Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hillary's Conundrum

She tried being (somewhat for her) nice to Obama leading up to Super Tuesday. It did not work. She fired her campaign manager and took the gloves off for the last few primaries, sharpening her attacks on Obama. She has gotten thoroughly thrashed since then (it's 10 in a row now). The conventional wisdom is that negative campaigning works. Well, it did not work in Wisconsin for Hillary, as Obama beat her by more than two touchdowns (58%-41%).

So, does she play nice and try to win by drawing contrasts with Obama, or does she turn her negativity amp up to 11 to try to squeeze out wins in Texas and Ohio on March 4? I think I know the answer to that query.

And, this brings me back to where I started in this election process. People do not like Hillary Clinton. They like the IDEA of Hillary Clinton.

3 comments:

Luke Harlow said...

The problem with going negative is that Obama has been fairly honest about the skeletons in his closet. So Clinton doesn't really have that card to play. (Though the Republicans might, but for different reasons.) To attack him on substance is hard because his message is so compelling that it looks like you're "anti hope." More importantly, his rhetoric is so laced with classic language from the civil rights movement and black church, and he speaks with such conviction about it, to oppose it sounds like you oppose the movement. Everything else Hillary has tried--like arguing that voters were disfranchised in MI and FL, even though everyone knew the rules--just sounds petty and stupid.

But on the black church angle: I expect this story will gain more traction if Obama gets the nomination, but I cannot think of a presidential candidate in recent history (Carter and W do not fit here) who was so adept at translating theological principles into a political message. It doesn't come off as contrived or insincere. (I don't know if Obama has read David Chappell's _A Stone of Hope_, which is the best book I have ever read on the Civil Rights movement, but Obama's constant distinction between "hope" and "optimism" is brilliant and straight out of the theology of the CRM.) And, in my opinion, it is what has given him such a broad base. People talk about Obama as the "new JFK." If he wins the presidency, he's superseded JFK. Most of the JFK hype is fanciful memory. Look at the 1960 election; he never pulled off what Obama is pulling off in uniting such a wide array of peoples and interest groups.

R. Justin said...

Might I add this astute observation from the Washington Post's reliably conservative George Will:
Nothing, however, will assuage Clinton supporters' sense of injustice if the upstart Obama supplants her. Their, and her, sense of entitlement is encapsulated in her constant invocations of her "35 years" of "experience." Well.

She is 60. She left Yale Law School at age 25. Evidently she considers everything she has done since school, from her years at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm to her good fortune with cattle futures, as presidentially relevant experience.

The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to being ranked as America's worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow.

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