Somedays it’s good to just listen to people talk and feel out a situation. Last night Hillary Clinton was declared the winner in 3 states, including the closely watched Ohio and Texas primaries. What that means is being hotly debated, somewhat. Some things I’ve grabbed and chewed on:
1. The Clinton campaign has had no choice but to try to paint this as the greatest victory ever. The news cycle today is undoubtedly going to lean in the Clintons’ favor for a bit, but the fact that Hillary didn’t hardly scratch Obama’s delegate lead is casting a shadow over the celebration. Seven weeks until Pennsylvania? She may win PA as well, but by then the fact that last night didn’t provide any gains for her will have sunk in. The question remains, how does this person believe she can still catch up, much less win?
2. The Obama campaign is aware that the Clintons are pursuing a Bush-style campaign and is gearing up to provide the jiu-jitsu. It seemed to me that Obama made a decent pushback against the “3am” horseshit, namely that there’s nothing to suggest she’d be any better equipped to handle an emergency than Obama, and plenty to suggest she’d be worse. The ad seemed designed to rely on Hillary’s name recognition and boldness in declaring herself the fear candidate to sway voters. Obama fought back with a reasoned argument. While I will always believe this is the correct response, it hasn’t proven the most effective in general elections. Sadly, it didn’t prove to be enough in a Democratic primary. Some people like my good friend Thomas Tallis point to our politicians as scumbags, but at some point one must observe that we vote these people into office, and we get what we deserve. The Democratic electorate is letting me down here. Hillary has been all too willing to blur the line between the Democrats and Bush, but for the voters to reward her…sad. Really, painfully disappointing.
That said, it does seem to me that it is time for Barack Obama to expand, deepen, and truly circumvent Hillary Clinton. I wouldn’t say that he needs to “go negative” as the horse-race lingo of today frames it. I’d say he needs to go assertive, with a dash of relentlessness. Some of it will be called negative regardless, but he can rise above that oversimplification. If Obama can stay cool, and simply go after every single argument or smear Clinton makes with rebuttals that are factual and logical, it’s fine to draw the necessary conclusions about her campaign: opportunistic, bankrupt of ideas, and divisive.
Obama’s camp needs to be firm on the fact that Hillary is still firmly behind, but that needs to be supplementary information, rather than primary. I got an email in my inbox titled simply, “The math.” I didn’t bother reading it. I know what the goddamn math is. Obama still needs to keep winning. Call Texas a virtual tie, talk about Vermont, and talk about what states you’re going to tackle next. Tell me what the ground game in Pennsylvania is. Something. If the races from now on keep vacillitating between Clinton and Obama, Obama maintains the lead and still gets to celebrate some more victories. If Clinton can come out of the night with virtually no gains in delegates screaming like she bloody won, Obama can throw a party for every victory too.
3. Strategically, this is bad news for the general election. Turn on some rightwing radio today or read some of their blogs. How do they sound? Like they just got their biscuit buttered, right? Some have speculated that Rush Limbaugh imploring his listeners in Ohio and Texas to go vote for Hillary worked. Obama’s camp has circulated the idea that Hillary Clinton hasn’t really been vetted, as she so frequently claims. And it’s true. If Hillary thinks she’s dishing out everything on Obama that the GOP can, she hasn’t been given an ounce of the guff the GOP will give her. The fact that she’s struggling so hard to win without Obama really going after her weaknesses is telling.
Make no mistake, the Republicans want to run against Hillary more than they do Obama. Right now, anyway. But if Obama cannot effectively demonstrate that he can outwit Hillary’s Rovian shtick for once and all, the GOP might start warming up to the idea of running against him. I heard on Michael Medved’s show that the GOP can essentially throw everything at Obama and say, “What, Hillary did it first!”
Can Obama do it? Sure he can. He’s been good on the rapid fire responses, but he needs to beef it up.
As for the general election, one can only hope that if Hillary manages, somehow, to slash and burn a path to the nomination, that she’ll go nuclear on McCain. But how would she? “3am” ads against McCain? Ludicrous.
Vote your conscience. I just ask how the destructive and likely futile Clinton slimefest against Obama appeals to your conscience. What reason is there to prefer Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama besides wanting to see a female president? Experience? Please, if she can claim she has 35 years experience, Obama has 20. Democrats need to stand up and differentiate themselves from those that gave George W. Bush four more years in office and vote with their principles for the best candidate for President. A quasi-victory based on following Bill Kristol’s advice to “run on fear” tells me that Hillary Clinton is indeed the emperor with no clothes in this race.