Saturday, January 26, 2008

Caught With Their Pants Down

So I'm standing at the sink, washing the dishes, thinking about the primaries. It's just something I do.

I was pondering the heavy breathing on the part of the media over Golden Boy Barry's unexceptional win (Jesse Jackson has done it twice before in South Carolina, kids, with about the same margins. A good AA candidate had better win in South Carolina. ), and about John Edwards' embarrassing loss. HRC performed about the same here as in Iowa, but Edwards underperfomed and Obama was stronger. Then I started thinking about long-term campaign strategy, and I realized that the only one of these three who has planned for the full primary season is HRC. The boys got cocky and believed the bad press about Hillary and all the good press about themselves.

The key here is that Obama and Edwards each had, at best, a four state strategy going in to the campaign. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the original four states selected were all expected to be Edwards strongholds: Iowa and New Hampshire, where he had run strong second places to Kerry, Nevada, which was supposed to reinforce his strength with unions, and then South Carolina, which he won last time. Then Hillary and Obama jumped in and things got tighter. But a funny thing happened on the way to the nomination. Barry and Johnnie started to see that Hillary was polling really well nationally. Along with the entire blogosphere, they couldn't believe this could possibly be true. After all, everyone they know hates Hillary!

If you look at how they ran their campaigns, a certain pattern appears. They were both angling to reinforce her negatives and the meme of unelectability, run hard in the early states, and force her out early. This would leave them a leisurely combat for the rest of the season. This is another way (besides Joe Trippi backstabbing his candidate) to explain Edwards' bizarre reluctance to attack Obama in early going. He was trying to take out Hillary, pick up her votes, then blaze through on Super Tuesday to defeat The Golden One. The key here for Edwards, however, was winning Iowa. Barry, for his part, had been (obsessively) reading his internal polling data and figured he would run a strong second to Edwards in Iowa, would contest for New Hampshire due to student vote, and then do a blowout in South Carolina. That would leave them:

Edwards: IA, NH, NV
Obama: SC
HRC: Zilch and out

Then Michigan and Florida muscled in and Hillary was immediately running well with the upstarts. The original states were having their delegate count over-shadowed and their authority as the selectors of the nominee challenged, and both Edwards and Obama were short on organizations in these new states. Hence, full support for disenfranchising HRC-leaning states. They each figure they can strong-arm the to-be-seated delegates at the convention when the time comes. (Remember, the rules of the game do allow for eventaully seating FL andf MI delegates.) Whew! Dodged that bullet!

HRC kept campaigning strongly. Polls were not looking good, especially for Edwards. Remember, he was the first to petulently declare he would not promise to support the party nominee, obviously trying to threaten people with the boogey-monster of a divided party because of Hillary. In the debates, Edwards and Obama crudely ganged up, though it redounded more to Obama's advantage than to Edwards'. Obama throws himself into Iowa and South Carolina, sensing he very well could win the former and that he must win the latter. Edwards is getting nervous, but still thinks he can pull it out, even though those pesky unions are supporting HRC more than him, and those rotten poll numbers keep dropping.

Iowa arrived and went according to plan. Full of themselves, they assaulted her again in the New Hampshire debate, and wavering HRC supporters rallied to their leader's side. Boom - the four-state strategy goes up in flames. Edwards suddenly realizes that he is DOA in 3rd, and Obama understands that South Carolina is now in danger. They frantically throw shit at Hillary, in the form of race-baiting, voting machine fraud, and running an anti-HRC campaign in Michigan. She beats them handily. Obama turns on full Chicago-style political nastiness in Nevada and is smacked back into the ring ropes when Big Dog shows up and demonstrates how they do it in Arkansas. HRC gets the votes again and her numbers everywhere climb.

Edwards has finally figured out his goose is cooked, and begins his vengeful candidacy to try to draw off support form HRC. He gets a little traction in South Carolina, but he is sinking and has nothing in place to carry him beyond today. He obviously was counting on wins in earlier contests to help him raise money and endorsements to continue past SC. He's fundamentally running as a spoiler.

Obama's campaign goes bat-shit crazy throwing everything and the kitchen sink at HRC, who stops him with one word: Rezko. He redoubles the race-baiting and media suck-up behavior. It gets him nothing in South Carolina, only managing to hold himself in place, and HRC is holding or climbing everywhere else. Obama did not improve his margins in major categories significantly in South Carolina, not even with Blacks. He was weaker with White voters, but I think that is probably a reflection of Edwards' greater strength in the state since HRC's proportion of White voters dropped as well. It is more a comment on Edwards inability to draw Black voters than a reflection of some kind of racisim of White Democratic Party voters. Independent voters did not support Obama in the numbers he has seen in other states.

The guys have been left with their pants around their ankles, having dropped their drawers to piss all over Hillary, imagining their own disdain for the Clintons to be shared by the rest of the nation. They don't have strong organizations outside their own states (IL, NC), they are going to find fund raising difficult, and they are now both on record as supporting the disenfranchisement of Florida, where they don't take too kindly to that kind of thing.

Had they watched a certain Charlie Rose show a few weeks back, when the Big Dog was the guest, they would have known that Hillary's campaign has always been about fighting past the first four with competitive showings, and then leveraging the large and deep support she has across the nation. The Clintons have done this before, twice, on a national scale and they won both times. They have organization in place, a strong network of community support, and will have plenty of money. They will not have Tony Rezko and a Federal investigation dogging their heels. And they will have many states where the voter demographics favor Hillary.

Face it, the cornerstone of both the Obama and Edwards campaigns has been "Beat the Bitch!" They have run on a platform of exploiting Clinton Derangement Syndrome, and they have lost. Both are now scrambling to deal with a competitor who was supposed to be out of the race by now, not rising in power.

Never count a Clinton out.



Brenda J. Elliott said...

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Anonymous said...

I second that. Great, great post. I agreed with every word. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great summary of the campaign!

Anonymous said...

Great post! Excellent and calm strategic view of the campiagn. The first one to acknowledge that the primary schedule set up by Dean's DNC stacked the decks against Hillary. She has done an amazing job battling them to a draw so far.

cls said...

Thanks for this post. It helped me to take a big, deep breath.