The Monday Grind

Always interesting hearing Americans talk about how they see their politics. Lunchtime was a presentation organised by the Association of Superannuation Funds of New Zealand, from Stephen Wood. Wood is Russell Investments’ chief strategist in New York and mostly, as you might expect, spoke  on finance, investment, and wider economic issues.

[Summary: investors should concentrate on the long haul; we’ve had an unusually volatile 14 years; and things will get worse this year, with the US and the EU – 70% of the world’s economy – slowing].

But he was lured onto political issues.

On the presidential race, Wood thinks Hilary “is dead. She’s a goner.” So, as he puts it, we’re going to have a very interesting race: Barack Obama and John McCain, two candidates who are really mavericks to their own parties.

McCain would have beaten Clinton easily, Obama looks much more difficult, in Wood’s assessment. If he were to take a punt on it, Obama, narrowly.

But he doesn’t think it will make much difference. Both are free trade, both are economically fairly orthodox – Obama in fact more so than Clinton [Clinton put up the idea of a five year freeze non mortgages, which would have been disastrous].

Of course, there’s still two big states to come in, on March 5 – Texas and Ohio. Be very wary.

In previous elections, voters from Texas have been known to return from the dead to vote – and what’s more, to thoughtfully vote in alphabetical order.

I hope Justice Dept officials are  keeping a close eye on those ballot boxes.

Then, to the Monday arvo post-Cabinet press conference. Quite a bit of cynicism about whether there would be one this week, after the 23 poitn gap in the polls on the weekend. Word from the PM’s office was Cabinet was running late, and there was a rush of Cabinet committees to deal with before Clark goes to Aussie.

In the end, a 4.20pm time was given, which meant in reality about 4.35pm. We got the usual rundown of Cabinet items, what was coming up this week, and quite a bit on the China free trade deal.

Then questions. The polls, prime minister! And Clark looked like she’d just found a toenail in her pie.

“I don’t propose to change the strategy, which is getting on with government.” The stories about the leadership – any comment?

“Absolutely nothing.” And if people would like to ask about something else, fine, if not she was off to talk to an Afghan.

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