Saturday, March 29, 2008
The Campaign: Staying the Distance
(or: fakey niceness vs sincere criticism)
Well, I never thought I'd be referencing Larry Sabato (I mean, come on, he gets enough press as it is) but he got something really right, I think, as of yesterday on his "crystal ball."

Sabato points out that the calls for Hillary to step down are premature. For one thing, Pennsylvania is a huge state, with a lot of delegates, and a large blue-collar population, which has been her mainstay. For another, Obama's star was somewhat tarnished by the whole Rev. Wright thing (which was blown out of proportion, I think, as so many things are, but I was so impressed with Obama's response--see below). [Update 3/30/08: The Washington Post agrees in an editorial today.]

Also, though it has to be done carefully, the nomination process is a form of tempering for candidates--it tries and tests them, and helps us see if they're fit to win against their eventual opponent. Which is why it's good that most states' Democratic parties did not do the "winner take all" delegate apportionment that the repubs did. We haven't really see what McCain is made of (of course, the field of losers wouldn't have really tested him anyway--like Huckabee was a worthy opponent?).

In order to know if the presumptive candidate (obama, in this case) is going to have a chance in the general election, we need to see what s/he is made of. That happens through the democratic process of picking the candidate. If a candidate isn't worthy, we need to know that now--not in October.

So, while it must be done carefully so as not to undermine the eventual candidate in the general, and not burn bridges (yeah, we're still thinking of a shared ticket here!) the "negative campaigning" serves an important function. People complain about negative campaigning, but that's because, for the most part, we find it uncomfortable to talk about real things--we're happier with fakey niceness than sincere criticism.

By the way, I'm feeling at least as prescient as Sabato--here's what I wrote back in '06:

CAN Hilary win?
A lot of folks are worried about Hillary Rodham Clinton running for pres in '08, because they're afraid she can't win. James Carville says she can.

Some conservatives are afraid she will.

She's a very impressive speaker. She's very smart. She has a lot of charisma. She connects with people. But she freaks some people out. What's the problem? because she's a woman? because of the healthcare debacle? because she's moderate? because of Bill?

I'm not saying I like everything about her--her recent cozying up to big pharma seems problematic. But hey, she's paid her dues. Give her a chance! Democrats are notoriously bad at picking winning candidates. So why let the conventional wisdom be our guide?

(PS: John McCain is NOT a moderate! He may have been once, but in his strategy to gain the repub nomination, he's moving to the right. Don't be fooled!)

Hey, where's MY crystal ball?

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