Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Obama Errata

Some random odds and ends floating around. First, Beinart's piece from the Post yesterday highlights something I've been thinking (though he may make the case too strongly, but still):
Presidents tend to govern the way they campaigned. Jimmy Carter ran as a moralistic outsider in 1976, and he governed that way as well, refusing to compromise with a Washington establishment that he distrusted (and that distrusted him). Ronald Reagan's campaign looked harsh on paper but warm and fuzzy on TV, as did his presidency. The 1992 Clinton campaign was like the Clinton administration: brilliant and chaotic, with a penchant for near-death experiences. And the 2000 Bush campaign presaged the Bush presidency: disciplined, hierarchical, loyal and ruthless....

Of the three candidates still in the 2008 race, Obama has run the best campaign by far. McCain's was a top-heavy, slow-moving, money-hemorrhaging Hindenburg that eventually exploded, leaving the Arizona senator to resurrect his bankrupt candidacy through sheer force of will. Clinton's campaign has been marked by vicious infighting and organizational weakness, as manifested by her terrible performance in caucus states....

At the top, in fact, the campaign is quite hierarchical. There's no question who's in charge: David Axelrod, a grizzled Chicago street-fighter whom Obama has known since he was 30. Axelrod and his subordinates believe their guy represents a new kind of politics, but they're not above using old-school, hard-ball tactics -- even against his own supporters -- to help him win. Last spring, for example, when the Obama campaign realized it couldn't control a popular Obama page on MySpace, it persuaded the company to shut the page down.

It is this remarkable hybrid campaign, far more than Obama's thin legislative résumé, that should reassure voters that he can run the government. As president, he'll need to keep his supporters mobilized: It will take a grass-roots movement, breathing down Congress's neck, to pass universal health care. But in dealing with those very supporters, he'll also have to be ruthless so as not to get caught up in the kind of side skirmishes, such as gays in the military, that weakened Bill Clinton early on. Obama's experience whipping up support on MySpace while simultaneously tamping it down is exactly the kind he'll need in the Oval Office.
Pennsylvania polling is tightening up, with the exception of yesterday's SurveyUSA results, showing Clinton up by 18. Throw that one out and look at all the others that have been conducted since April 1, and Obama's trailing by a very modest 3.6%. Include the outlying S-USA and it's 5.7%. But what to make of the S-USA poll, which has been the most accurate in the primaries so far? The mood in the blogosphere is to give S-USA its credit and split the difference--put it at about 10%. Dunno, but the Obama team is playing it right--driving down expectations and predicting a double-digit defeat. If he can close to within single digits, it could be a huge blow to Clinton.

Penn: bad for Obama. What's the old adage? When your opponent is busy committing suicide, just get out of the way. On the other hand, we probably put far too much weight into the importance of campaign functionaries. Almost no voters know Mark Penn. I doubt seriously they're watching the campaign and thinking this version of Hillary is radically different from the impression they already have. So why is it all Penn's fault?

Finally, this bit of satire is circling the internets, justifiably. A woman after my own heart:
In a move that's sure to be seen as controversial, Hillary has contacted the NCAA Board of Directors to argue that Memphis is actually better qualified to be National Champion.

Ms. Clinton stated that Memphis, while losing the game, had actually shown more ability to act like a National Champion on Day One. She argued that Memphis had passed every test during the game, including scoring more points than Kansas for 38 minutes. For 38 minutes they had shown the experience necessary to be National Champion. "Just because some team comes along in the last minute and scores more points than the other guy doesn't mean they're necessarily able to be National Champion on Day One."

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