Monday, May 19, 2008

Missed Opportunity

Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics, writing on May 15, 2008, argues

Put simply, had Reverend Wright been introduced to voters a few days before the Iowa caucuses, odds are Barack Obama would not be a hair's breadth away from clinching the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

And even if we assume Obama could have managed to hang on and win Iowa after the appearance of his good reverend, which is debatable, it's a near certainty he would not have won as many primaries and caucuses by as many votes around the country as he did in January and February.

In other words, it would be a totally different ballgame.

How did this happen? The easiest answer, which fits nicely with what we know about Clinton's subsequent mistakes, is that the campaign was guilty of laziness brought on by overconfidence and arrogance.

Bevan cites this New York Times article of 3/5/07 in which Jody Kantor noted that Mr. Obama cited the 2/22/07 Rolling Stone article entitled "The Radical Roots of Barack Obama" in rescinding the invitation to Jeremiah Wright to deliver the invocation at the Senator's announcement on 2/10/07 of his presidential candidacy. Bevan attributes Clinton's failure to raise the issue of her opponent's hysterical pastor to "laziness brought on by overconfidence and arrogance."

But that is only part of the story. Before the campaign began and in its nascent stage, Mrs. Clinton was viewed as a candidate very popular with the party's base of blacks and feminist women, but with huge negatives among the general voting public. Therefore, most of us believed, Clinton benefited by the presence in the race of not one, but two (Obama and John Edwards), legitimate and viable candidates. And so did her campaign.

Before long, however, the New York senator lost to Mr. Obama the support of blacks and young women, feminist or otherwise, and, to a lesser extent, the liberal wing of the party. Then Edwards dropped out of the race, leaving one plausible candidate. And as time went on (especially with the onset of the Wright story) Clinton became the candidate with a greatly reduced base- the default candidate, the choice of voters appalled, alienated, or outraged, by Obama. (Her support among the "white working class" is hard to rationalize otherwise.) Clinton is now the "other," more acceptable and less inspirational, candidate. So it's hard to recall 2007 when she was concerned about Edwards and by the possibility that, as a candidate with enthusiastic support among some and hardened opposition by others, she needed to avoid a one-on-one battle with a candidate, who would be the "anybody but Clinton" option. Therefore, the Clinton campaign disregarded the one issue which would have turned off enough voters that Obama would not have won that caucus, and likely would have finished third. And with New Hampshire, been finished off.

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