Archive for the ‘Campaign Organization’ Category
Trying to do my small part to help begin to unify the Democratic Party, I had promised myself that I would halt criticism of Clinton in print and on the Web. There is, after all, so much to be said about McCain and Co. But this evening I find myself unable to carry through on this pledge. There are two significant reasons.
First, I have grown increasingly concerned that Senator Clinton’s continual references to the so-called popular vote may end up damaging Senator Obama’s candidacy. It has the potential to do so by delegitimizing his victory, that is, by making it appear that he didn’t win the nomination cleanly because more people voted for Hillary. Certainly Clinton is entitled to remain in the race through all of the caucuses and primaries, and if she must, until the convention. However, even though it is clear that Obama’s (increasing) delegate lead will give him the nomination, the Clintons have continued to appeal to the notion that she is entitled to it because she has won more votes. It’s of course not evident that she has won more votes, except according to the most contrived mathematical formulas (e.g., leaving Obama without any votes in Michigan). But on a more basic level, the national popular vote is a myth, or I should say, a mythical beast. It is a chimera. You cannot generate a national popular vote from contests that have included caucuses (which cannot produce nearly as many votes as primaries), contests that have permitted independents to vote, as well as states that have permitted Republican crossovers, etc. It isn’t necessary for the Clintons to make the popular vote argument to see the election through to the end, which is one of Hillary’s proclaimed reasons for staying in the race. The argument is shortsighted if you care about a Democratic victory in November. One can only speculate as to why the Clintons have chosen this course, but it isn’t for the good of the Party.
The second reason can be called the anti-mensch factor. Instead of stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for her comments regarding RFK’s assassination, Hillary has come up with two lame strategies and one despicable one for explaining them away. The lame strategies involve trying to justify her comments by saying that 1) Teddy Kennedy had been on her mind, and 2) all she had meant to do was suggest a time line for long campaigns. I won’t comment on the first, except to say that her comments were a strange way to reveal caring and concern. Regarding the second, the time line argument simply doesn’t hold up. There is absolutely no reason why Bobby Kennedy’s assassination needed to be invoked as a marker. There are many other ways to talk about extended nominating contests. And if for some reason she had wanted to mention Bobby, all she had to do was say that he won the California primary in June. (This is not to say that she wasn’t thinking about a time line. The issue is about the role of the marker, RFK’s assassination, that she chose to use.)
But now I come to the despicable reason. Zachary A. Goldfarb reported on May 25th, in The Washington Post, the following. “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign accused Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign of fanning a controversy over her describing the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy late in the 1968 Democratic primary as one reason she is continuing to run for the presidency. ‘The Obama campaign … tried to take these words out of context,’ Clinton campaign chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘She was making a point merely about the time line.’” [emphasis added] http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-talk/2008/05/clinton_camp_stokes_rfk_flap_b.html?nav=rss_email/components
As noted, the time line argument doesn’t work. And it is virtually inconceivable that some very bright Clinton people do not understand the flaw in their own argument. It’s just too obvious. So it is disingenuous for Clinton to claim that Obama took her words out of context if her own claim about ‘the context’ is justifiably suspect. Further, the reaction to Hillary’s words were viral. They were all over the web within hours if not minutes. In addition, you had papers like The Daily News and The New York Post running banner headlines about Hillary’s “killer gaffe.” McAuliffe’s words were meant to suggest that the Obama people were somehow responsible for the “attacks” on Hillary. It is inconceivable that the Obama organization, even if it had wanted to fan the flames, could have been so successful. There was genuine outrage. I can tell you as someone who lived through the assassinations of the sixties, the outrage was totally comprehensible. It didn’t need any “fanning” from the Obama organization.
But there is more.
According to Goldfarb, “Asked if Clinton has personally called Obama to apologize for the reference, McAuliffe said she has not, ‘nor should she.’ He added, ‘Let’s be clear. This had nothing to with Senator Obama or his campaign.’”
Obama, the first African-American candidate with a real chance of winning the White House, has had to receive secret service protection since last May, long before the other candidates (excepting Hillary as the spouse of a former President). This protection is necessary due to a very real concern, namely, that someone might try to shoot and kill him. As a black American he is uniquely vulnerable. And the Clinton campaign can’t see a reason for a phone call. Why? Because of how they read the politics: if we apologize, then we admit that she may have done or said something wrong. Political calculation trumps basic decency. (The irony, of course, is that they have the politics wrong. How they are handling this will cost them support, especially among Boomers who lived through the sixties.)
As a final note, I watched HBO’s new movie, “Recount,” this evening. I have heard that Hillary has already noted that the movie supports her claims about Florida and Michigan. Nonsense on stilts. The situations are totally different, and a slogan such as, “count all the votes,” had a totally different meaning in Florida in 2000 than it does in Michigan and Florida in 2008. But right now I am just hoping that I don’t feel compelled to write something more about Hillary Clinton.
Here are a dozen reasons, a baker’s dozen, for why Barack Obama will win in November.
1. The Change Factor: Yes, you have heard it before, but it is for real. People are hungry for it, especially after the worst presidency in living memory. A key point here is that Obama has been on message about change from DAY ONE. He is the Change candidate.
2. The Organization Factor: Obama has built a remarkable organization, in part through using the Internet. Nothing quite like it has been seen before in its capacity to raise money, generate enthusiasm, and get out the vote. For more on the uniqueness of Obama’s organization, see Joshua Green’s piece, “The Amazing Money Machine” http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/obama-finance and Marc Ambinder’s “His Space” in The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/ambinder-obama
3.The Charisma Factor: Hard to explain. Hard to quantify. But you know it when you see it. (Obama’s recent Portland crowd, 75,000 in a primary election, was no accident.)
4. The Republican Factor: They are in disarray and have money problems. This will have an impact on the Presidential race. How much? Good question. But no doubt it will have some.
5. The Money Factor: A corollary to the Organization Factor. Obama will have lots of it and will be able to raise more and more of it. To those who say that money can’t buy love or office, agreed, at least in terms of the former. But money can certainly help win office. It is especially helpful if you have a good candidate, a good brand as they say, to sell. Obama is such a brand.
6. The Even Keel Factor: In this case, the younger man, Obama, seems to have a more even temperament than the older candidate. This undermines a potential advantage for McCain and also defies expectations, namely, that age should bring a more even temper. (McCain’s anger problem is for real.) Americans believe that we need a steady hand on the rudder in these difficult times.
7. The Intellectual and Expert Factor: There are those who have claimed that Obama is an elitist, a pointy head, etc., and that too many in his campaign fit this bill. But the bottom line is that candidates who can comfortably make use of experts and genuine intellectuals–not faux intellectuals, for example, the neo-conservative ideologues–are in stronger position than those who cannot. Knowledge may not be power, but it sure can help keep power from making foolish mistakes, like Iraq. It can also help win elections. (It was the “nerds,” after all, who really understood how the delegate process worked in the Democratic race. And guess who had them on staff and who listened to them.)
8. The African-American Vote. Obama will draw the greatest number of African-American voters in American history. It will make a difference. As Poblano’s analysis shows, just a 10% to 20% increase can make a significant difference in who wins in the fall. (Poblano suggests 13 electoral votes for each 10%.) See Josh Kalven’s “Obama Over the Top: How New Voters Could Redraw the Electoral Map” http://progressillinois.com/2008/05/11/features/obama-over-the-top
9. The Youth Vote and Support: Typically the youth vote is viewed as an unreliable voting block. But Obama has shown that he can increase the youth vote. In addition, youth represents ‘boots on the ground.’ They do much of the door to door and office work that campaigns require. On how the youth vote could assist Obama, once again, see Josh Kalven’s “Obama Over the Top: How New Voters Could Redraw the Electoral Map” http://progressillinois.com/2008/05/11/features/obama-over-the-top
10. A Motivated Democratic Party: Yes, there is the issue of whether all of Hillary’s supporters will come around. And there are unknowns in terms of whether Obama will be able to bring more working class folks into his corner. But the Democrats are hungry and they have resources. There will be some synergy between Presidential, Congressional, and local races.
11. The Oratory Factor. We know what the man can do. He is pretty much in a class by himself. Speeches matter. Words delivered well matter. McCain, on the other hand, is not a strong public speaker. (The “My friends” thing just isn’t going to cut it.) In addition, Obama will best him in the debates.
12. The Bush factor: Obama is the anti-Bush. He listens to those outside an inner circle. He is anti-Iraq war, exceptionally intelligent, reasonably hip, etc. McCain, on the other hand, appears to be running for Bush’s third term. The McBush notion will stick with a significant number of voters.
13. Michelle Obama: Michelle has made some gaffes. Some view her as coming on too strong. But her story will get out: poor kid from the South Side of Chicago, who through her own hard work and intelligence made it to Princeton and Harvard. She is now the mother of two young daughters, juggling family and career. Women, many of Hillary’s supporters, will relate. Further, Michelle is a powerful speaker. The Republicans would be foolish to underestimate her.