponents into becoming faithful followers

make bold unexpected tactical moves which enhance his reputation

make bold strategic moves which risk his entire venture, and

acquire “nodding donkeys” around him rather than colleagues who influence his plans

This week the Prime Minister has been particularly Napoleonic. He has been accused of media blunders and political naivity. In America he stated that Britain had been a minor partner to the US in 1040, at a time when America had not entered the war (regardless of Hollywood interpretations which suggest otherwise). In India he remarks which were seen as ill-judged regarding Pakistan’s dealings with terrorism. Napoleonic, but are they bold tactical moves or evidence of a dangerous stategy?

Obama McCain Round One: Blink and You’ve Got It

September 27, 2008

The long-awaited debate between the Presidential candidates takes place. In a well-rehearsed encounter, the moves practiced on the campaign trail are brought into the living room

Asleep on my watch, I missed the debate as it happened. A few hours later the first reports were available, as well as full video transcripts.

The BBC provided a neat ‘as it happened’ commentary which interlaced commentary from BBC North America editor Justin Webb with tweets from interacting viewer plus clips from blogs. The format works quite well for sports transmissions, and has been effectively transplanted. A nice innovation. It also included a 5-minute clip on the exchanges over foreign policy (the focus of the first of the debates)

The clip is more than enough to confirm some expectations. That the two candidates are operating according to stereotype. Mr Obama is prone to the extended answer; Mr McCain appears more drilled and perhaps less flexible. Neither (in the clip) appears to be far from a well- rehearsed performance.

Some of the tweeters indicate that they had heard it all before. This point was reinforced by Justin Webb.

This is a huge disappointment – set piece memorised stuff from both candidates

The combatants were sticking mainly to the polished moves thoroughly practiced in dozens of speeches during the campaign. By sticking to their comfort zones, they reveal ingrained stylistic aspects of their performances. Mr McCain may have successfully taken advice not to say ‘my friends’; Mr Obama to be less professorial. But the leakage was there for the body language enthusiasts. Did John blink too many times? (I haven’t counted). Was Barack tempted into verbosity? Perhaps.

Just rhetoric?

So is what we see anything more than a display of rhetoric? You could see it that way. Political performance art where the audience reactions could not have greater consequences since the battles in the Coliseum of ancient Rome when gladiators received the thumbs up or down from the Emperor.


Google presented me with a snippet that looked as if John McCain was a clear winner. Here is the entire line (obviously extracted from a longer statement).

1957 In the nearest thing to a presidential debate so far, at a Californian megachurch, McCain is widely perceived to have bested Obama with a straight …

My reaction was that [Google states that] McCain is widely perceived to have bested Obama.

The snippet came from the BBC report above. If you go back to the original you find that it refers to Mr McCain besting Mr Obama in the answer he gave to a specific question. Arguably, it was the only thing in the entire post that could have indicated that McCain was a clear winner. This was confirmed in other reports. Curious. Is there a republican bugging Google’s search engines to find headlines that support Senator McCain? It is early morning still. My conspiracy brain-cells are over active.

Setting aside obviously partisan views, initial reports suggest that neither candidate was ‘bested’ in this battle. It’s still all to fight for.

Bush wages war on financial terrorism but fails to rally the troops

September 26, 2008

President Bush launches one more campaign in the war against terror. But this time it is against the terror that threatens global capitalism

The aging generalissimo is preparing to step down. Perhaps he will hand over to a dynamic young leader. Perhaps to one even older than himself. But step down he will, in a matter of months.

While he might have wished for respite, he has to confront one last crisis in his last days as President. The United States faces the most severe financial crisis since the 1930s.

His plan is to fight the financial war with a $700 billion attack force. But he has to win support of his financial generals who are not convinced.

When he addressed the nation he looked tired and had lost the jaunty air which has been a feature of his press conferences.

Peering at events from the UK, BBC’s celebrity journalist Robert Peston suggests that Bush is trying to bully the troops into line.

Political impact

The political ramifications of this battle are becoming clearer. The presidential aspirants have been dragged into the crisis before they would have chosen. Senator McCain has made the more assertive move, claiming that it calls for a temporary cease-fire in the Presidential campaign. He suggests a face-to-face debate scheduled for Friday [September 26th 2008] should be cancelled. Senator Obama gives a more nuanced response (a ‘yes and’). Sure, the financial crisis is vitally important and urgent. But a wannabe President has to deal with more than one thing at a time.

That exchange struck me as significant. McCain made a plausible move. Obama’s response worked better for me.

So what?

So what? I don’t get to vote in November.

There will be plenty more mud flying around, but more seems likely to stick onto the Republican candidate and his high octane vice-Presidential candidate around their grasp of financial affairs. These hits may be harder to brush off.

It just looks, for the first time in months, that the odds are swinging back to Obama, and that vulnerabilities in the McCain campaign will do his prospects real damage.

Senator McCain Can Go All the Way

March 5, 2008


Senator John McCain can go all the way to The White House. Politics is the art of the possible. McCain is looking more and more a possible winner

Events are lining up favourably for Senator John McCain. It works for him that the Democrats still have two candidates. It works for him that he can campaign without having to go back on the themes which have brought him to prominence over the last four years. Even the looming problems in Latin America seem likely to work in his favour.

America had anticipated some resolution in the race for the Presidency this week. It was expected that the Democrats would whittle down their candidates to one who would be strong favourite not just for the nomination, but to become the next Pesident of the United States.

So what happens? Events continue to defy prediction. Hillary Clinton wins in Rhode Island. It couldn’t be more symbolic, but a win is a win. It is enough to keep her in the race.

Meanwhile Ecuador and Columbia draw up troops on their common border. President Chavez of Columbia and Correa of Columbia both seem in confrontational mood.
According to The Statesman, Chavez accuses Correa of initiating a cross-border incursion of tanks and troops.

Denouncing Colombia’s slaying of rebels in a cross-border raid into Ecuador, President Chavez said Sunday [March 2nd 2008] that Venezuela will respond militarily if Colombia violates its border. He ordered Rafael Correa ‘s Embassy in Bogota closed. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa also ordered troops to the Colombian border, withdrew his government’s ambassador from Bogota and ordered Colombia’s top diplomat expelled.

These events seem unlikely to have had much influence on the immediate outcome of the Primary elections this week. But they could well have more of an influence in the months ahead.

Suddenly, the excitement for many Americans generated by Barack Obama’s campaign may seem not quite as potent. His promise of radical change not so all-consuming and satisfactory. Likewise, the experience of Hillary Clinton appears less a convertible asset in a Presidential campaign against a warrior hero whose potential popularity is increasingly drawing comparison that of the much-loved Ronald Reagan.

All in all, the road to the White House is opening up for McCain.

That’s not to say that the battle is over. It has hardly begun. But however charged with difficulties, it is not going to be simple matter of the Democratic Party picking the next President from two likely winners.