Friday, January 25, 2008

Uncivil War

The last Democatic debate was nothing if not entertaining and would have been more appropriately held at Fort Sumpter, given the divisiveness. The nastiness and hostility between Obama and Clinton was first rate political theater and the whole thing might have escalated (or devolved, if you prefer) into fisticuffs had John Edwards not been there. It is very clear that the Clinton strategy is to drag Obama into the mud with them, giving the perception that he’s just as sleazy as they are, destroying his fresh and clean image. Will it work? Probably. How damaging this is to the party is hard to say, as there’s a long way to go until the convention and if it doesn’t continue for months on end, it could fade into distant memory. Several points need to be made:
1) The whole Rezko thing is nonsense. Rezko was a hanger-on who liked to inflate his own importance and there’s no evidence Obama did anything for him politically. Compare that to the Clinton attitude toward Tyson in Arkansas, “travelgate”, and the Mark Rich pardon on the way out of the White House and which candidate is more corrupt is pretty clear.
2) Obama did say nice things about Reagan. He talked about some positive things he did and his denial of that is hollow. Obama’s problem is that he tends to actually think about things and then discuss them, without thinking about what the political ramifications would be. This is refreshing. This is also dangerous. Hillary made one slip regarding driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and all hell broke loose. This should have been a cautionary lesson for Obama, but apparently he just likes to ruminate about things. Running against the Hillarybot 2008, which has vetted everything she’s going to say before she says it, he has to be better prepared.
3) Speaking of prepared – commenting that “I don’t know which of them I’m running against” got the expected response from HRC, regarding how wonderful Bill is and how the other candidates spouses are strong advocates for them. Obama was not prepped with the response he should have had, namely that Michelle Obama was not the ex-President, whose every word is newsworthy, and that being married to Bill Clinton is the reason HRC considers herself more experienced, while none of Obama’s qualifications come from whom he is married to.
4) Edwards was the best candidate out there, but it won’t matter much, I fear.

So what will happen tomorrow? I have a feeling a surprise is out there. Maybe not in the winner, but perhaps in the margin, or maybe with Edwards getting a larger than expected vote. ARG says Clinton is closing ground, losing white voters to Edwards, but taking older black women back from Obama. Zogby says Edwards is the one moving late. Public Policy says Obama is widening his lead. And my favorite poll comes from Clemson, which has Obama at 27, Clinton at 20, and Edwards at 17, with a whopping 36% undecided – frankly, that may be the most accurate representation of where people really are. But tomorrow, those undecideds will have to decide, and that could result in anything.

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