Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Life after Texas

A friend of mine reports from the Texas vote last night:

This was a heavily Republican area (in Texas) in which we voted three precincts in one election. There is no Democratic precinct chair in any of the three precincts, so the Democratic poll workers were "imported" volunteers from other precincts. Despite the heavily Republican character of the area, the total Democratic vote was almost 2 to 1 greater than the total Republican turnout. From comments made as well as recognition of their neighbors by the Republican poll workers, it was clear that there was a HUGE Republican cross over vote, with the bulk of them voting for Clinton. Clinton carried all three precincts. Clever move by the Republicans as Clinton is widely viewed as easier to defeat in November.

By giving Hillary a rationale to keep fighting--Steve Benen at Crooks and Liars calls it "the narrative versus the numbers"--the Democratic primary process is now stretched out until at least late April when Pennsylvanians vote. (At this rate, there's still the dim possibility that even Oregon's vote will attract attention. Of the 10 states still voting after the beginning of April, Oregon's delegate pool ranks fourth largest.)

There are two ways to look at this. One is the view that this plays into the hands of the Limbaughs and the Coulters (and so, ultimately, into McCain's hands): By "bloodying up" Obama, whose delegate-count lead looks much the same today as it did yesterday, Clinton will be doing Satan's work for him, rendering the likely Democratic candidate "damaged goods" for the fall.

A corollary to this is the idea that the Republicans would prefer to run against Hillary (see my friend's report, above, about GOP crossover voting mischief) or, as an acceptable alternative, a politically damaged Obama.

Without doubting for a moment the capacity for GOP mischief (to phrase politely the dirty tricks and vote suppression we'll see from them in the general), I tend to go with Kos on this one (he'll be so relieved):

Finally, I know many of you worry about the race getting ugly or whatever. I'm looking forward to the coming weeks.

For one, Obama may finally have to go negative. I've never seen him do that. He's never had to do that.

Second of all, as long as the talking heads are talking about the Democratic race, that's time they're not talking about their "maverick" friend. And what's the debate about between Obama and Clinton? Health care. Iraq. Jobs. The sort of thing that can only help us long term.

Finally, Obama has to prove that he can bounce back from such setbacks. He's had a mostly charmed political life. A little political adversity is important. Hillary Clinton and her team responded well to her painful losing streak. Now let's see how the Obama team bounces back.

So I'm cool with her continuing on. I certainly won't be calling for her to quit.

But if he wins the delegate count, her task will be even more difficult than it was today. And at that point, she'll become little more than batting practice for Obama.

(See also James Wolcott, who finds himself in the unnerving position of agreeing with John Podhoretz on this--and, therefore, by the Law of Transitive Political Commentary, with me, although one hopes he finds that part less unnerving.)

At minimum, dragging out the Democratic primary process is going to spotlight the difference between two models for winning elections: The Clinton/DLC model, hinging on winning a handful of swing states with big electoral college numbers, and the Dean/Obama "50 state" model, that contests every state. Hillary's victory comments last night seemed to signal that she's not re-thinking that strategy:

“No candidate in recent history — Democratic or Republican — has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary,” Mrs. Clinton, of New York, said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “We all know that if we want a Democratic president, we need a Democratic nominee who can win Democratic states just like Ohio.”

Meanwhile, John McCain is now the GOP nominee, waiting only for his coronation at the convention this summer. He goes to the White House to kiss Bush's ring and receive the Presidential Endorsement. Photos of that ceremony should be stapled to McCain's ass for the next 8 months, becoming even more iconic than the infamous belly-hug photo.

New Rule: Now that the Republicans have their nominee, for every shot that Hillary and Obama take at one another, they must fire two shots at McCain.


Mike Belgrove said...

I woke up this morning to see a fellow Highbrid Nation writer reporting that Hillary has won the Ohio and Texas primaries and how this is getting bad. And like him I feel like this battle between Obama and Hillary has went on too long and now they are in danger of hurting the party by allowing McCain to take shots at them while they are dealing with each other. Howard Dean should step in and say “Look, Obama is going to be the canidate and Hillary you can be his running mate if you choose”…I know I know that would never happen but a guy can dream right?

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The Clintons don't care about the Democratic Party. Is that not abundantly obvious by now?