Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is Obama not ready for prime time?

Among people that I talk to, one of the main reasons they give for supporting Clinton over Obama is his lack of experience. They reason that she's been around the block a time or two and he barely has. Another part of it is that she's had a lot more experience with hardball political campaigns, which should also make her more electable than he is. One example of why people are continuing to support (shall we say "clinging to"?) Clinton is this clip from a diavlog in which Glenn Loury explains his positions, including his view that she is just more competent.

Many of us Obama supporters, however, tend to question the relevance of her experience, or argue that his cross-partisan appeal, combined with the deep wells of Clinton hatred across the country, make him more electable than she is. Not only that, part of his appeal is that he has the ability to be a transformational leader in a way that Clinton does not.

Now we have some more data points from recent weeks, and I'm afraid they don't seem to look very good for Obama. We do have the Jeremiah Wright thing, and we also have the clinging to guns and religion thing (which probably doesn't look as bad if you know what was going on when he said it), but these things still seem to demonstrate a political tin ear, which probably makes him look like a weaker candidate than he originally did.

In addition, some of his complaints about the Clinton campaign seem to be in the "Mom, she's being mean to me!" vein, which aren't much fun to listen to coming from your three-year-old, and are much worse coming from a professional politician.

Then, yesterday, he probably did worse than we were expecting. Clinton started out 20 points ahead, he chipped away at her lead, last week people were saying he was going to come within five points or so, and yesterday she won by almost ten.

I will concede that the long hiatus since the last primaries, and the fact that Pennsylvania was the only game yesterday combined to make yesterday look bigger than it otherwise might have. Still, though, if anyone has momentum now, it's not him. (Remember back in 2004, when the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 lead in the playoffs to beat the Yankees? It was a big deal even when the Red Sox won their first game, even though they had to win three more in a row.)

So where are we? Obama is still the leader, but there are certain defects appearing that we hadn't seen before. We also know that the R's are going to be ten times as mean and dishonest as any Clinton can be, and they're going to make up as many lies about Obama as they did about Kerry four years ago.

I still hear people say that it doesn't matter, McCain just can't win. I think those views are clearly wrong. I think he can potentially win, and I am thinking more and more that the D's can boot this one.

So what do we do? Is anyone thinking that it's time to jump off the Obama band wagon?

And, in an inside-baseball kind of way, does the deflation of Obama provide the justification of the superdelegate system that people have been criticizing all primary season?


Anonymous Maryellen said...

Good post. Do you have thoughts on the possibilities or advisabilities of a Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket? The mainstream press I've read seems to think this is unlikely if not impossible due to the personalities and preferences of the candidates (i.e. they're too mad at each other), and inadvisable because voters wouldn't like it. I disagree, but without much of a basis for doing so. Just that I find it hard to believe that Clinton and Obama would be unable to set aside their personal anger at each other for the good of the country. I think they're both smarter, more ambitious, and more realistic than that, but I could be wrong. Have you already posted on this?

April 24, 2008 12:08 PM  
Blogger Grover said...

I see the stage as being set for us to blow yet another opportunity through the sad tendency of democrats to be democrats. What I want is the candidate who can beat John McCain. Not the “FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN” president, nor do I necessarily want “THE FIRST WOMAN” president. There is a race problem in this country. NO ONE wants to tell a pollster face-to-face or over their own phone line that they don’t believe an African-American can become president, but there’s a reason that Obama does well in contact polling but not as well in blind Internet polls. Do we trust enough Americans to vote for the better real candidate when one of them is black?

BEST CASE is that Obama wins and becomes a decent president. That would do more for race relations in this country than all the rally’s, protests, and legislative acts in our history put together. His face would be up there in all the elementary school social studies books alongside Washington, Grant, Wilson, Kennedy, and Bush. An Equal. WORST CASE is that Obama secures the nomination and loses to McCain. Along the way the R’s mount an ugly, race-based campaign (keep in mind that when they wanted to damage McCain they circulated the rumor that he had an illegitimate black child. If you think that the imaginary illegitimate child’s being black was incidental, I beg you to think again) which tars the republicans as opposed to African-Americans succeeding, while his loss is seen as democrats not having the will to deliver their “cause candidate” to the White House. Everybody loses.

It’s not all about race. I voted for Barack Obama in my state primary and I’ll vote for him and work for him if he’s on the ballot in the general. What his winning would do for race relations in this country would be worth more than gold, but if I rate that too highly in my evaluation of him as a potential candidate I may overestimate the willingness of Americans (even democrats) to vote outside their comfort zone.

April 24, 2008 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Tom McC said...

I voted for Obama and I still support him. I vacillated, primarily because I believed (and probably still do) that her health care proposal, notwithstanding her past failure, is stronger than his (mandates). No matter who wins, I will support that candidate, and either one has a chance to win over McCain, although it's far from a lock. I was out of the country most of the time, but it seemed to me that Dukakis was a lock when he won the nomination, and look how well we did with him.

How each side attacks the other and responds to the attacks is mainly, I think, a distraction, not a substantive issue that we should spend too much time on. I think it's fair for one Dem candidate to complain about unfair attacks from another Dem, because it hurts party unity to be attacking each other, but anyway...

Many analysts (and Clinton) mention electability, but to me that's close to a meaningless concept. Any of the three candidates is electable, but nobody can possibly tell me now, in April, which is the most electable.

I disagree with Grover that having a good Obama presidency will be more important essentially than all racial progress made to date. It would be important and helpful, but: a) my belief is that race relations and civil rights have improved tremendously in my lifetime, and much more significantly in the past 150 or so years. Obama can't out do that; and b) a successful Obama presidency could be just what the conservatives need to show that race relations are just dandy now, racial discrimination no longer exists, and it's time to abolish any attempt to redress racial injustice. They would no longer be satisfied with de-toothing the federal civil rights apparatus; instead they would abolish it.

I think that the GOP has already shown (see North Carolina) that it will, through unaccountable proxies, launch a racist campaign against Obama, but I see a reasonable possibility that it will backfire on them.

I've rambled, but those are some of my thoughts. The only other point that I would make is that Clinton cannot credibly claim experience as her selling point. Years as first lady do not count, and her only substantive policy work in the Clinton presidency was a colossal failure.

Oh! The super-delegate issue: I don't like them. Maybe there should be some, but I think it should be a much smaller percentage of the total delegate count, in order to decide if the candidates are within a few % pts of each other in delegates and votes. But I also think that the party should abolish the caucuses and whatever that unholy mix was that they use in Texas. I think all the ballots should be secret, and even that the nomination (as well as the general election) should be decided by the popular vote, which I believe is more democratic.

OK, I'll stop...

April 24, 2008 10:47 PM  
Blogger Jack McCullough said...

I think it's pretty unlikely. I haven't posted on this, but I have thought about it a little. What do I know, but it seems that when picking VP candidates one thing the presidential candidate is looking for is someone who fills a perceived gap or attracts a demographic segment that they don't, particularly regionally. I don't really see Clinton helping him with non-Democrats, partly because so many people hate or distrust her; in addition, she probably hurts his appeal to his base (see the discussion of this post on GMD for this).

I was thinking that someone with more military credentials and possibly from the South or West. That might help him pick up some states that he may not be as strong in. The first person that comes to mind is Jim Webb; he hasn't been in the Senate long, but he's been on the national scene for a long time, he's from the South, and he has some military/national security cred. (Of course, you would think that having been right on Iraq would give Obama that on his own, but people don't necessarily think that way.) Now that Virginia has a Democratic governor we don't have to worry about Webb being replaced by an R if he becomes VP.

I'm not coming up with a parallel candidate from the Southwest; for some reason I don't really feature Richardson, although I do think an argument could be made for him.

Another question, of course, is who stands up best to McCain's running mate: potentially Holy Joe, Huckleberry, or Condoleezza Rice. I think there are about a million D's that come across better than any one of these three, although people seem to like the Huckster for some reason.

Another possibility, and I don't know how strong he would be, is Barry McCaffrey. Former general, former drug "czar"; I don't know how popular he is with the military. He may have made some statements about Iraq that would hurt him.

A couple of others who would be qualified and might bring something to the ticket: Chris Dodd (I'm seeing him speak tonight; if he isn't VP I hope he becomes Majority Leader); Kathreine Sebelius (Kansas gov.); and maybe Janet Napolitano (Ariz. gov.), the latter two especially if McCain picks a woman.

April 25, 2008 3:22 PM  
Anonymous JD Ryan said...

If the Obama ship is jumped, there's really no place else to go. Hillary is not an option for many anymore. Besides, there's already a real Republican in the race.

April 30, 2008 9:06 PM  

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