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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Jr. Super Tuesday - How did Dems get Here?

George Wenschhof

This has been an exciting and close race to follow as the democrats choose their nominee for President. The excitement stems from Democrats who are eager for the Republican George W. Bush administration to finally come to an end. The closeness in the race between a former First Lady and current Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama this late in the primary schedule has been a surprise to many voters and pundits alike.

Let's take a look at some of what has been transpiring. First, a convoluted method of awarding delegates has resulted in a approximately 110 delegate lead for Obama over Clinton after close to 2700 delegates have been awarded out of the available 4049. Superdelegates that make up nearly 20% of the total delegates have come under fire and it is almost certain this will be adjusted in future elections. Let's also hope the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sanctions of Florida and Michigan which resulted in the disenfranchisement of their voters by stripping them of their combined 366 delegates will never happen again.

Looking at the demographics of the democratic voters, women make up 57% of the voters in the primaries. However, they are not all throwing their support to Senator Clinton. Here is a article entitled "Drift away from Clinton frustrates many women" in the LATImes:,0,4892434.story While the election of either a Woman or an African-American will make history, it appears voters are looking past race or gender and are focused on the issues.

Clinton has benefited and also had it act as a detriment from her constant battles with the "Republican Right" and has run a traditional top down campaign. A campaign that is tied to established democrats who not only have ties to her but also her husband. Although many voters support her valiant efforts, others are yearning for a President who can bring people together to focus on solutions to the issues we face and are tiring of the bickering and polarizing tactics so common in politics today.

Her choice to have her husband and former President Bill Clinton help on the campaign trail back-fired and led many to wonder if Al Gore knew what he was doing when he shunned President Clinton's help in the 2000 election. The involvement by President Clinton also highlighted the problem many voters have with a dynastic Presidency as many are tired of hearing the name Clinton or Bush.

On the other hand, Obama has focused on bringing people together and has benefited from a "bottom-up" style campaign. This was also attempted by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean in the 2004 election which emphasized empowering people. Dean's slogan that year was 'You have the Power" and his Internet driven campaign was extremely successful until the Teflon coating surrounding his candidacy was stripped prior to the Iowa caucuses.

His fall from grace was hastened by the release and constant TV airing of an interview Dean had many years previous on a Canadian television talk show where he talked about how the caucus system in Iowa was hardly democratic. This began airing just days before the Iowa caucuses where Dean finished a surprising third after being the front runner, effectively ending his campaign. The unanswered question is who found these old tapes and leaked them to the Press?

The Canadians are involved once again in the Democratic nomination process, this time as the result of a leak of a letter. This letter allegedly showed that during a meeting with a economic advisor to the Obama campaign and Canadian officials, it was indicated that the opposition with NAFTA by Obama was just political. This has been jumped on by the Clinton campaign who have said Obama can't have it both ways. This type of news may have an impact on a state like Ohio which has been hit by job loss.

The Teflon coating surrounding Senator Barack Obama has so far withstood the withering attacks by the Clinton campaign pertaining to his ability to lead on day and his lack of experience in foreign policy. Interestingly, these attacks are similar to tactics attributable to Republican strategist Carl Rove, the one who Clinton rails against the most. The empowering slogan, similiar to Dean's in 2004 attributed to Obama in this election has been "Yes We Can".

The last Presidential election showed candidates the power of the Internet and the need for a rapid response to attacks from the opposition. When Senator Kerry ignored the "swift boat" attacks by a 527 group, he allowed the attack to spread rapidly across the blogshere and it damaged his credibility. By the time Senator Kerry fought back, it was too late. The old rule of thumb about not responding to a story for it will help kill the story no longer is true. Senator Clinton also did not receive the support of the liberal side of the blogshere for she in the early part of her campaign did not call for an immediate withdraw from Iraq.

In the days before the Ohio and Texas primaries, the Clinton campaign began airing ads depicting a child in bed and the phone ringing at 3 AM in the morning at the White House with the question somewhere along the lines of "who do you want answering the phone when the next crisis hits"? The Obama campaign, flush with cash, immediately aired a response ad with a similar scene and asking something like don't you want a President who will make the right decision when a crisis hits, an obviously reference to Clinton's support of the Iraq war resolution which Obama opposed.

Here is a good article in entitled "Democratic camp debate foreign policy credentials". which shows how both camps responded quickly to this issue.

In addition to teaching Presidential candidates lessons about "bottom up" people driven campaigns and the need for rapid responses, the Internet has also proven to aid immensely in the area of fund raising. The Clinton campaign early on based their fund raising on old tried and true methods of networking and high dollar events. Although successful in raising funds, many of these donors had max-ed out as they wrote checks for $2300, the limit in the primary.

Recently, the Clinton campaign desperate for money, turned to the Internet and the result was 35 million raised in February. Meanwhile the Obama campaign continues to roll along and now has 1 million supporters registered to their website. When an online appeal was given, an average of $50 per person resulted in 50 million raised in February. The beauty here is that these supporters are far from being max-ed out and when asked will give again.

The Obama campaign, like the Dean campaign has also attracted more younger voters under 30 years old. Through the use of the Internet, volunteers from all over the country (including one of our authors, Guy Djoken) are going door-to-door for him in Ohio. A recent email from the campaign indicated that 1.5 million voters in Ohio will receive phone calls from a Obama supporter. This shows the power of a effectively managed grass roots driven campaign.

It seems odd that the Clinton campaign has not made the economy a focal point for it was the slogan "It's the economy, stupid" that helped her husband win the Presidency in 1992. After 12 years of Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, it was the Savings and Loans debacle and a policy that benefited the rich with hopes of a trickle down effect for the working men and women that led to a worsening economy.

This sounds familiar for after 8 years of Republican George W. Bush's administration, Americans are once again feeling the squeeze as a result of the sub-prime mortgage industry mess along with plunges in the stock market and rising energy costs. The exit polls from recent primaries also clearly show this is the number one issue that concerns Americans today. This is sure to be the number one issue in the general election so a clear message of hope with reasonable solutions is imperative for the democratic nominee.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton has not given up and is campaigning hard to win in Ohio and Texas. The New York Times has an article entitled "Clinton Campaigns as if Momentum is Hers"

Are the voters choosing between old and new when they look at Clinton and Obama? There are too many variables at work to be able to tell for sure. Later tonight we will know the results from today's primaries. These results will determine if the democratic party race for their nominee continues or if today will mark the beginning of a move to bring the party together in support of one candidate.

While bringing democrats together now in support of a candidate is appealing, allowing the voters from the remaining ten states, Guam and Puerto Rico to have their voices heard and votes counted makes sense as well.

Let's see what happens. Tonight we will be doing some live blogging as the election returns come in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well it is interesting to see how Obama responded to the recent questions about Rezko and the NAFTA-Canandian meeting. For starters he admits to poor judgement and making a mistake when he bought the land from Rezko, and wishing that he had done things differently. And this from the man that constantly throws the poor judgment card at Senator Clinton over her Iraq vote! So that seems like a double standard to me.

And there is nothing wrong with the Obama people talking to the Canadians on NAFTA. But why did he feel it necessary to deny the meeting to begin with? If it was all on the up and up why the secrecy? That to me rings more like politics as usual, the exact thing he want to change.

Fred from Woodbury MN