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Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

Ready from Day 1

[digg-reddit-me]I don’t quite buy the idea that you can judge a candidate by how well they run a campaign – after all, Karl Rove and President George W. Bush ran great campaigns.  As The Onion appropriately explained in a headline: “2004 Reelection Campaign Better Planned Than Iraq Invasion.”

But especially in a race between three candidates for whom their campaign is the biggest thing each person has run, it gives some useful insight.  Overall, I think campaigns show something – although they do not force candidates to demonstrate all the leadership qualities that are most essential to effective leadership.

Given this, the contrast between Mr. McCain – whose campaign went bankrupt when he was in the lead, and finally gained traction when he was, once again, the insurgent, and faltered again once he regained the lead – Ms. Clinton, whose is now trying to portray herself as the underdog getting delegates on a “shoestring budget” of over $130 million, and who didn’t plan to campaign past February 5th, going so far as to avoid opening up offices in the states holding primaries after that date – to Mr. Obama whose campaign has been masterful, thorough, and well-managed.

Here’s Andrew Sullivan making the point about Mr. Obama:

Then his strategy was meticulous organization – and you saw that in Iowa, as well as yesterday’s caucus states. Everything he told me has been followed through. And the attention to detail – from the Alaska caucus to the Nevada cooks – has been striking…

How did the candidates deal with this? The vastly more experienced and nerves-of-steel Clinton clearly went through some wild mood-swings. Obama gave an appearance at least of preternatural coolness under fire, a steady message that others came to mimic, and a level of oratory that still stuns this longtime debater. In the middle of this very hot zone, he exhibit a coolness and steeliness that is a mark of presidential timber. He played tough – but he didn’t play nasty. Keeping the high road in a contest like this – without ever playing the race card or the victim card – is an achievement. Building a movement on top of that is more impressive still. So far, he has combined Romney’s money with Clinton’s organizational skills and Ron Paul’s grass-roots enthusiasm. No other campaign has brought so many dimensions into play.

Compare this to Ms. Clinton – whose organization arrived months after Mr. Obama’s in many states, who has been out-organized, out-campaigned, and out-thought.  Now, over a month-and-a-half after her loss in Iowa that should have demonstrated the power of Mr. Obama’s campaign, Ms. Clinton was not able to gather a full slate of delegates to run in the final primary in Pennsylvania, despite the fact that her vocal supporter, the governor, extended the time she had to get delegates by a week.  Last week, Ms. Clinton’s campaign was 20 delegates short in Pennsylvania.  After a week, she is only down “10 or 11”.  Keep in mind also that Pennsylvania is one of three states that is considered essential for Ms. Clinton to stop Mr. Obama’s momentum – along with Texas and Ohio.

As John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News observed:

For a national campaign stressing competence, experience, “ready day one,” one might expect a full slate in what could be a key state.

Indeed.

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