Monday, January 7, 2008
Two And Out
Over the last couple days I suggested that Hillary Clinton would do well to consider how Walter Mondale beat back a stiff challenge from moderate reform candidate Gary Hart in the 1984 Democratic primaries, and that she often plays better with voters when she lets her guard down and shows her human side. This morning she cited Mondale's famous debate zinger ("Where's the beef?") on Good Morning America, and then went on to get teary-eyed in front of a group of voters in a New Hampshire coffeehouse. I guess we'll see what kind of a political consultant I am tomorrow.
I'm not so sure about the tone and magnitude of the attacks on Obama, though, especially since so many of them are turning out to be baseless. It's a tactic that plays right into the hands of the Clinton-haters, and contrasts negatively with how Obama has handled his campaign to date. As I said earlier, I'd be interested in seeing another reversal of fortunes just to see how Obama deals with being on the ropes, and whether or not he's effective fighting out of the corner. Because grabbing the frontrunner status for the first time is not the same thing as regaining it.
Unfortunately, we might not get a chance to find out. According to rumors seeping out from the Clinton camp, some of her close advisors are urging her to drop out of the race if she loses New Hampshire in order to salvage her Senate career. That strikes me as a reflection of the fundamental disconnect between political insiders and the electorate that Michael Cohen of Democracy Arsenal describes well here. It also makes no sense to cite Walter Mondale but disregard his strategy, which was to wear Hart out in a war of attrition.
Maybe things have just accelerated exponentially, or maybe the power of blanket media coverage makes it too difficult to reverse momentum once the press has determined its narrative. But I'd be really surprised if it was basically two-and-out for the nomination in a year when there really are three viable and convincing candidates. Surprised and disappointed, because I'd still like to have a choice when California votes, given that the primary is really the only meaningful vote a California Democrat casts.