Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday Roundup - Flailing Campaigns and Driven Individuals

The Big States - Matt Yglesias
Obama and the Details - Matt Yglesias
Quakes in Hillaryland - Marc Ambinder
More News About the Democrats - hilzoy @ Obsidian Wings
Stop the Thief! - Editorial Board, The New Republic

Rounding up the Monday morning posts on this past weekend's elections in the Democratic field we have Yglesias talking about Sen. Obama's policy substance and the reaction of the Clinton campaign to Sen. Obama's latest wins, also at the Atlantic is Marc Ambinder writing on the shake up in the Clinton campaign staff while Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings asks a few questions, and finally we have an editorial from the New Republic arguing against the seating of delegates from Michigan and Florida without going through a proper primary process.
First, the Yglesias posts. He tackles the anti-Obama meme that he lacks substance head on. Yglesias argues that, if anything, Sen. Obama has more legislative and policy experience than Sen. Clinton due in part to his time as an Illinois state senator and his stint as a professor at the University of Chicago's Law School. Moreover, Sen. Obama has filled his campaign staff with smart people, the kind of people who wouldn't put up with anything less than a great candidate. All of this is to say that the meme that somehow, since Sen. Obama is charismatic he must, ergo, lack policy substance while Sen. Clinton's lack of charisma equates to a serious degree of policy substance. Of course, Yglesias does point out that former President Clinton had both.
Also, Yglesias notes the habit of the Clinton campaign of dismissing any wins by Sen. Obama, finding fault with each of his wins thus claiming that Sen. Clinton has faced unfavorable odds in the states Sen. Obama won. Hilzoy echoes this idea in the first part of her post on the Democrats by pointing to the absurdly high turnout for a state that generally doesn't turn out. The point is that Democrats are turning out in unexpected numbers in unexpected states, or not so unexpected by the Obama campaign as both Hilzoy and Ambinder go on to discuss.
What both Ambinder and Hilzoy look at is the sudden fracturing of the Clinton campaign under the stress of a nomination of attrition. The self-loan of five million dollars to her campaign along with the sudden replacement of her campaign manager has people wondering what exactly is going on with Sen. Clinton. Hilzoy suspects that the campaign expected to have the nomination sewn up by Super Tuesday and were left scrambling when Super Tuesday ended the same way it started. Ambinder comes to the same conclusion that the Clinton campaign did not expect to have a continuing fight after Super Tuesday and credits that to the "superior effort" by the Obama campaign. Going through the points, Ambinder lists the failure of the Clinton campaign to meet its financing goals, its expected lead in the popular vote and its lack of substantial victories have exhausted the entire campaign staff.
What I think this points to is an inability of the Clinton campaign to adapt and adapt quickly to changing events on the groups. The more Sen. Obama speaks to more crowds, the better his numbers look, even if they don't push him past Sen. Clinton. Along with this is Sen. Obama's ground game of crafting motivated and knowledgeable campaigners in the states he needs votes. By working from the idea that he does not have a 'base' to rely on, Sen. Obama has repeatedly built grassroots state campaign staffs drawn from a wide range of voters and supporters. In assuming that he does not have a core base, Sen. Obama recognizes the need for such intensive and exhaustive grassroots efforts. While this may show in his speeches (particularly the Jefferson-Jackson dinner speech where he looked very tired) it creates that base he can rely on again when the general election comes.
Essentially, as Ambinder and Hilzoy have concluded, Sen. Obama planned for a long game while Sen. Clinton did not. That basic difference in campaign strategies shows in the delegate numbers and the voter turnouts. It also shows in campaign contributions and the strengths of their respective staffs. Sen. Obama has planned this to run all the way to the convention while Sen. Clinton must reorganize in the middle of her campaign to shift to a long game strategy. This will mean further losses for her for the next month and a potential big loss on March 4th when Ohio and Texas come up on the primary calendar. Hence the reason why Sen. Clinton is urging the DNC to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan, something the staff at the New Republic view as an attempt to steal the campaign away from Sen. Obama through a very underhanded tactic. The TNR staff is right though in saying that the DNC needs to resolve this issue as soon as possible, either by restating their original position of not seating these delegates or holding new primaries that Sen. Obama can actually participate in.

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