Archive for Sunday, May 11, 2008

Long campaign still hurting Obama

May 11, 2008


— Three days after last Tuesday's primaries seemingly tilted the Democratic presidential nomination decisively toward Barack Obama, the surprising fact was that almost half the party's senators had not announced a choice between him and Hillary Clinton. Twenty-one of the 49 Democratic senators were publicly silent as the last six primaries approached.

Those senators, along with most other Democrats, desperately want the race to be over so the winner can start focusing on John McCain. But Dick Durbin understands their reluctance to step forward ahead of the other 200-odd uncommitted superdelegates who have the power to bring this marathon to an end.

As Senate majority whip, charged with rounding up votes on all the major issues, he knows their psychology well. "They want to avoid hard votes," Durbin told me at midweek, referring to his colleagues. "They want to be spared controversy. Most of them are looking for certainty, for inevitability, before they commit."

Durbin, who encouraged his fellow Illinoisan to run, said he thought Tuesday's results - an Obama landslide in North Carolina and a narrow loss in Indiana - should be enough to meet the "inevitability" standard.

But the ranks of the uncommitted did not thin significantly in those first 72 hours, lending force to Durbin's analysis.

The question is: What is the cost at this point of delaying Obama's triumph?

The answer you hear from Obama's headquarters is that the time lag from May 6 to June 3, the last day of voting, is not much of a problem, so long as Clinton does not use it mainly to point out his weaknesses. His aides don't want four more weeks of claims from the Clinton camp about gaps in his health plan or his vulnerability with Catholics, women and blue-collar white males.

The lateness of the convention - not until the final week of August - leaves enough time to heal the intra-party wounds and plan the general election campaign. Money has been no problem for Obama all year, and when his already impressive organization is bolstered by recruits from the Clinton side, it will look at least as formidable as McCain's.

That said, there is still a price to be paid for letting the nomination campaign drag on.

At the most personal level, it denies Obama the rest he badly needs. His friends talk with real concern about the fatigue he constantly feels and often shows. But as long as Clinton is campaigning in states that are potentially competitive in November, Obama cannot fail to show up, lest their voters think he is taking them for granted.

Beyond that, the iron law of politics is that time lost can never be completely recovered. Since McCain effectively cinched his nomination back in February and mostly fell out of the news, he has accomplished a lot. He has targeted potential constituencies with appearances and messages tailored for them, knowing that other voters probably are not paying attention. One week recently he was hanging out with civil rights heroes and hurricane victims. Another, he was courting conservative critics of the judiciary and plugging for more business tax cuts.

After the convention, McCain can't stroke such disparate groups without being challenged for inconsistency. But for now, it's an almost cost-free way to expand and solidify his support.

Obama needs to do similar work, but because the nomination fight goes on, he doesn't have the time or relative obscurity to do it. To take but one example, primary results all across the country have shown he is a stranger to many Latinos. If Clinton weren't still challenging, he could easily devote a week to a swing through Hispanic enclaves from California to New York.

History says that the earlier a candidate nails down his nomination, the better his chances of winning. I saw that vividly demonstrated in 1968. Richard Nixon came into that contest as a two-time loser, first to John Kennedy and then to Pat Brown in California. But he routed the other Republican contenders early and began plotting his comeback.

Meantime, after calamitous events, the Democrats finally gave their nod to Hubert Humphrey. But exhausted after the tumultuous Chicago convention and with no time to plan a campaign, he stumbled so badly in September and early October that his closing drive was unable to catch up to Nixon. Afterward, Humphrey said he wished he'd had one more week.

I certainly hope that Obama's path is not marked by the violence, riots and other calamities that undid the Democrats in 1968. But those supercautious superdelegates ought to understand how precious time is in every campaign.

David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


BigAl 7 years, 6 months ago

It took lucky_man just three posts to mention 2 of the right wing talking points:1. liberal press 2. HollywoodBy the way, I'm not so much thinking that the press, in general, is all that liberal anymore. There is left wing and right wing bias all over the place. Actually, I think that right wing bias is more prevelant.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 6 months ago

Nope, neither. But you do have to admire the wide range of flavors you right wingers have been drinking.... Operation Chaos, or Mission Accomplished, or WMD, orHeck of a job Brownie, orHarriet Miers, ora wiretap requires a court order, or Alberto Gonzalez and the bush "Justice" department....etc.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

scott, was your Obama Flavor-Ade the "Uncle Joe's Red Cherry Surprise" or the "Mussolini Mango"?

BigAl 7 years, 6 months ago

Summers_Eve. I definitely deny that the press is liberal. I think the press is biased in both directions. Most of my news comes from FOX and CNBC. FOX is far-right along with talk radio. NBC is left. Newspapers go both ways. I am saying that it is fashionable for right-wingers to say "liberal press" and "left-wing media" but that doesn't make it so. I will say again, I think there is bias on both sides. Some of it heavy. MSNBC is as far left as FOX is far right. Hollywood has both. O'Reilly likes to bash the left leaning Hollywood crowd while having a love-in with the right-leaning crowd. I am of the opinion that we get slanted news from all directions. Both sides.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 6 months ago

"Obama's presidency would be by far be the most liberal presidency in the history of the US. He will surround himself with every extremist far-left zealot he can find."Even if true, this would only be an appropriate and sorely needed response to the right wing kook theories and policies of the bush administration. Bring us back toward the middle. Not necessarily a bad thing in the minds of about 70%+ who think gwb has put the country on the absolute wrong track. "Possible your president's name could be:"Barack Hussein Obama"."Racist and xenophobic. And, oh how much better off we all are because a traitor named bush currently holds the office. Get a grip, L-man, your far right, rush limpbrain, Faux Newz outlook has been thoroughly discredited. It is time that this country is led by a competent, smart, and progressive leader.

bevy 7 years, 6 months ago

OK loved the youtube link with Red State Update. I'll be laughing all night long...As for the election - they shouldn't be allowed to start campaigning until June. Primaries in July and August, final vote in November. Reduces the load of BS, since BS produces methane that harms the atmosphere...

Scott Drummond 7 years, 6 months ago

"Let the lawyers & the press decide the election instead of the voters? Most progressive!"As opposed to the corporations and their pundit pitchmen. That has been SO good for us, hasn't it?!Lawyers have the advantage of being smart. A tad more competence on our public policy formation would not be such a horrible thing.

Mkh 7 years, 6 months ago

Beatrice...Do you support the Patriot Act, Real ID, and Homegrown Terrorism Act? Do you support the "Global War on Terror"?

Reason McLucus 7 years, 6 months ago

It's not the long campaign that's hurting Barack Obama. It's his own weakness as a candidate. If he cannot correct his weaknesses while running against Hillary Clinton he won't be able to correct them running against John McCain.He needs to win the nomination rather than simply get it by default because Hillary has stopped running. If he wants to win in November he needs to reach the Democrats who prefer Hillary. He has to attract those voters from Hillary or they won't support him in November.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 6 months ago

Snap:It's called winning. Watch him hand McCain his lunch in a similar fashion.

youngitized 7 years, 6 months ago

You right-wing scum-bags. I can't stand your racism and your bigotry. Barack Obama had no control on what his parents would name him. He is not a Muslim, in fact, he has never been a Muslim. He belongs to the United Church of Christ as does his wife and kids for that matter. Your scare tactics for the "liberal" Senator Obama is disgraceful. When in fact you can't admit the hypocrisy of the Bush Administration (1) an illegal war in Iraq, (2) Skyrocketing gas prices, (3) a health care system that is crumbling, (4) an education system fast going down the toilet, and (5) even higher global instability and far less secure America. These issues are just a short list of many the this incompetent administration have been asleep at the wheel on.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

Let the lawyers & the press decide the election instead of the voters? Most progressive!

beatrice 7 years, 6 months ago

Young, never mind the racists. They never would vote for the Democrat anyways and will make any imaginable lie about Obama because deep down, they really do hate America and the freedom it represents to ALL. Fortunately, in their pathetic lies and stupid attempts at humor they are only hurting the Republican cause by driving away so many moderates. Who really wants to side with the racists? Certainly not true Americans or true Christians.This isn't to suggest that most people who opose Obama do so because of racism. Some still think the war in Iraq was a great idea (although the number is dwindling). But knowing that the real racists will be crying so hard when Obama does get elected and becomes our President, it will just make the victory that much sweeter. McCain is already falling in the polls and Obama is raising more money than the 71 going on 72 year old war supporter -- imagine how much more Obama will raise once the Clinton supporters start backing him. Don't worry, young, we will have the last laugh.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 6 months ago

"So the best way scott can defend B. Hussein Obama is to point out that other politicians have made mistakes in the past? That'll play well in the general election!"1. I've made no effort to "defend" Obama. There is no need to do so. Please describe what you think he has done wrong. 2. What is going to play well in the general election is the millions of newly registered voters who will be joining those voters such as myself who vote in every election and who will be voicing their opinion of the policies of the current administration. The corporate media are trying hard to make this a horse race, but they cannot keep the lipstick on the pig forever. About two weeks of advertising will alert the majority of voters of what McCain is all about, and when he has to pander so hard to keep his moderate voters interested in crossing over to vote for him, he will further alienate and disgust the right wing kooks. By the time his long record of decidedly unstraight talk is layed out, he will be lucky if he gets 1/3 of the vote.

youngitized 7 years, 6 months ago

Thank you Beatrice!! Here is what the conservatives in this blog are guilty of: the Genetic Fallacy. The definition of the Genetic Fallacy is "when someone attacks a position by attacking the origin or genesis of the argument." (Hatcher and Spencer, pg. 159).

youngitized 7 years, 6 months ago

  1. An illegal war in Iraq...we found the whole conception of the war to be false. Either way you look at it...the WMD's weren't there now as far as where they went, your guess is as good as mine.2. Gas prices have skyrocketed under the Bush Administration and the President has allowed this to happen since he is a Texas oil man. The petroleum reserve has more than doubled since the Bush Presidency. The gas prices are driving small businesses out of business.3. We are the most industrialized nation in the world and yet more and more Americans are at fear of being sick. Too many families have to choose between their prescriptions or putting food on the table. We can do better than what we have and as Senator Obama said we have to come together to solve these complex problems. Our politics need a change as the Bush Administration has the divide and conquer mentality.4. No Child Left Behind should be renamed to Leave Every Child Behind. A schools job is to educate our children not to have them pass a test. NCLB is an extremely under-funded program and what I have heard a lot of teachers say that NCLB is largely ineffective.5. All we need to look at for the Bush Administration...illegal immigration has tripled, they tried to outsource our National Security to a Middle Eastern Country Company, Iraq has distracted us from the larger threat that is posed in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Also, yeah I maybe young, but I am the future of what this country is and will be. I just hope that one day we can move past the partisan rhetoric and come together in a Progressive and Pragmatic way. We have far too many challenges than the divide and conquer rhetoric of the Bush Administration. We have problems that need to be addressed, so as Governor Sebelius said, "Come on, Mr. President, lets get to work to solve these major problems."

Godot 7 years, 6 months ago

The people who support and advise Obama are enough to make me fear an Obama presidency. These nut jobs will be cabinet members, ambassadors, administrators and judges. OMG!

youngitized 7 years, 6 months ago

Marion- To answer your doesn't matter. I think we need to look past those questions and start living to the fullest extent possible Dr. King's dream. (I don't want you to mistake me here...I am not calling you racist.)

beatrice 7 years, 6 months ago

The McCains are worth $100 million, which they inherited, and the self-made Obama is somehow the Elitist Ruling Class in your warped brain. Now that is funny. And what are you arguing for, to be led by an average person? We have a ruler of average intelligence now (but born with a platinum spoon in his mouth), and what has that gotten us? Like I said, right-thinker, the Democrates will have the last laugh. Just knowing that you will be crying into your cans of cheap beer will make it that much sweeter. By the way, visiting any White Supremacist sites recently? mkh, if the "Global War on Terror" was working, wouldn't we have caught the guy who orchestrated the attack against us on 9/11 by now? Don't you want to catch and/or kill Osama bin Laden? Why hasn't that Mission been Accomplished? Could it be that the "Global War on Terror" is a huge failure that has only cost us American lives and massive amounts of money (to be paid for by future generations)?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

So the best way scott can defend B. Hussein Obama is to point out that other politicians have made mistakes in the past? That'll play well in the general election!

whatatown 7 years, 6 months ago

One of the issues with Obama's quick rise to fame is the demographic of voters he has turning out. He has excited and produced more voters of younger ages than any other time in history. What is going to happen to these voters once the magic and excitement of the race winds down? They will crawl back into their basement studio apartments and play their video games and go back to not paying attention or caring about the state of the country. On the other hand, did they ever truely start caring or are America's youth getting swept up in the excitement and casting votes when they are completely uninformed on the issues? As a 24 year old who has lived, breathed, and screamed politics since the beginning of the race, I have to say yes. It is so uncommon for me to speak with young voters who are coming out in droves for their support of the mythical word change to have any sort of basic understanding of what either candidate has in mind for policy changes. So, way to go movie-star politician Obama, you got the idiots vote. Now proceed to run our countries economy, housing market, job availability and security down even more. Thank you and I am SOOOOOOOOOO not looking forward to the next 4 years.

RobertMarble 7 years, 6 months ago

one of the most telling aspect about obama's campaign so far has been the recent flap over the Virginia primaries. obama's people are sniveling that the vote was disproportionate to the point that it was "obviously racially biased", boo-hoo, whine, moan, snivel, blah blah...yet a mere few weeks ago in Mississippi he won 91% of the black vote, yet they didn't make a peep about racial bias then. It's a bad sign for both race relations and hussein boy's integrity already. he's just a slicker version of al sharpton or ray nagin.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.