A Long Nomination Battle is OK

If Barack takes Ohio, and I think he will, Hillary may still try to stay in the race with a Texas win.  And that’s ok.  Here’s why.

We can actually take a page from right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh:

“I want Hillary to stay in this…this is too good a soap opera,” Limbaugh told fellow conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham on Fox News Friday. He reiterated the comments on his Monday show and replayed the exchange with Ingram.

He also said Clinton is more willing than the Republican National Committee and John McCain’s campaign to criticize Barack Obama.

“We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically. It’s obvious that the Republicans are not going to do it, they don’t have the stomach for it,” Limbaugh continued. “As you probably know we’re getting all kinds of memos from the RNC saying we’re not going to be critical. Mark McKinnon of McCain’s campaign said he’ll quit if they get critical over Obama. This is the presidency of the United States we’re talking about. I want our party to win I want the Democrats to lose.”

Its not obvious that the Republicans are going to do it.  They’ve been engaging in a whisper campaign about race and religion since before Obama began looking like a serious front-runner.  But he is right that Clinton will go after Obama.  The problem he can’t see is that Hillary Clinton is not as rhetorically skilled as Obama, and she’s using the right’s cards against him.  Hillary is attacking from their side of the aisle, and her attacks are failing.  She’s relying on iocane powder, and by the time McCain steps up with a mild dosage at the ready, Obama is going to be immune(and devastatingly witty).

Hillary Clinton’s attacks revolve around fear, security, and experience.  Not only are these attacks failing to put her over the top, she is losing.  Her cold pragmatism fails next to Obama’s inviting optimism.  John McCain is going to run a very similiar campaign against the Illinois Senator.  He’s going to claim experience, he’s going to use fear, and he’s going to play the cranky old man to Obama’s youthful optimist.  The longer the primary campaign drags on, the more the Clintons are going to dip in McCain’s bag of tricks.  By the time the general election roles around, Obama will be battle tested and prepared, and McCain will be out of ammo.

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2 Responses

  1. I don’t know why you think Obama will win Ohio–while polls are only snapshots and not predictive, the latest snapshots show Hillary widening her lead. That business with the Canadian government and NAFTA is going to cost Obama. He’ll lose Ohio by five points. Maybe Texas too, although that will be closer (and much more difficult to gauge since it’s some bastard mix of primary and caucus from hell).

    A question: are Hillary’s attacks failing because the attacks themselves are bad…or because it’s Hillary making them? That’s the crucial question. If she can lay the ground for a general argument that Obama represents some feared Other (which her recent campaign ad in which Obama appears much darker than usual shows she’s up to), then perhaps McCain can reap the benefits, being a figure with lower unfavorables and higher favorables. Hillary can try and use experience and strength, but she doesn’t have the former and her gender makes the strength sell much tougher. McCain has neither of those problems.

    I’m rather optimistic of an Obama versus McCain race–McCain could very well be the GOP version of John Kerry (or the newer, better Bob Dole). But, until that question above is answered, we better not start celebrating a prolonged Hillary campaign.

    In general, a divisive primary need not hurt a candidate (http://www.themonkeycage.org/2008/02/will_the_divisive_democratic_p.html)

    But, it’s another question as to whether the attacks laid down in that primary are made toothless in the general election by victory in the primary. Indeed, just getting the fake story line out there, the negative charge, can haunt a candidate (http://www.themonkeycage.org/2007/11/the_enduring_importance_of_fal.html).

  2. In addition, there could be demographic reasons to wonder whether it’s a Message or Messenger situation. Perhaps those paying attention to the Dem race value experience and strength, but they weigh it beneath another criteria (say, change or something along those lines). As things progress to the general election, the demographics of those paying attention will likely widen. It may include many people who weigh such things differently, allowing McCain to use Hillary-tested attacks against Obama. This is speculative, of course, but again, I think it’s still an open question that will need to be answered (if by nothing else but experience and votes.)

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