Sunday, January 06, 2008

If Hillary Loses NH, She Should Consider Quitting

The situation in New Hampshire is in flux, and the Clintons are fighting back, desperately, against the surge of Sen. Barack Obama. Sen. Hillary Clinton may have struck a blow in pointing out in last night's debate that a man she identifies as a co-chairman of Obama's campaign in New Hampshire, Jim Demers, is a registered lobbyist for drug companies.

Obama appeared to deny it as she spoke, but Time magazine this morning prints a list of registered lobbyists and Demer's name is on it. Time's Mark Halperin interviewed Clinton on her campaign bus today, and Clinton said, notably, "You can talk a great game about how you are really standing firm against the special interests, and then when it becomes inconvenient that you actually have a lobbyist running your campaign, you deny it."

This will play out in the next two days, (and extenuating facts may exist) but, in any event, it may be too late for Clinton to disrupt the surge toward Obama before Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Also, the resort by Clinton to strong negative statements of any kind may work against her, because she is not liked in many quarters already, and this could compound her public image as something of a harridan.

As a new polls were released, showing a surge toward Obama in just the last 24 hours, with him up over Clinton now 39% to 29% in a CNN poll and 41% to 28% in a Gallup poll, there were reports that the Clintons had decided against a negative advertising campaigning, reasoning that it would not work and might even be counterproductive. Politico reported that Clinton insiders now expect to lose in both New Hampshire and, Jan. 26, in South Carolina.

The CNN poll showed a slight trend toward more independents deciding to vote in the Republican primary, where Sen. John McCain stayed ahead of former Gov. Mitt Romney 32% to 26%, but not enough to hurt Obama. There is now a strong tide running against Clinton, and it's my view that if she loses in New Hampshire, for her own good and the long term reputation of both she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, she has to seriously consider withdrawing from the presidential race.

It will be tempting for the Clintons to soldier on to the big day of 23 state primaries, including California and New York, on Feb. 5 in hopes of recouping, even if they lose in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

But if this comes down to California and its huge number of 441 delegates, the prospect of an extremely divisive campaign damaging to Clinton's November prospects, even if she wins the Democratic nomination is not negligible.

What I fear is that the Clintons would end up trying to win California by taking the increasingly important Latino and Asian votes, and that this would involve perforce playing on the nervousness, and in some cases outright antipathy, in these communities to the notion of a black president of the United States.

Maybe the ethnic divide would not develop, but I very much fear it would.

If Obama prevails on Tuesday, as someone wrote last night, "the media will goes nuts," and Obama, in any event, will be hard to stop.

But the Clintons have to give very serious consideration now to their long-term reputations. It is embarrassing that after so many years of championing black causes, and being so close to the African-American community, the Clintons find themselves involved in a nasty fight to prevent the first serious black candidate for president from succeeding. She is already a divisive candidate. All this would compound it.

What is working for Obama at this point are not only all his great skills and general attractiveness, his oratorical brilliance, and his adept political organization, but, also powerfully, the gathering feeling in the country that a continuation of the Bush-Clinton reigns over the presidency is not in the national interest, that a Clinton victory would merely lead to further disastrous partisan infighting that has poisoned the American political atmosphere.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, in a powerful column yesterday extolling the Obama candidacy, remarked happily, "Shake hands with tomorrow. It's here." What he and countless other Obama supporters hope is that an Obama presidency would be a bipartisan affair, putting the country on an altogether more solid moral footing and marking a devastating blow to racism. If the Clintons stand in the way of this, they may not prevail anyway in this year's campaign, and, in any case, they may live to regret it, because it could totally spoil their own legacy.

Enough of this. I want to go on to other aspects of the current drama, which is possibly the most historic period in American politics since the Nixon resignation in 1974, or, alternatively, the 1968 presidential campaign.

First of the points has to do with the position taken in last night's debate by former Sen. John Edwards, who came out of the Iowa Caucuses a narrow second-place finisher over Clinton.

When Clinton last night started slashing away at Obama, Edwards came to Obama's aid, aligning himself with Obama as a candidate for change. "He (Obama) believes deeply in changes and I believe deeply in change," Edwards said. "I didn't hear these kind of attacks from Sen. Clinton when she was ahead."

What is Edwards trying to do? The best answer may have come in the column this morning in the Washington Post by Chris Cillizza, who writes a blog.

"Edwards has decided that his best chance to be one of the last two candidates standing is to knock her (Clinton) out in New Hampshire," Cillizza writes. "Edwards' campaign believes that if he can do that -- perhaps with a close third place finish -- Clinton will be a non-factor and allow him to debate Obama over which man is the true change agent."

I'd add that it may also have dawned on Edwards that Clinton may be near the breaking point, that she may withdraw from the race before too much longer, if she loses Tuesday. Never underestimate the sly thoughts of a trial lawyer. He aims to make Hillary another Harold Stassen.

Meanwhile, all kinds of assessments are coming out about Obama in the wake of his Iowa victory. The Newsweek cover story now out about Obama is certainly interesting, but even more interesting is a long article in the London Times this morning by Andrew Sullivan. the libertarian conservative born in England and still an Englishman but resident in the U.S. since 1984.

Sullivan argues that Obama, more than just reminiscent in some ways of President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, is really emerging as "a liberal Reagan who can reunite America."

The unorthodox Sullivan, always a provocative commentator, writes, notably:

"What has long been remarkable to me is how this liberal politician (Obama) fails to alienate conservatives. In fact, many like him a great deal. His calm and reasoned demeanor, his crisp style, his refusal to engage in racial identity politics: these appeal to disaffected Republicans. He is particularly attractive to those on the American right who feel betrayed by the Bush Administration's version of conservatism, just as many Democrats felt betrayed by Jimmy Carter's liberalism...

"Reagan won a national victory on the strength of 'Reagan Democrats.' Obama could win with 'Obama Republicans.' That's remarkable in itself. When you realize he's also a liberal urban black man whose middle name is Hussein, it's gob-smacking.

"Put together these disaffected Republicans together with a spectrum of minorities and a black vote potentially greater than at any time in history, and you begin to see what Obama offers his own party."

Sullivan obviously doesn't harbor my fears about trouble for Obama in the Latino and Asian communities. In any event, in using terms like "gob-smacking," whatever that means, he is enhancing the English language, and no one could object to that.

Finally, Jim Newton, editorial pages editor of the L.A. Times, has this morning weighed in with an editorial (at long last) on the Iowa Caucus results and present perspectives, and he makes some sound judgments, particularly about New Hampshire settling the fate of the ill-conceived Romney candidacy should the great flip flopper lose the Republican primary to McCain on Tuesday. This editorial was almost worth the wait and I can tell Newton wrote it personally, because there is a reference to New Hampshire "hill winds," and that comes from the alma mater of Dartmouth College, where both of us went to school.

I had foolishly suggested in a part of my blog yesterday, which I later expunged, that Newton and his co-workers on the Times editorial page might be lazy because the New York Times and Washington Post had produced immediate editorials on the Iowa outcome, while they had not. In light of the fact that Newton not only wrote this editorial, but also authored a very persuasive piece arguing that term limits are good for the inept Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in today's Opinion section, I now think I was crazy to ever suggest he was lazy.



Anonymous Steph J said...

I'm paying attention to this Jim Demers story. From web-searching, I see that he's a lobbyist and I can see that he's a supporter of Senator Obama (has written letters to newspapers on his behalf), but I haven't seen him identified as a co-chair in NH anywhere other than by Hillary. Has anyone confirmed that he is in fact a co-chair?

1/06/2008 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1992, Bill Clinton won neither the Iowa caucuses nor the New Hampshire Primary. He was under a dark cloud with allegations of numerous extramarital affairs. He still was the Democratic Party's nominee and he won the general election, defeating George H. R. Bush, who was considered unbeatable after Gulf War 1, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Where is it written (other that in the overexcited imaginations of media journalists) that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire Primary decide who the next president will be?

1/07/2008 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Matt Weinstock said...

Whatever else Hillary is, she isn't a quitter. Someone will have to drive a wooden stake through her. Only then will she burst into flames and disappear.

1/07/2008 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am glad i have found this site.
i am a canadian and this is rather new but immensely interesting. would you mind answering some basic questions?

1) why are the opinions of voters in iowa, nh, sc, nevada so important? are they meant to influence voters who have different demographics in different states or just to indicate the tide?

2) given that the democratic convention is in august, why are january results so important?

many many thanks

1/08/2008 1:07 AM  

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