On One Hand

January 8, 2008

Clinton’s comeback; Obama’s challenge

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 9:08 pm
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In a huge upset, Hillary Clinton took New Hampshire’s Democratic vote by a narrow margin with tremendous support among women and senior citizens. John Edwards was knocked down, making this more of a two-person race between Clinton and Obama, which will help determine who is really the best of the two candidates and makes the Democratic nomination into a sure historical first; either the first African-American or the first woman party nominee will be celebrated in Denver this September. The win for Hillary by a sparse two thousand votes is good purely for the public image of her campaign; Clinton and Obama will both receive nine delegates from New Hampshire, because the actual vote counts were so close. But Clinton’s suprise comback is huge when it comes to our analysis of how the campagin strategies worked.

Was it Hillary’s tears that led to this miraculous turn of events? Was it her husband Bill’s recent scathing attacks on Obama? Was it that New Hampshire voters sensed Obama’s momentum and were reluctant to let the Democratic nomination end in anyone’s easy victory?

One thing that may have contributed to Clinton’s win is that the media buzz let voters know that Obama was way ahead in New Hampshire polls, which led independent voters, who have the choice to vote in either party’s primary in New Hampshire but strongly favored Obama, to opt for the Republican race and vote for McCain. More independents voted in the Democratic primary this year, but it wasn’t by as high of margins as were expected. Independents who did vote Democrat indeed favored Obama, but there weren’t sufficient numbers of them to stem the tide that led to Clinton’s victory.

Hillary’s change of character seems to have worked; she truly has a winning personality, but has not let it show until now. Today it is clear that she has no choice but to show that personality if she wants to win, and if any voters are disgusted with it, that is their problem because others will make up the difference.

In Clinton’s victory speech, she remarked that she finally “found her own voice” – which will no doubt be the line reporters choose for tomorrow morning’s headlines – a line that rings a bit melodramatic, but shows that she has finally taken the suggestion of every analyst in America that she needs to crack her hard shell as a politician and show that she is human. This could collect more women voters, who are now fueling her campaign, and are a worthy target for any campaign since more women than men vote in the general election.

Obama has clearly marketed himself as an agent of “change,” and his challenge is now to take that shining rhetoric and turn it to a solid and definable policy. Many support Obama in rhetoric and character but have vague conceptions of where he stands on the issues. He still has a strong chance to win the Democratic nomination, and incredible grassroots support among young people. Though he has little executive experience, clear articulation of what he would do as commander-in-chief can be as good as experience in the eyes of voters, who would be assured that the candidate is about more than just words. Obama made an attempt at that in his consession speech. If he can continue in that vein, he stands his best chance of coming back against Hillary.

Hillary wasn’t highly negative against Obama in this round – but her husband was. She was spared the tax on image that always takes place win a candidate goes negative, but still scored the political points from doubts cast about her opponent. That isn’t going to work forver; if Bill continues to be Hillary’s attack dog, Obama and others will call the Clintons out. Hillary can enjoy a return to victory, but will need to come up with new and creative ways to do campaigning if she wants to avoid a lapse into her old dirty-politic image.

No doubt Chelsea’s frequent cameos at her mother’s campaign events was a good thing for the Clinton campaign; Chelsea Clinton is endearing to all Democrats who remember the 90s, recalling how she, then only a teenager, was lambasted by Republican pundits who called her awkward and unattractive. She is now a successful and independent adult, which might be more than what we can say for the accident-prone Bush twins. We know little about Chelsea Clinton, but she is a familiar face and helps buff her mother’s real-human-being image by putting some focus on her family.

An Obama-Hillary race will will be an exciting season in American politics; both candidates represent some kind of all-time first, and both are incredibly skilled politicians. Continuing uncertainty about the eventual nominee will also deny Republicans a clear frontrunner to wear down until November. Politics junkies can look forward to a passionate race that will be uncalled at least through February, and hopefully as long as possible, until the official nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this September.

1 Comment »

  1. Campaign image is all that matters, at this point. There aren’t enough actual delegates up for grabs for him to overtake her there, because of the pre-pledged superdelegates.

    Comment by spoofilms — January 9, 2008 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

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