Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why Has Obama Not Closed the Sale?

On the surface Obama should have won Pennsylvania. Most of the key factors that normally bring forth strong victories are going his way. Obama has a golden tongue and melodic voice with a natural cadence whereas Clinton is far from being a gifted orator. Since his Kennedyesque speeches coming out of Iowa the romantic images of Camelot carry stirred the imaginations and hearts of many.

Going into and following South Carolina by adopting the Martin Luther King speaking style and coupling with “Yes we can” he assumed the MLK mantle. Once he assumed the MLK mantle and with early victories heavy pressure was put on African-American politicians to publicly withdraw their support from Clinton and announce they are supporting Ohama. For an African-American to not support Obama risks wrath and alienation. Hence, Obama has the African-American community vote guaranteed.

Clinton is strongly detested by the religious right as evidenced by “ANYONE but Hilary” bumper stickers. Neither Hilary nor Bill Clinton are beloved by the far left and those with the deepest pockets in the Democrat party. Clintons are more middle of the road and not strong liberals which is why Obama has won strongly most of the caucuses attended by political activists.

Since South Carolina Obama has been heavily outspending Clinton. For every dollar Clinton has been spending Obama has been spending two, and sometimes three, dollars on television and radio ads. He has the resources to put far more paid boots on the ground in each State, generate more flyers and make more robo calls.

It is inevitable that Obama will be the Democrat nominee. The superdelegates who could make the difference are being neutralized through two strategies. The first is the strategy articulated following South Carolina by Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. The plan argues superdelgates should not vote contrary to how their states voted and to do otherwise would be undemocratic. Interestingly, Kennedy and Kerry will not be voting in keeping with their States are leaving others to champion that argument. These two Senators have also moved from having a high profile in the campaign into the background. The second plan is a variation off the first, is the argument that it would be immoral for the superdelgates to take the nomination away from Obama. The African-American community would view it as cheating a black man from what he rightly won. To help sustain that argument the Obama camp has to keep the Florida and Michigan delegates from being seated.

For the most part the momentum was with Obama prior to Ohio and Pennsylvania. With the superdelgates neutralized, there is little doubt that Obama will be the nominee. If he has the oratory, the looks, the message of change that stirs the heart, the dollars, the hard core of the party, then why has he ended the race?

The reason he has not put the race to an end is because the middle of the road Democrats and the Regan Democrats have doubts about Obama. While he has wrapped himself in the romantic images of Camelot, those who voted for JFK are not caught up in Obamamania. Having lived in the Kennedy era they not view the Kennedy administration and the Kennedy oratory in the same romantic terms as those who were born subsequent to 1970. Seniors appear to be viewing Obama’s promises and Obamamania with a greater level of skeptism.

While on many levels Obama is the Teflon man, when he is attacked, Obama has the tendency to go into the “woe is me” mood. A segment of Democratic voters are not convinced that he is able to stand the heat. If Democrats have doubts during a gentle internal campaign, those doubts will be magnified during the hard hitting national campaign when voters start to weigh strength and ability to lead on national and international issues. Coupled with strength will be issues about lack of experience. As the nominee Obama is going to have to demonstrate capability to attack, hit hard and steady. If his “woe is me” side comes out, he will find himself staggering.

Another issue is a quiet concern that Obama could be another Jimmy Carter. Carter was a likable man with a wonderful platform presence who swept into office with a mandate to change Washington. Significant change did not happen. In the face of major issues Carter equivocated and then became overly fixated upon an issue. The “woe is us” side of Carter created a national lethargy.

For the mainstream and right wing of the Democrat party Obama’s voting record is also an issue. Both conservative and liberal voting tracking organizations have rated him as having one of the most liberal voting records. This could become a significant issue in the national election as McCain has a more middle of the road record.

Though union leadership moved in February to get behind Obama, the rank and file of the membership has bolted. The blue-collar workers and middle management white-collar workers are the Regan Democrats. These swing voters are showing that they are not yet convinced that Obama is presidential material. Some talking heads speak of these voters being more racially motivated. About 10% of such voters may not be ready to vote for an African-American, but in the overall scheme of things this 10% are more than off-set by the increased number of African-American voters who are coming out to vote for Obama. Further, the bulk of those who say they would not vote for Obama because of his race tend to members of the NRA and religious right which heavily vote Republican.

Though some Democrats started calling seven weeks ago for Clinton to surrender and though the call has become much stronger, a premature withdrawl could harm Obama in the long run. The longer she stays in the race Obama will be able to shore up his shortcomings.

Though this election should be a cake walk for the Democrat nominee, particularly given McCain’s ongoing support of Iraq, such an assumption is dangerous. As demonstrated by Obama's inability to defeat Clinton when he has so many strong elements going for him, he has significant flaws that need to be addressed least he loose the national election.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Airport Challenge - Follow-up

In the prior blog I noted that I have been in and out of 40 airports. When I did the following list I learned that I was short by one...I have flown into and out of 41 airports, seven in Canada and thirty-four in the US. Here is my list.

Toronto – Pearson
London, Ontario
St. Johns

Cedar Rapids
Dulles International (Washington DC)
Grand Forks
JFK (New York)
Kansas City
Lexington, Bluegrass (old and new)
Long Beach
Los Angelis
Midland TX
New Orleans
Quad Cities
Ronald Regan National (Washington DC)
San Antonio
San Diego
San Francisco
St Louis
Twin Cities (Minneapolis)

Two and a half weeks ago were the flights to San Diego. This past week I flew to Atlanta. This week I fly to Orlando and two days after returning from Orlando I fly to Dallas. Dallas should be the last set of flights until at least August.

The worst airports I have experienced are Newark International and St. Louis International. I have flown into and out Newark six times, and St. Louis eight times over the years. Both have similar shortcomings. Both are congested, seating at the gates uncomfortable and limited and uncomfortable. Security checks bottle neck and are lengthy. Walking from one gate to another involves a great deal of walking and food choices are limited.

Though the airport in Winnipeg is an quick to get to and allows passengers to get to the gate quickly, it is not an airport at which I would want to be unduly delayed or stranded. The meal choices are nearly non-existent.

The airports I have loved the best are the smallest. One of my favorites is the Quad City Airport in Moline IL. Besides having a good selection of airlines, it is airy, quick to navigate both within and without, free wi-fi, and has good food choices for the size of the airport.

Another airport that I love to fly into and out of is Ronald Regan National Airport. There is a wide range of airlines that fly into the airport. Food choices are excellent on both sides of the gate and there is a good selection of shops to visit. The distance from check in to security is short and getting through security is quick. Once through security, the distance one is less than four minutes to the furthest gate. The airport is airy and one has a good view of the runways and the city from the heart of the airport as well as from the gates. Curbside drop off and pick-up is not only quick and easy but free of congestion.

Two flights that stand out as horror stories, the flight from Syracuse to Newark, and the flight from Newark to Rochester (see Evie’s account that is a comment on the prior blog).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blog Challenge - Airports

While waiting for my connection flight to Dulles a week ago, my mind started to count the number of airports into which I have flown into and/or out of during my life. Not including landing and taking off on lakes I counted 40 different airports (7 in Canada and 33 in the US). Here is a challenge to readers, post a comment telling how many airports you have landed at and/or taken off from.

Here is a second challenge, post a blog telling us a) which airport in the last ten years you have disliked the most and why, b) which airport or two in the last ten years you have liked the most and why, and lastly c) which was your worse flying experience. I have two but as they were shared with Evie, I will let Evie post hers choice and then I will post mine.

Delta Airlines which is based in Atlanta and Northwest which is based in Minneapolis announced that they will be merging. As I flew to Atlanta Monday I overheard a flight attendant speaking to another flight attendant about the age of their fleet and Northwest’s. From the comment it sounded like Northwest’s fleet was significantly older. Well I decided to go to a little research which revealed that Delta’s fleet with an average age of 14 years per aircraft is significantly older than Northwest’s 11.4 years. That said, given the number of newer aircraft on Northwest’s international routes, on the domestic routes, Northwest’s fleet is slightly older than Delta’s.

I was surprised by the age of some of the fleets. Here is the age of various fleets:

American 15 (the oldest of the major US fleets)
Air Canada 8.9
Air Canada Jetz 12.6
Virgin America 1.1
Virgin Atlantic 6.7
United 13.7
Southwest 9.9
US Air 12.3
US Air Force 22.5 (only includes their passenger aircraft)
Canadian Air Force 19.2 (only includes their passenger aircraft)
Canadian North 26
Continental 10.2
Frontier 4
Jet Blue 3.4
AirTran 4.8
Qantas 11
Air France 9.1
Air Jamaica 8.7
Air Alaska 8.7
Midwest 10.8
British Airways 11.3
Lufthansa 12.8

If the US Air Force included the military aircraft, the B-52 fleet would drive the statistics through the roof as the youngest planes in the large B-52 fleet is older than most the pilots who are flying them. In theory it will not be long before it is possible for the oldest B-52’s in the fleet to be flown by the grandson of the aircraft’s first pilot.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Virgin America, the sister of Virgin Atlantic, is a new airline has entered the US market. Virgin Atlantic has been flying between the US and England for over a decade. VA flies from two east coast cities, Washington and New York into two CA cities, LA and San Francisco. Out of those two west coast cities you can fly to Seattle, Las Vegas and San Diego.

The costs are attractive if you book early enough. What I enjoyed most about the airline was the flying experience. The seats are more comfortable than normal. The headrests adjust up and down slightly as well as having wings that fold in to cradle the head. Each seat as its own touch screen from which you can follow the flight on a GPS, or listen to a selection of music that you can add to your play list, play a handful of basic computer games, watch CNN, sports and other television shows (satellite feeds) or select a movie to watch (most have a fee attached). From the same touch screen you can order drinks and food to be delivered to your seat from the galley.

The flight connection times in San Francisco and Los Angeles are so tight that a delay in your first leg is likely going to cause you to miss the second. One problem with connections of less than hour is getting a meal between flights is very difficult. By the time you get off the one flight a fifty-minute connection can be less than twenty-minutes before boarding. If you are flying up and down the west coast the next flight is only a few hours later. If on the other hand you are flying to the east coast, the next flight will not be for 11 to 13 hours.

From my observations while waiting for the next flight east out of SF, I noticed that about a third of the Virgin America flights were departing late.

Their customer care at Dulles was on the short side. All self check-in screens are poorly located in the middle of the line for those who need to see an agent. Hence, both lines commingle and you are not sure who is seeking which service. Further, the day I flew to California, all four of the self check-in machines were not printing tickets which meant that I still had to see an agent. One person who was in line mentioned the machines not being able to print the ticket happened on a prior flight to the west.

Would I fly Virgin America? Yes I would only if my return connection time between flights was more than an hour.
As to the touch screens, hopefully within five years we will start to see similar screens being used on domestic flights of other airlines.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Desert Trip III

Our trip to the Grand Canyon was to the western rim, which is on the other end of the Arizona from the National Park. As you can see the western end is the desert portion. There is no sanctuary from the sun. Being there in early April we did not have to deal with the heat as we would have to experience in summer. I would not want to walk around there in the summer with temperatures in the upper 90s to low 100s. The Skywalk is a thing to do but given the costs, the heat and lack of shade I would not do the western rim in the summer.

The Skywalk is on a Native American reservation. Though you can drive to the Skywalk, it is not only well of the main highway and not well marked, but the road off the main highway is about 15 miles of winding gravel road. We are now very happy that we took a tour bus rather than trying to find the place ourselves.

The folks that run the Skywalk have you park at the “Gateway” and take you by bus to the two Grand Canyon stops as well as to a Native American village. The bus service is regular. As the Skywalk can handle only 160 people an hour you could find yourself standing in line for over 90 minutes to get on to it. The food court at the Skywalk is not overly efficient and it could take 15 to 20 minutes to place the order and 10 to 15 minutes to receive your food.

We have been to the Skywalk. Our next visit to the Grand Canyon will be the eastern end which is in the National Park. The National Park is more forested and from what we understand, in summer much better than the desert portion of the Canyon.

Regardless when you go to the desert portion, take plenty of sunscreen and water.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Desert Trip II

Following are pictures taken at the Grand Canyon. The Skywalk is in the corner of one of the pictures. People are not allowed to take cameras onto the Skywalk which we only learned about once we were on site. If we had known cameras were not allowed we may have gone to another area of the Grand Canyon. Also, the Skywalk is up a side valley with the main part of the Grand Canyon off in the distance. The second stop gives one a better view of the Grand Canyon itself. That said, the overlook at the Skywalk was still impressive.

The floor and walls of the Skywalk are glass. Visitors are given coverings to put over their shoes to keep from scratching the glass. For those who are squeamish or become squeamish out on the glass, they do have the inside and outside edges of the glass painted. More on the Skywalk experience to follow.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Desert Trip I

This week has been an eventful week. I am on a ten hour layover in San Francisco. My flight out of San Diego was delayed nearly ninety minutes due to fog in SF. I missed my connection, so I am on the flight that arrives at 5:05/5:15 in the morning at Dulles. Josh was thrilled by that news as he is picking me up from the airport ("It is good that I have the day off from school" was his reply.)

While sitting here taking snap shots of various plans and color schemes I have paid for service. I would rather download a few pictures from this week and check email rather than spend hours looking at endless streams of people going past.

The first two pictures are taken as we traveled along I 15 just west of Barstow CA. Note that the photographer just had to get into the picture.

The following three pictures were taken at Hover Dam. Note the four water intakes on the Lake Mead side. The lake is about 100 ft below the 1983 flood mark (point of the white and dark rocks) because of the heavy draw of water from Las Vegas. Las Vegas is under water restrictions.

Evie and I took a one day trip to the Grand Canyon. We were picked up at our hotel in Las Vegas at 6:15 AM and returned at 7:30 PM.

The following three are of the desert in Arizona, just south of Hoover Dam. It was great to sit back and let someone else drive us through the area. I fear that I would have gotten lost.