Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Something new and exciting is in the air. You can feel it. Sen. Hillary Clinton on Tuesday showed that she's a fighter, survivor and winner. In handily beating Sen. Barack Obama in the Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island primaries, she put an end to the ridiculous and premature assertions of Obama's presumptive-nominee status and that she should withdraw from the race as a result. That Obama's outspent her about 4-1 makes these wins even more significant. Frankly, the sense of entitlement from Obama's supporters is a bit arrogant. This is politics, and this year's contest is perhaps the toughest and most exciting in modern history. It's preposterous to suggest that Clinton should quit the race and hand over the mantle to her rival amidst such a hotly contested race. She trails only by about 150 delegates and is less than 1% behind in the popular vote. Can anyone truly say this is an Obama mandate? That he currently is the rightful heir to the throne, when in fact, the simple truth is, come convention time, he will fall far short of the 2025 delegates needed to ensnare the nomination? Sorry kids, but this horse race is not over, it's just beginning.
Clinton has so far bagged, among others, NY, NJ, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Florida, Texas and Ohio. At this point, it's quite fair to say she will also win Pennsylvania on April 22, a state with 158 delegates to offer. She has the support of Gov. Ed Rendell, and voters there are firmly part of her base. These are the traditional big Blue states; the states Democrats must win, and historically do win in the general election. The states Obama has been acquiring along the way, including Kansas, Idaho, South Carolina and Mississippi, are Red states that McCain will win in November. But here's the rub: it's not safe to automatically assume that Obama, should he be the nominee, will take all of Hillary's Blue states. Given the "moderate" status that Sen. John McCain undeservingly enjoys and his attraction among Independents and Reagan Democrats as a result, can we be so sure that he will not win over voters in one or more of these key states? More troubling, are we to believe that race will not play a major role come November? When it's time to close the curtain and pull the lever, I suspect Obama will without question be hurt by the racial intolerance still rampant in America today. Remember gay marriage? Remember how so many Americans blinded by hatred of gays were literally driven to the polls in 2004? To think Obama will fare any better, or won't face a potentially worse onslaught, is incredibly naive.
I also worry how Obama's inexperience will factor into these same Blue-state decisions. A good friend told me Wednesday morning over breakfast that his die-hard Hillary-loving wife--an Ivy-League educated Manhattan Democrat lawyer--said to him Tuesday night that she'll likely vote for McCain if the choice is between him and Obama. I find this type of abandonment frightening.
So give Hillary her props. She had a very impressive showing Tuesday. Exit polls indicate she did well with women, the working class, Hispanics, white males and Independents. She's starting to build a broad coalition of Democrats. She's building momentum. She's demonstrating that voters are starting to view her as the more qualified steward of the economy and the more capable commander-in-chief. Safe to say, Hillary Clinton has finally hit her stride. The lady's got her mojo back.
Hillary had a great week. Obama did not. I wrote earlier this week that we should never underestimate a Clinton. They're fighters. They know how to win. As a friend and ardent Obama supporter said unwittingly to me Tuesday, "they play dirty, like Republicans." Bingo! There it is. That, in a nutshell, is what I like about Hillary's chances, not only against Obama, but in November against McCain. A Democrat who fights like a Republican is exactly what we need for Pete's sake. Haven't we learned from the past 14 years of Republican ass-whippings? Given the choice between a Gingrich/Rovian Democrat or a "why cant we all just get along" softee, as Obama's starting to resemble, I'll put my money on Newt and Karl, thank you. I like that Hillary's got junkyard dogs like James Carville and Howard Wolfson in her corner. These guys understand the political war we're in with the Repugs. There's a reason why Clintons are winners. To the contrary, Obama's not shown he has the political gravitas to fight hard; he lacks the fire in the belly. And he's been weakened this week by the Tony Rezko scandal; the Canadian/NAFTA memo brouhaha; and Hillary's "3AM" slam dunk national security ad. Her camp finally has figured out their road map. Finally understood how to frame the issues and get their candidate victorious. If he's to truly demonstrate his inevitable electability, Obama needs to stop whining about the "kitchen sink" he claims she's thrown at him and start showing voters he's a fighter too. Sorry ObamaManiacs, Hillary's going nowhere. She won't drop out, and she shouldn't. This is politics. She's proven this week she has lots of fight remaining in her. If Obama can't fight, he should get out, not her.
Clinton's victories Tuesday have brought Obama euphoria to a grinding halt. The winning streak is over. The momentum gone. He's losing all the big Blue states, and, as Clinton said Wednesday, "If you cannot win Ohio you cannot win the presidency." And she's right. No one gets into the White House without Ohio. My theory, as it has been all along, is that, while Obama's a great motivational speaker and inspirational, charismatic figure, politically he's an empty suit. And maybe that's what's surfacing right now. Maybe voters are starting to wonder whether there's any real "there" there. Wondering if Hillary's the safe bet because, at least with her and Bill, "we know what we're getting." They're starting to peel back the Obama onion, and maybe there's not as much there as some had hoped.
Consider the email I received Wednesday morning from another friend, an influential political insider and major New York Democratic fundraiser and heretofore Obama supporter: "I think that she had a very good week, he
also seems to flatten out a bit and get a little cautious/complacent. I
think that he didn't react well to her and it may be that he can't
counter punch as well as I thought. If that is case, then she may be best
nominee since as you know, I'm primarily for him because of my view of
his electability." Consider this guy one of the so-called "smart" ones; someone who closely follows every square inch of the political landscape. If he's now on the fence, just think about all those uninformed voters who simply get their news and influences from Jay Leno? Is Obama about to become 2008's Howard Dean? Only time will tell.
Obama has been out stumping Wednesday pointing out that the delegate count is basically unmoved following Tuesday's primaries. "The results are a wash," he said. And he's right. But where he's wrong is in the bigger picture; that this race is not merely about delegates anymore. It's about super-delegates. I caution against thinking that these back-room power brokers won't ultimately view Clinton as the more likely candidate to beat McCain in November. These elite party officials are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Democrats send the most electable candidate into the general election. The way the system works, the candidate with the most delegates going into the August convention is not the presumptive nominee. The candidate must have 2025 delegates. Again, Obama will fall very short of that number, as will Clinton. That means we're going to have a brokered convention, with the 330 unpledged super-delegates to-date, as well as those 600 already-pledged who could switch allegiance on a dime, rolling up their sleeves and basically making this decision. And it will be no slam dunk, as the ObamaManiacs would like us to accept. The kingmakers will be focusing on the entire political landscape...from momentum, to the big states, to overall electability.
Lastly, DNC chairman Howard Dean is now also faced with the inevitability of figuring out a solution to the Michigan/Florida problem. Those two huge, delegate-rich states have been unseated by the party over primary-scheduling dust-ups. Florida had a total of 210 delegates, including 185 that would have been at stake in Tuesday's Democratic primary. Michigan had a total of 156 delegates, including 128 that would have been at stake in its Jan. 15 primary. So far, voters in these two states have not had their voices heard. And that's a problem for the party. Dean is likely to work out do-overs in both, and if Clinton takes both again and picks up a disproportionate share of the delegates, the pendulum swings even further in her direction.
To be sure, the 2008 election is a political junkie's dream. Anything can, and likely will, happen.
One thing for sure, and just another reason why this down-to-the-wire slugfest is terrific for Democrats: all of the nation's media attention will be focused through August on Obama and Clinton. The dull-as-paste McCain will have to virtually get naked and run through the streets of D.C. in order to snag airtime.
On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We are a tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my wife's honor to help carry out her spirit and passion, with the goal of assisting women filmmakers. Adrienne was brutally killed in NYC on November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We've established scholarships, grants, finishing funds and living stipends at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; the Independent Feature Project; the Nantucket Film Festival; and the Sundance Institute. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us achieve this very important mission. Thank you.