Nick Ragone is an author, attorney and public relations executive in New York City. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Rutgers University, and is a graduate of the Eagleton Institute of Political Science at Rutgers University (undergraduate) and the Georgetown University Law Center.

He is the author of three books: Essential American Government, Everything American Government, and President's Most Wanted. Nick is a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel and Fox Business, the PIX11 Morning Show, and has a weekly appearance on the popular Raph Bailey Radio Show.  He co-anchored PIX11's five-hour live inauguration coverage with Jim Watkins and Kaity Tong.

Nick is a contributor to Donklephant.com, one of the most influential political blogs on the web, and  has written for US News & World Report, The Star-Ledger, Real Simple Magazine and RealSimple.com.  Nick has been quoted in over two dozen stories on politics, the presidency, and public relations.  In December of 2007, Nick was named one of PR Week's 40 under 40 to watch, and in May of 2008 was featured in "Profiles of Success", a book about public relations. Nick lives in Jersey City, NJ, with his wife and two children, and spends what little free time he has obsessing on the Mets.

Nick can also be found on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740817853




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I'm Bob Dole ... er I mean John McCain

Some in the chattering class seem to have fallen in love with the "John McCain is another Bob Dole" comparison. In reality, the similarities begin and end with their age and distinguished service to the country.  The differences, however, are vast and profound.  

dole-button-2.JPGDole was a policy wonk and the ultimate party insider.  He was legendary for his ability to work the levers of Congress and turn legislation into law.  Bob Dole was the establishment; his opinion tracked with conventional wisdom on virtually every issue.   He understood the minutiae of policy, but struggled with the "vision thing."

And Mccain? For starters, conservatives don't trust him and some in the party aren't even sure he's one of them.  He's made a career of being a maverick and thumbing his nose at Republican orthodoxy.  He'd rather got at it alone than fall in lock step with the party.   Nobody would confuse him with a policy wonk, unless the issue could get him some visibility.

But the biggest difference: Dole wasn't able to offer a coherent rationale for his candidacy, while McCain has made his clear and simple -- to confront radical Islamic extremism, which he considers to be the "transcendent" issue of our times.

It's a lame comparison, plain and simple.   


Do you want this man running your party?

There has been much written about Howard Dean and his role as DNC Chairman over the past few weeks -- and none of it positive.

It has become painfully clear that Dean -- best known for his 2004 primary meltdown culminating in the Dean Scream -- is over-matched and overwhelmed with the enormity of the task at hand, which is essentially to prevent the party from imploding in Denver.

dean_kitten.jpgNobody could have predicted that Dean would play any role in this process; after all, the conventional wisdom was that Hillary would have the nomination sowed up by February 5th.  But with the Florida and Michigan delegation controversies to resolve, the upcoming "superdelegate primary" to manage, and the ugly personal attacks that need to be stamped out, The Screamer has a lot on his plate. 

And few think he's up to the task at hand, most notably the candidates and their staff.   Democratic insiders have little faith that he can prevent a total party meltdown (ironic since he couldn't prevent his own meltdown in 2004), and the real hope is that Al Gore will step in and effectively brokers a resolution (which is also ironic since Gore was the first "establishment" figure to endorse Dean in 2004). 

Some people make history; others have it thrust upon them; and still others get run over by it.   Howard Dean should start looking for a license plate number.  

Footnote: Should there be any doubt that Howard Dean was miscast in the DNC Chairman's role, see Exhibit A: His appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.


Could the end be near?

The Clinton campaign has maintained, over the past few weeks, that Hillary is not dropping out anytime soon.  Their argument was based on the premise that she'd win Pennsylvania convincingly and have "big state momentum" heading into the "superdelegate primary."

19_hillary_lg.jpgAccording to several recent polls, however, Obama has cut dramatically into her Pennsylvania lead and is well ahead in "cash on hand".  "Sniper-gate" seems to be having more of impact on Hillary than Jeremiah Wright had on Obama, and it's being reflected in national polls, where he has opened up a double digit lead, as well as in Pennsylvania, where it's nearly a dead heat.

Should Obama win Pennsylvania -- or for that matter just keep it close -- the pressure on Hillary to get out will be almost unbearable (to anyone except her of course).  Superdelegates will begin to move to Obama in droves, and the entire establishment will prevail upon Hillary to get out.    The next three weeks will prove critical for Hillary if she wants to stay in the race until Denver.

Footnote:  George Stephanopolous was on GMA this morning reporting that the behind-the-scenes superdelegate lobbying is intensifying.  The Clinton camp's message to undecided superdelegates: Obama isn't electable.  Not sure what they're basing this on, but at this point it's the only argument Hillary has left.


McCain's big mouth

John Fout of the TheStreet.com quotes me in a story about John McCain and his penchant for being candid.   While his honesty and bluntness is undoubtedly a virtue, it can be a vice at times.  The money quote:

john_mccain_070429_ms.jpg"The book on McCain has always been that his straight talk and candor -- while two of his strengths -- sometimes get him in trouble. When you're running for president, you can't be off message even for a second, because the quote can live in perpetuity on the Web and on YouTube. He's finding that out with his "100 years in Iraq" sound bite regarding U.S. military presence in Iraq. He can't make mistakes like that if he wants to win."

I think the "John McCain brand" has been built largely upon his 'straight talk'.  Voters have come to expect this from him, and therefore hold him to a slighly different standard than the other candidates.   There's no question, however, that he'll have to curb the bluntness (ever so slightly) to avoid misstep like the "100 years" quote.


Richardson returns fire

Last week Democratic operative and Clinton apologist James Carville wrote an op-ed defending his calling Bill Richardson "Judas" for his endorsement of Barak Obama.  He painted the New Mexico Governor as a disloayal ingrate, and lamented how loyalty is no longer a cherished virtue in politics.

JamesCarvilleAsSmeagol.jpgWell today Richardson returned volley with an op-ed of his own in the Washington Post explaining his decision to endorse Barak Obama.  The long and short of it:  Richardson is rejecting the very type of slash and burn politics that Carville wears as a badge of honor.

It's rare to see this type of intra-party bickering among two high profile personalities on such a messy public stage, but this is no ordinary election; it's just another reminder of how unusual (I'm hesitant to use the word unprecedented) and unpredictable this election cycle has been.  As this race drags on, and the stakes become higher, it will only get messier.


You can call him Al, just don't call him Boss Tweed

If Democrats were hoping for Al Gore to "broker" a peace between Hillary and Barak, think again.al_gore_wideweb__470x3130.jpg

He told Leslie Stahl of "60 Minutes" last night that he had no interest in being the modern Boss Tweed: "I'm not applying for the job of broker ... I'm trying to stay out of it."  He didn't say unequivocally that he would never run for President again, but he sure sounded like someone who had moved beyond politics.  I think Gore believes -- and many would probably agree -- that he could have more impact on the issue of climate change as a private citizen than he could as President.   While he remains on the sidelines for the time being, should the battle continue beyond the last primary and into the summer months, there will be growing pressure on Gore to step in and broker a truce. 


Hillary, meet the Christmas tree

Frank Rich of the New York Times has a must read piece this morning called "Hillary's St. Patrick's Day Massacre," referring to her persistent Bosnia-sniper embellishment over the past three months.  Rich lights her up like a Christmas tree, posing this question:  "Why did she keep repeating this whopper for nearly three months, well after it had been publicly debunked by journalists and eyewitnesses?"

christmas_tree.gifRich is essentially trying to figure out why Clinton would re-tell this brazen fabrication over and over when it had been debunked months earlier by various news outlets.  If you understand her logic, Rich reasons, then you begin to understand Hillary Clinton. He puts Hillary on the shrink couch and comes up with the only possible explanation:

"Still unable to escape the stain of the single most damaging stand in her public career, she felt compelled to cloak herself, however fictionally, in an American humanitarian intervention that is not synonymous with quagmire. Perhaps she thought that by taking the huge gamble of misspeaking one more time about her narrow escape on the tarmac at Tulza, she could compensate for misvoting on Iraq."

Who knows what compelled Hillary Clinton to make the sniper fable part of her stump speech for three months, but it does speak volumes about how she interprets the truth.  For her to "aggressively misremember" such a highly public event simply begs another question: what is her "memory" like for events and meetings that weren't verified by the public or the media?  

Footnote: Shortly after posting this, a new gallup poll came out showing Obama with a 10 point national lead over Hillary -- his largest lead at any time.   


Carville on Judas

I'm not a big James Carville fan.  In fact, I'm no fan at all.  I think he's mostly a serpentine-looking blowhard.  But he has a refreshing op-ed in today's Washington Post re-affirming and explaining his reason for comparing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Judas after Richardson endorsed Barak Obama.

james_carville1.jpgHis basic thesis -- and this should come as no surprise to Carville watchers -- is that loyalty, above all, is what matters in politics.  In this hyper-sensitive world we live in, he opines, there's too much backstabbing and not enough sticking-by-your-guy.   Carville has been accused of many things over the years, but disloyalty isn't one of them.  "I was a little-known political consult when Bill Clinton made me," he writes.  "When he came upon hard times, I felt it my duty -- whatever my personal misgivings -- to stick by him."

In Carville's estimation, Bill Clinton made Bill Richardson a national player, and in the very least he should have remained on the sidelines.  There's something to be said for that. 


Veep talk

While the Democrats duke it out, John McCain has been busy raising money, touring Iraq and now the key battleground states, and mulling over his Veep selection. 

portman_hmed_10a.hmedium.jpgI'm a little surprised the Veep rumor-mill hasn't churned a bit more, but Bob Novak has his pulse on this stuff as good as anyone.  Novak's Saturday column shines a light on the three front runners:  Rob Portman, former Ohio Congressman, U.S. Trade Representative, and OMB Director; Mark Sanford, former Congressman and current Governor of South Carolina; and Charlie Crist, current Governor of Florida.   

All three brings assets and liabilities to the table.  Portman puts a critical state in McCain's column (Ohio), and is trusted and respected by conservatives.  He also has significant congressional and executive branch experience, and is considerably younger than McCain.  His biggest drawback:  He has almost no national profile and is relatively untested as a campaigner.  Sanford, too, is beloved by conservatives, and also has legislative and executive experience.  His primary flaw:  he comes from a reliably conservative state, and doesn't have much appeal outside of the south.  Crist could be the most intriguing candidate.  He doesn't have the conservative bona fides of Portman and Sanford, and is a bit squishy on social issues, but one thing's undeniable: he'd make Florida a lock for McCain, a must-win state for Republicans. 

One omission from Novak's list:  Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  The most likely reason -- conservatives don't trust him.  He seems too comfortable with environmentalists, and given that McCain still needs to shore up his conservative base, Pawlenty probably isn't the answer.  But Minnesota is also an important swing state, and Pawlenty is an effective campaigner. 

McCain should capitalize on the Democrats internecine squabble by announcing his Veep selection now.  It would allow the ticket to raise more money, visit more states, and attack the Democrats more effectively (by using the Veep as the customary hatchet man).  It's unlikely to occur, but it would be interesting.


Casey at bat

Pennsylvania's pro-life Democratic Senator Bob Casey, son of former Governor Bob Casey, endorsed Barak Obama today after vowing to stay neutral in the race. 

casey72235532.jpg"I believe in this guy like I have never believed in a candidate in my life," he told the New York Times. "Except my father; I campaigned hard for him."

Casey's endorsement could help Obama where he needs it the most: with working-class and ethnic white voters in the rural parts of the state, as he intends to aggressively campaign for Obama over the next few weeks.  

There's speculation that Casey was motivated, in part, to avenge his late father, who had long feuded with President Bill Clinton over the abortion issue (senior Casey was outspokenly pro-life).   The feud got so heated that President Clinton blocked Governor Casey from addressing the Democratic National Convention in 1992, and in 1996 Casey toyed with the idea of challenging Clinton in the primaries (he gave up the cause after undergoing a liver and heart transplant).  No word yet if President Clinton plans to join the fray in Pennsylvania for another go-round with a Casey.