By Joe Campbell
October 12th, 2007
Much of the media has now pronounced Obama’s campaign all but hopeless and anointed Hillary the Democratic presidential candidate. Why? A national poll showing Hillary with a 20-point lead over all contenders and an Iowa poll showing her, for the first time, taking a slim lead in Iowa. I am not sure Obama can win, but for me, this race seems far from over. Even Michael Crowley’s piece in TNR with the hope-filled title: “Hope sinks” gave me some reasons to believe there’s more to come. Here’s why:
Crowley in his piece used the same trope that the Hillary campaign has been handing out about Obama’s “new politics” – her campaign has tried to say Obama is caught in a catch-22, unable to criticize her or play politics without losing his mantle as the candidate of change, as the candidate of the new politics. Based on Obama’s campaign team, based on what I have gleaned of Obama’s personality from the various profiles, based on the fact that Obama was a Chicago politician, it’s obvious he’s ready and willing to play hardball. I frankly don’t see the contradiction being the politics of hope and political hardball. To say that politics is more than a game where we pick our positions based on carefully polled tactical decisions does not indicate you won’t criticize your opponents. It is one thing to say that politics has to be about more than character assassination, and another to be unwilling to take on your opponent’s positions. Conflating the two is nothing more than a tactic to confuse the issues, or an indication that a reporter is confused.
Of course, Obama has fed into this by refusing to mention Hillary by name. To me this seems like a tactical decision rather than a matter of principle. The time will come, and it will come soon when he will start criticizing her by name – apparently starting with the New Hampshire editorial excerpted below. He will call on her by name in a speech soon, after he begins to gain some points in the polls, at least in Iowa. And it will be news and will help build his momentum. For the past six months, I have been hearing about the fears from the Obama campaign that they will peak too early. That’s why I give some credence to reports such as this one that indicate that they plan on coming from behind just before the Iowa caucuses.
Crowley reports that Obama has the team and the organization in Iowa to succeed, and that if he is able to get some younger voters to the caucuses, he might succeed. Of course the youth vote always seems to disappear in elections. But with the strongest Democratic organization in Iowa and a veteran political team, this seems very important.
Another reason to think all is not over: the moment Hillary was anointed the presidential candidate, she made two mistakes. First, she voted for the Lieberman-Kyl bill that seems eerily reminiscent of the 2003 bill to authorize military force with Iraq. And then she accused a questioner of being planted by an opposition campaign when he asked a legitimate questions about her support for the Liberman-Kyl bill. This prompted the TNR blog headline “HAS HILLARY LET OBAMA BACK INTO THE RACE?”. Obama took the opening with an article in a New Hampshire paper:
I strongly differ with Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was the only Democratic presidential candidate to support this reckless amendment. We do need to tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime, particularly on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which sponsors terrorism far beyond Iran’s borders. But this must be done separately from any unnecessary saber-rattling about checking Iranian influence with our “military presence in Iraq.” Above all, it must be done through tough and direct diplomacy with Iran, which I have supported, and which Sen. Clinton has called “naive and irresponsible.” Sen. Clinton says she was merely voting for more diplomacy, not war with Iran. If this has a familiar ring, it should. [my emphasis]
And now we also find that the Clintons are beginning to do what they are so good at doing: alienating their potential allies by attacking anyone who disagrees with them. The Hillary camp is apparently put out by the quality of Obama’s foreign policy team and has asked Mr. Documents-in-my-Socks Sandy Berger to be an enforcer to let anyone supporting Obama know that they will have no place in a Clinton administration. It’s called cheap; and it’s called hardball. And Obama will hit back.
Clintonian hubris, an Obama strategy to put the pressure on Clinton late, with Iowa in a statistical dead heat, and a ton of other primaries following hard-upon Iowa. It seems to me that Obama has a good chance of winning even if he doesn’t hit his stride. And if he does, I feel this may be a short race.
Meanwhile, Ted Sorenson, close Kennedy confidante, makes a good case for Obama as the heir to JFK.