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March 05, 2008


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Exits show RI tied -- perhaps Noel was busier there than he let on...


Alas, no.

I wonder who Obama's demographic analyst is? they're doing a remarkable job, although they underestimated his appeal to many Midwestern whites.

Dave MB

So that RI exit, and the OH exit showing a near-tie, were way off.

But your/Obama's predictions were great -- TPM now has OH +10,
RI +18, TX(P) +3, VT -22 for Clinton.

Obama has to come up with additional answers to the experience question beyond "well, you voted for the war, so your experience sucks". "McCain is very experienced and very wrong" is a start, but Obama has to better show that what he knows and how he thinks about the world makes him the foreign policy guy.

Would it be better for Obama to have a new FL primary or not? As Josh Marshall says, there's now a conceivable path to the nomination for HRC if she can create the impression that Obama is a spent electoral force by beating him in more primaries. (I hope and expect he is not a spent electoral force and this won't happen.) Would a loss in a contested FL primary hurt him more with the superdelegates than he would lose by agreeing to seat the FL delegation from the uncontested primary?

Dennis Brennan

And now they're going to tramp back and forth across my fair Commonwealth for the next few weeks. Oh boy. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of bizarre and off-base analysis in the media about us Keystoners, and a lot of "John Wayne or Jane Fonda"/"Alabama in between".


Well, the easiest line of questioning regarding experience would be, experience? you have to be kidding me. No one gives Laura "Pickles" Bush foreign policy props for hiding the liquor bottles on September 12 (though maybe they should).

I know Clinton admires E. Roosevelt, but her pre-senatorial career is mostly padded... except for her attempts at health care reform, which not only failed, but set the cause back for nearly two decades. Brad DeLong talks in detail about her deep inability to be an effective technocrat during those years, and frankly, I see exactly the same pattern in how she manages her campaign.

But I am a harsh man. I also think that Clinton would be vastly better than McCain as president, whose policy expertise seems to derive from being in a foreign prison for years and still cranky about it.

Of course, McCain will use Clinton as a stalking horse against Obama. It's win-win for him,.

(Now, the strategies for being anti-McCain write themselves. But they're a little rough. I don't think many non-Arizonans know how McCain's wife stole Vicodin from her own private medical charity to support her drug addiction, for instance. But since the behavior of presidential spouses is so all-fired important to the p/r/e/s/s/ American people, perhaps, my friends, it is time for us to look further into these matters, my friends.)

Will Baird

Now as for Obama's campaign out maneuvering Clinton, that makes sense. However, how come he can't break away? Assuming he's the clearly better candidate, then why can't he march out ahead solidly?

Everything I've read seems to indicate that unless a miracle happens neither is going to get the delegate count to outright win the nomination.



Here's the thing: Clinton almost certainly can't receive enough further pledged delegates in upcoming primaries to take the lead in pledged delegates. Pledged delegates reflect the outcome of primaries, that is, voting. Obama has always had the lead.

There's another class of delegates called superdelegates. They're people within the Democratic Party apparatus. Although they can pledge to a candidate, they're free to change their minds.

The only way that either candidate can win the nomination is through superdelegates. However, it would be problematic if the superdelegates overruled the pledged delegates, which represent the voting public.

Clinton's strategy is to manufacture a situation where the remaining superdelegates feel comfortable in overriding the pledged delegates. Hence the talk about Michigan's delegates, where Clinton was the only candidate on the ballot, and narrowly beat "UNDECLARED", and Florida's delegates, where she promised to abide by the Democratic Party's rulings to ignore the result.

It doesn't matter whether her attempts succeed (in fact, if they did, it would probably cause a rift in the party), because they're really intended to confuse the issue. Clinton wants to introduce enough uncertainty about Obama's lead to sway more superdelegates into voting for her. It's "bullshit" in the philosophical sense, to use Harry Frankfurt's useful formulation. The value of the action is incidental to its intent.

Obama's strategy is rather easier: to hang tough while presenting himself as the superior alternative. Although he may need hip-waders.

It's interesting that the crucial swing group is older white Catholic women. And this is where I think Obama's demographers made a mistake, or perhaps two. They underestimated Obama's appeal to many white ethnics, because they had already factored out that component from Obama's Chicago roots. At the same time, I think Obama's marketers overestimated Obama's appeal to Mexican-Americans, because they had factored in that component from Obama's Chicago roots. (A fifth of Chicago speaks Spanish, and they're mostly derived from Mexico.)

Clinton's support from that group seems to be overhang from the last wave of the 'culture war'. These are older women who came of political age in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Needless to say, these were not the best of times for American women, and rather worse if one were Catholic as well. I think they see in Clinton a more potent symbol of their struggle for equality than someone like me finds in Obama.

(I myself find Clinton lackluster as a politician, part of that gray Democratic New York machine of dull sleazy marginal competence that brought the state Mark Green and Alan Hevesi. But I probably live in a different symbolic universe than most New Yorkers.)


Regarding white ethnics: I should point out that people were previously comparing Wisconsin's demographics to Ohio's. They are, but they aren't. It's a cultural difference. [1] Had the vote in Ohio followed Wisconsin's voting pattern, Clinton would be facing a tough decision right now.

[1] The "nice" line.

Jussi Jalonen

Judging by the European examples, "being in foreign prison for years and still feeling cranky about it" is the kind of experience that can create a perfectly fine head of state.

There's Svinhufvud as a definitely positive showcase.

(... on the other hand, there's also PiƂsudski. And, of course, Ter-Petrosian.)


J. J.

Doug M.

Don't forget Gamsakhurdia! However much we might like to.

"older white Catholic women": that would be my Mom. Whose passion for Hillary burns with a clear white flame.

Pennsylvania is far on the not-nice side of the line, alas. I'm not sure how Obama can play that. Be interesting to watch.

"dull sleazy marginal competence": disagree. I'd call Hillary a somewhat-above-average Senator. She hasn't been out in front on much, but she's worked and played well with others. And she's definitely put the time in -- IMS she's visited every county in the state multiple times, which is way harder than it sounds.

Doug M.

Jussi Jalonen

Stupid question, Douglas: since your mother is a Catholic, does that mean that you're also a Catholic?

Not that it matters to me one way or another, but I'm asking purely out of curiosity. Over here, religion tends to be matrilinear by definition (and by law), but I know that in the United States, anything is possible.


J. J.


Genitive case, Doug. "part of that gray Democratic New York machine of dull sleazy marginal competence" is not the same as having "dull sleazy marginal competence". A rhinestone on a background of soot.

(And I'm not particularly impressed by her visiting every county in the state. Feingold holds meetings in every county in Wisconsin regularly: http://feingold.senate.gov/listening/index.html )

Dennis Brennan

What's the nice/not nice line, and how is Pennsylvania on the not nice side of it? I'm not necessarily disputing this, I just want to understand the terminology.


It's like Potter Stewart. But roughly, one of the markers is, Wisconsin is on the side of the line where negative campaigning will usually backfire. The classic case is Feingold, whose competitors in the primary did the circular firing squad.

It's not that Wisconsinites are necessarily nicer than Ohioans -- Dahmer felt as home in Milwaukee as he did in Akron -- but I think we feel more strongly about it as a virtue. And Obama comes off as Midwestern nice. (which is odd, because he's a FIB.)

Dave MB

"FIB"? Is this midwestern for "carpetbagger"? I checked the acronym on Wikipedia, but the most relevant suggestion was "Icelandic Automobile Association"...

Dennis Brennan

Potter Stewart. Gotcha.

FIB = Fuckin' Illinois Bastard. Back in the day when I was in the South Side (shout-out to the 773), it was explained to me that Wisconsin is Illinois's New Jersey, or something like that. (No offense).


You bad-mouthing New Jersey???


The acronym is rarely unpacked. You learn it in Wisconsin by osmosis. It has more to do with mannerless vacationers and Bears fans than any hate on Illinois in particular.

The relationship is more like New York : Vermont, if Vermont had a serious football rivalry with New York and New Yorkers took football seriously. I imagine even the most stoic Vermonter gets tired of weekenders asking where the real bagel places are and why don't they replace those covered bridges with something more modern, like the Cross-Bronx Expressway?

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