Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The Warrior Queen & Lazio's Ghost

Non-disclaimer disclaimer: To be clear, anything positive or negative I say about a Democratic candidate is straight-forward analysis and opinion. I'm not part of any Rush Limbaugh vote-for-X-because-he/she-is-the-"easier"-candidate-to-beat. For one thing, I don't have time for such games. For another, I actuall remember 1992 when then-Bush I campaign manager Mary M.atalin declared that Bill Clinton would be the easier general election candidate to beat. We know how that turned out.

Hillary Clinton won in Pennsylvania the same way she won in Ohio -- by not being afraid to be perceived as a conflict-happy, unapologetic hawkish b***h. And, yes, that's a compliment. She doesn't care if elite liberal opinion hates the fact that she is running a pseudo-Republican "tough Democrat" campaign. More significantly, if Barack Obama doesn't figure out how to present himself as an aggressive alpha male type, he will never be president.

Note Hillary's closing ads in both the Ohio/Texas and the Pennsylvania contests. They were "security" appeals that cast her as a warrior queen willing to do what is necessary to protect America. And in "heartland" states where general elections are won and lost, Hillary Clinton cleaned Obama's clock. This is hardly a coincidence.

Politics isn't the same as war, but in each, the effort to produce victory is called a "campaign." The aggressor and smarter tactician ultimately wins campaigns by assessing circumstances and adapting tactics as necessary. In 1992, Bill Clinton's political operation was run out of a "War Room." In both his presidential campaign years, he wasn't simply the more likeable candidate, he was also the attacker. So many pundits talk about how the more "likeable" candidate is the one who wins general elections. They ignore the fact that it is usually the more aggressive candidate and campaign -- who also wins. An aggressive campaign doesn't mean a given individual will be a "strong" hawkish president, but it does convey a certain assertive leadership style.

Hillary Clinton has a campaign right now and she is on the attack. She has a message and she has a strategy. She sees herself as a fighter and won't apologize for suggesting that she might go after Iran if it attacked Israel. Pure cerebral "thinkers" rarely win in presidential politics. Bill Clinton won because he was a synthesis of Arkansas and the Ivy League, Hope and Harvard. Al Gore and John Kerry lost because they were seen as geeky and out-of-touch liberals. Hillary Clinton is more like Richard Nixon -- and not in the obvious negative way. They are two people who will always lose the charisma contest, but they are old school Protestant hardworking types who don't back down from a fight.

Barack Obama has many great qualities. But not even his strongest supporters would use words like aggressvie, assertive or belligerent to describe him. His intellectual and smooth delivery may press the ideological and tempermental erogenous zones of many latte liberals. But they do nothing for blue-collar, white, middle- and working class voters. The cliche is that voters often go for the candidate that they'd rather have a beer with. I think that's true to an extent. For a certain subset -- those so-called "Reagan Democrats" (who are in their late-50s and early '60s now) -- it's not just about drinking the beer. Ocasionally, the question may arise, "Would this person I'm chatting with at the bar have my back if a fight breaks out?"

Obama has to show some sense of testosterone if he wants to win over some of these white blue-collar voters. One problem he faces though is that he doesn't want to appear to go negative as that would again besmirch his brand of "new politics." More significantly, he certainly knows what happened to Rick Lazio back in 2000 when it looked like
he was "invading" the space of a female candidate. And Lazio was a skinny Italian guy from the New York suburbs. How would it look if it's a tall black candidate "attacking" the female candidate this time? But if Obama doesn't figure out a way to show he has an assertive attack mode -- to demonstrate he's something more than a willowy figure without real heft, he will pay the price.

Though technically the leader among Democrats, Obama is currently in a reactive mode. To use a term from his favorite sport, he is trying to run out the clock. If this were a sport, this would be wise strategy because, when the whistle blew, the team with the most points would be the winner. But unlike sports, *this* political contest requires that a winner have a certain number of points which neither candidate can reach by winning the remaining "games" that are played on the field. The "refs" will finally decide how this season plays out.

Even before the primary season concludes, the Clintons will make the argument -- if they haven't already -- that Obama isn't tough enough to win in November. They will also point out that those same white, blue-collar voters who respond to the tough side of Hillary Clinton are far more likelky to
desert the party (not merely sit out the election) if Hillary is not the nominee. That's disturbing, if you're a Democrat. Obama has brought new voters in, but they are less likely to vote for McCain than many of these blue collar voters who have been switching parties for decades. In particular, many are quite comfortable voting for a Republican presidential candidate. That's the beginning of the political case Hillary Clinton will make to convince superdelegates to support her.

By June, more than a few of them may be willing to listen to it.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook