Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Week on the Campaign Trail (Part II)

My friend Bobby responded to my earlier post with his own thoughts on what I wrote about, so I thought I'd keep the discussion going and respond again. He wrote,
I agree with a lot of your analysis, including your piece about Hillary Clinton. Hillary is getting shafted and will most likely not be chosen for Vice President. I think she should jump on the McCain bandwagon because it gives her a better chance of running in 2012. I think the Democratic Party has royally screwed up their entire nominating process. If they had Republican rules, Hillary would have won. If Republicans had Democratic rules we would either have Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney. Crazy how that works.
I really have a problem with how Hillary is being treated though. How do you lose a blue collar state by 41 points and have that boost your chances of winning the nomination! The one thing I disagree with your analysis is about this week’s primaries. Hillary will most likely take Kentucky in comparable margins to West Virginia. The demographics are very much alike and the latest American Research Group Poll has Hillary up 65% to 29%. I think the internals of exit polling in West Virginia are very troubling for Obama. He lost significant portions of college educated voters, richer voters and youth voters. Three categories that he has been crushing Clinton in over the past several months.
I think Democrats are getting a little cocky in all honesty. There seems to be this we can win so were going to spin everything in our direction. Take the Mississippi election last Tuesday. The Republican lost to the Democrat 54-46. Therefore, the media went wild that this is the end of Republicans and they will be drubbed in the fall. Childers (D) was endorsed by Barack Obama, but was running as a conservative Democrat so spent weeks before the election trying to distance himself from Obama. Look, I know Republicans have a lot of work to do to salvage seats in the House. However, the fact remains special elections are like primary elections. The really charged up Dems are coming out more than Republicans. In the general election you can toss that out. People that don’t normally vote, vote in those elections. So work is cut out for the Republicans, but taking special elections as in indicator is naive. Republicans know this very well. They won a string of victories before the 1996 election, and Clinton still managed to get re-elected in 1996, so this is just spinning as far as I am concerned.
I personally think we need a grown-up in the White House who is going to get things done. I think that person is John McCain. I think Obama hit the circuit too early. He made it too easy to target him. He runs his campaign on the basis of transcending politics, and he just does not. He is a politician, with a rather shady past. Supposedly Republicans have a video of Michele Obama at Rev. Wright’s Church railing against “whitey”. This is not going to be used by Republicans, but 527’s will be all over things like this. As far as I am concerned, coming back home, I notice that the tolerance for Obama’s remarks about small town are just not winning the hearts of middle America.
I hope this sums up my positions, let me know what you think about the special election and Michele Obama comments. Talk to you soon!"

First of all, let me say that I'm pretty sure Hillary Clinton won't jump on the McCain bandwagon. As smart as it might be in some regards, given the bipartisan symbolism and the similarities in several of their philosophies, she's too much a good Democrat and I suspect that she will, as she says, fight for the Democratic nominee, even if it is Barack Obama. And a Clinton run in 2012 would of course depend entirely on who wins this election. If McCain wins I wouldn't be surprised if she ran again (I suppose that would be a decent reason for her to back McCain in the election, but it's also a huge gamble), but if Obama wins I seriously doubt she'd challenge him for the 2012 Democratic nomination. And I don't think she'd run in 2016 unless it was for reelection-- the age factor comes into play. Although McCain seems to have overcome that fairly well, so who knows?
I agree that the current nomination process is pretty messed up. It's a problem that the two parties don't have a uniform system, although I suppose it's not surprising. It's strange but it's the way it works with the two very separate entities. I tend to think that the processes should be uniform and thus (somewhat) simplified in the minds of the voters, and that at least half of the races should be winner-take-all, so we can avoid a complex, dragged-out race like this in the future. Perhaps most important, however, is that the parties come up with a workable penalty for states that break party rules, like Florida and Michigan did this year. [Personally, I will vouch for the GOP strategy of cutting the number of delegates in half. Every state deserves a voice at the convention, and that certainly includes significant states like FL and MI. Just cut the representation in half.]
Suffice it to say that if West Virginia and (the numbers that Bobby pointed out suggest) Kentucky are at all representative of what blue-collar voters and even some of Obama's usual demographic are now thinking, then he's got his work cut out for him if he's going to win this thing. Now of course it could be that the problem in West Virginia was a race-based problem (I've seen some stories that suggest that that was the case), but regardless the numbers are there. And most stories about the West Virginia primary suggest that the voters there simply didn't trust Obama. That is a huge problem, and scary that the margin is so significantly against Obama in West Virginia, a state that's voted Democratic for I believe about 20 years now. Who knows if it could swing to McCain if Hillary is the nominee? That would be something else.
As far as the special elections go-- of course it's mostly media hype saying that the Republican reign is all over. It is quite remarkable that the Republicans were defeated in Mississippi, but I think it's more a sign of the change in the political dynamic away from the extremist right that previously dominated, to a new, moderate conservative element, such as a more conservative Democrat. Likewise I think the moderate liberals will prove to prevail. The days of the wingers are far from over, but the voice of the middle is growing louder and louder, which as a confirmed moderate I personally view as a positive event. But really, neither party has Election '08 sewn up, either at the local level, the Congressional level, or the presidential level. They are both going to have to work really hard and try not to do anything stupid in order to win. Which is the way it should be, in the end.
Michelle Obama's comments about being proud of America for the first time in her adult life were not necessarily politically intelligent or politically expedient for her husband. They were much too ambiguous, but with a more naturally negative connotation. I've read several articles about it (on, Blogger News Network, and the AOL News Political Machine Blog) and I'm really not sure what to think about the charges brought up in one of the articles that she is in essence her husband's brain and his set of values. Likewise I don't know much about the accuracy of the charges about her even closer ties to Jeremiah Wright and what he preached. If she does subscribe so heavily to what Wright preached, and if she is that influential with her husband, that could be problematic and actually dangerous. But there's a lot of uncertainty there. Politically, this really doesn't seem to have gotten too much play, and a lot of the country is still on an Obama high. It probably won't dent him in the slightest, and he could even play it to his advantage-- sort of an FDR "how dare you attack my little dog Fala" kind of deal-- and get some sympathy votes off of people who resent the mean ol' Republicans going after his wife. And in all fairness, the Tennessee GOP was probably pretty out of line in going after her like that. It would have been better to focus on Barack Obama and other things about him, rather than stooping to the fairly low blow of going after a comment made by his wife. But such is the way of the business. And at any rate, like I said, I doubt it will have a huge impact, if any.

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