Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA ON THE ATTACK....Barack Obama says he's about to dial up his campaign a notch:

Senator Barack Obama said he would start confronting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton more forcefully, asserting Friday that she had not been candid in describing her views on critical issues, as he tries to address mounting alarm among supporters that his lack of assertiveness has allowed her to dominate the presidential race.

....Asked if Mrs. Clinton had been fully truthful with voters about what she would do as president, Mr. Obama replied, "No."

"I don't think people know what her agenda exactly is," Mr. Obama continued, citing Social Security, Iraq and Iran as issues on which she had not been fully forthcoming.

This is good, but I have my doubts that trying to be "clear with the American people" on these particular subjects is going to do the trick. As Obama says, Hillary Clinton is "very deft politically," and I don't think that's going to change. We've already seen Obama try to get some mileage out of the rather narrow differences he has with Hillary over Social Security, Iraq and Iran, and there's just no there there. There are differences, but they're too small to build a campaign on.

What Obama needs is a brand new issue. If you've been following British politics for the past couple of months, you have an idea of what I'm talking about here. Up through the summer, prime minister Gordon Brown was riding high. The Labor Party was polling seven or eight points ahead of the Conservatives, and Labor's prospects looked so bright that Brown was seriously thinking about calling for a snap election this fall.

But then a funny thing happened. Conservative leader David Cameron plucked a brand new issue out of nowhere (assuming you agree that a report of the "Competitive Challenge working group" counts as nowhere). In August he began calling for abolition of the inheritance tax for estates under one million British pounds, making the proposal official a month later at the annual party conference in Blackpool. The idea took off, catching Brown and the Labor Party off guard, and within a month the tables had been turned. Not only were the Conservatives polling higher than Labor, but plans for the election had been called off and the Labor chancellor was forced to respond with a lame me-too proposal (but with a cutoff of £600K instead of £1 million — bold!). Labor was entirely on the defensive.

I don't know what kind of issue might have the same effect here, but Obama needs something like this. Continuing to hammer on the same issues he's been talking about for the past six months, even if he does it more aggressively, isn't likely to gain him more than a few points in the polls, and there's just not enough time left for that to do him any good. Instead, he needs something that comes out of left field and blindsides Hillary. Something small, perhaps (Cameron's inheritance tax proposal wasn't really that big a deal), but with a lot of broad, symbolic appeal. Any ideas?

Kevin Drum 3:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (61)

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A totally unrelated and completely pedantic point: Gordon Brown leads the Labour party. Just as I wouldn't refer to the US Department of Labour, I don't see why the British political party should be called the Labor party.

Posted by: King Rat on October 27, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Not so much an issue... but maybe picking a running mate. Someone like Chuck Hagel with a real gravitas and military experience who is also against the war.

Posted by: Teresa on October 27, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Hagel wouldn't do Obama any good since most people don't know who Hagel is. Al Gore, on the other hand....

Politics in America will be in a defensive crouch until some crisis (peak oil, global warming, unfunded liabilities) clarifies the difficult choices we'll be forced to make. There probably is no way Obama can lead on these issues and change the political playing field. We know they're important but we're still unsure how much.

Obama's campaign is simple: himself. He's the Democrat's Bush, someone you'd like to have a beer with and someone whose likability is meant to contrast with his opponents' lack thereof. But after nearly seven years of Bush's regular-guy presidency, it might be time for some basic competence.

Posted by: walt on October 27, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

comprehensive, progressive tax reform. close loopholes, abolish the corporate income tax, tax capital gains at the same rate as wages. That sort of thing.

Posted by: gfw on October 27, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

The very next blog posting in my rss reader, from Mark Evanier, suggests this -- not in response to your question, but it may serve:

One question I'd like to see put to all who would be President is: "Will you swear that if elected, you will vigorously investigate fraud and corruption in the spending of money allocated for the war, and prosecute those who have engaged in such practices or overlooked them?"

Posted by: DonBoy on October 27, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, new idea for Obama. Can't do the Constitional restoration thing, that's been done...

How about the abolition of corporate personhood?

Renaming the Department of Defense the Department of War, and cutting its budget by half?

Legalizing marijuana and ending the War of Drugs?

The "Restore Local Newspaper, Radio, and TV Act." Break up the media monopolies, bring back the fairness doctrine, and guarantee net neutrality while he's at it....

It's not like there aren't issues out there that aren't part of the discourse, after all.

Posted by: lambert strether on October 27, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

You misunderstand the Labour 600k policy. Currently everyone's estate has no inheritance tax below 300k. But married people can leave an unlimited amount to their spouse tax free. But if they do, then their 300k no longer counts, so in other words, the estate of their surviving spouse does not get a 600k allowance but only a 300k one. This is what Labour is now changing (although apparently people who knew what they were doing could do this by the back door already). (Unfortunately people who are not married or civil partnered get no such relief, which is blatantly unfair, and this is the real problem with inhertitance tax as it currently exists in the UK.)

The Tories were proposing to change the 300k limit to a million. It's a big difference from the Labour policy, not the small difference Kevin implied. It would mainly benefit the propertied classes (who the British quaintly call the "middle class"). It is around a 3 billion pound (per year) transfer of tax burden from the (relatively) rich to the (relatively) poor. I hope Obama could do better than that as a blockbuster policy.

Posted by: wab on October 27, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Legalizing marijuana..."

Bingo

Posted by: Boronx on October 27, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'd like to see something big and energy/environment related.
For instance: how about a pledge to REPLACE existing coal plants within 10-15 years to fight global warming? One has to come up with feasible parameters, but that's a matter of details. It would also probably require an openness to nuclear reactors, which would make the proposal big, controversial and attention-getting.
How about it?

Posted by: MarkL on October 27, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Admittedly I'm in southern England, but I don't know a soul whose house is worth less than £300k (or even £600k). That's simply unheard of here. So I'm not sure that it wasn't a larger issue than it seems, but at the same time, I think there was more to it than that:

People are just tired of Labour.

Incidentally, I saw Michelle Obama in London the other week: she's his secret weapon.

Posted by: KathyF on October 27, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

IMPEACHMENT
WAR CRIMES.

simple enough.

Posted by: Aaron on October 27, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

One quibble. The Tories have floated this idea of eliminating the inheritance tax for estates under one million British pounds for some time..Only recently with the huge rise in housing prices is it becoming feasible and popular to more and more British people.

But on the larger question..I say it is high time..Kerry, and Edwards made the same mistake when they were advised by perennial Democrat campaign manager and loser Bob Shrum not to attack Bush on the war. I think Obama must be true to himself and not pull so many punches. No one is giving him all that money to come in a gracious second.. A defining issue. How about a stirring speech about making the Executive transparent, honest and responsive to its citizens. He could start with saying he would like to see consideration given for having all cabinet meetings televised. Why not? We are all the shareholders and it is a public government, I mean it no secrets other than limited genuine mlitary defense secrets.. They come out any way only for $pecialized insiders. That would separate himself from Bush and importantly Hillary, who would never agree.

Posted by: Steve Crickmore on October 27, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I forgot, the Tories were actually claiming they were going to find the 3 billion by taxing foreigners (so-called non-domiciles, allegedly super-rich in the eyes of the popular press). And Labour pinched that policy, near enough. But nobody thinks the sums raised from that will be anywhere near the 3 billion (well, in fact 4 billion, since the Tories were going to throw a billion at something else). The foreigners will just leave. If the Tories actually implement these inheritance tax proposals, the money will come from ordinary people.

Posted by: wab on October 27, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

wab @ 4:29PM only mentioned part of the problem the Labour party faced. Due to the incredible increases in house values in the UK, many, many previously exempt people would (will?) now face very large taxes on their estates - which includes the resale value of their homes.
Just go to www.bbc.co.uk/?ok , click on the business header, go to the bottom the page and follow the housing links; you may be shocked.

Posted by: Doug on October 27, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Look, it's one thing for a distinctly right wing party like the Conservatives in Britain to pull off such a turnabout with a left wing party such as Labour. There are all kinds of issues they can seize on that differentiate the parties. It's quite another to find some major issue within a party that divides that party, and which a candidate can't immediately counter by a similar move of her own.

The point is, the issue, whatever it might be, would have to be one on which Hillary has a pre-existing record against the popular grain within the Democratic Party for it to be effective. If it's something brand new, and on which she has no real record or predisposition, she can simply say, me too, and be done with it. Obama might get a few points for coming out first, but it's going to do him no larger good than that.

And what has made Hillary effective so far has been precisely that she has configured her campaign so that it gets the majority of Democrats to line up behind her on issues. Whatever the significant downsides of focus-group, poll driven politics may be, being on the wrong side of a popular issue is not among them.

Posted by: frankly0 on October 27, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

walt: "Al Gore, on the other hand...."

Please let's lay off on Al Gore, already. If his heart's not in it, he's not going to run.

Now, don't misinterpret me -- I think he's awesome, and I'd support Gore in a heartbeat if he entered the race. But quite frankly, at this point in his life, why on earth would he ever want to?

Subsequent events have vindicated him in the eyes of most Americans, and he'd only diminish his substantial influence by throwing his hat into the ring.

Gore enjoys a large reservoir of general goodwill, but has no campaign organization to speak of, and at this juncture, less than three months from the first Democratic caucuses, his candidacy would most assuredly not be the slam dunk a lot of starry-eyed supporters dream about -- and he knows it.

Howvever, should the unlikely occur, and Democrats face a brokered convention, I have little doubt that Al Gore would accept a draft by acclimation of his party to be its 2008 presidential candidate.

walt: "But after nearly seven years of Bush's regular-guy presidency, it might be time for some basic competence."

George W. Bush is not, nor has he ever been, a "regular guy." That was one of the biggest campaign frauds ever orchestrated and perpetrated upon the electorate in our nation's history.

Further, I believe it's quite safe to say historians will duly regard his presidency as truly unique. And at least for our country's sake, I sure hope it will be.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on October 27, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards is already hitting both the tax capital gains rate at the same rate as income AND investigate all war contracts for fraud points HARD in his stump speeches.

Posted by: Wandering Around on October 27, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Obama could perhaps run with the healthcare issue so as to publicize the salient fact of Paul Krugman's 7/9/07 column: in terms of quality, access to needed care and health outcomes, the U.S. health care system does worse, not better, than other advanced countries — even Britain, which spends only about 40 percent as much per person as we do.

Posted by: TJM on October 27, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Hagel wouldn't do Obama any good since most people don't know who Hagel is. Al Gore, on the other hand...."

Gore has already been vice president. Why on earth would he want to place himself in the same position again for a lightweight like Obama?

I can't stand Hillary, but Obama's no prize either. His latest gaffe, in aligning himself with Donnie McClurkin, the "Christian" homophobe, indicates that Obama, like Bush, makes terrible decisions for short-term gain, with absolutely no thought for the long-term consequences. That is NOT what we need in the next president.

Posted by: Helena Montana on October 27, 2007 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's biggest coup would be to come out strong on environmental related issues in a way that earned a strong endorsement from Al Gore. A combination of carbon-tax plus something plus something.

If Obama (and Gore) played it right, Gore could give a strong endorsement to the issues--even campaign with him on them--without giving an actual candidate endorsement (thereby maintaining further effectiveness no matter what the primary/election outcome).

Posted by: Clem Guttata on October 27, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see:

  • Obama had a chance to vote against the MoveOn condemnation; he did not.
  • Obama ceded FISA leadership to Dodd.
  • He failed to defend Stark.
  • Obama has failed to attack Bush on any number of issues.

I'm really not all that interested in Obama's position on Hillary. I know enough about her and - like everyone else - have already made up my mind about her.

I am looking for someone who will attack Bush. I am looking for someone who will go on Meet the Press and get in Russert's face - mucn like Michael Moore did with Wolf Blitzer. Someone who will make the corruption of the media an issue in his campaign.

I want somebody who will attack the consultants. Who will name names and promise that - within a month of being elected - these fellows will be flipping hamburgers in Des Moines.

Otherwise, why not Hillary?

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 27, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Obama needs to re-raise on Hillary and propose universal health care paid for by repealing the tax cuts for hedge fund bosses and other bazillionaires.

The polls are in favor of it.

Obama needs to attack her from the populist front, it's her biggest weakness, she's in fealty to her campaign contributors.

If Obama can't gain tangible traction on her soon, it's trouble for him.

Posted by: Old Hat on October 27, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

I read the NY Times piece on how Obama was going to go on attack, and I saw Obama in action this morning in Iowa. If what I saw is attack mode, we're doomed.

Obama spoke for probably 40 minutes and then took 3 questions (2 from people wearing T-shirts about their issues, and 1 from someone who seemed to be a staffer). It was all very controlled.

Obama mentioned Hillary by name twice. The first time was to reference the dispute about whether you could talk to dictators in your first year in office. The second was to discuss Hillarycare. Obama gave Hillary props for trying, but then critiqued her closed-door approach. He said he'd talk to the people and take out his own TV ads if necessary. That's all.

There was a fair amount of rhetoric about how he'd tell the truth, and how voters should choose a politician they trust, but that's pretty much indistinguishable from other candidates' Iowan stump speeches.

Maybe he's planning on rolling out his sharpened elbows outside of Iowa???

Posted by: Blue in IA on October 27, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with a couple posters above. It's gotta be something bold and simple, and that taps into the current mood.

War crimes (though perhaps framed -slightly- less aggressively) would work. So would legalizing pot and ending the War on Drugs and redirecting that money to ... whatever.

But I suspect that Obama's apparent lack of boldness springs from Obama's lack of boldness. So I'm not holding my toke. My breath. I mean my breath.

Posted by: g on October 27, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Brown's honeymoon was over; the inheritance tax thing was nothing more than the dirty clothes left on the floor that sparked the fight. After 10 years of one party in control, and after having been led to a stupid, unpopular war by a Labour PM, the Labour Party there is ripe for a fall. Hillary, on the other hand, hasn't, and probably never will have, a political honeymoon -- but Obama has: if there is any "issue" that changes things, it will probably come from the Clinton, not the Obama, camp.


As much as I like Obama, and as much as I've come to dislike Clinton (she's a speedbump on our nation's march to imperialism, and not a very tall bump at that), I'm thinking the primary on our side is over. Obama is losing ground; Edwards has never really caught fire and large chunks of what passes for our media hate him. Behind Edwards there ain't nothing there. If the Democrats weren't so tired of losing, there could be some dark horse out there (like Huckabee on the other side) -- but they are tired of losing, and parties in that position don't take big chances.

Posted by: Martin Gale on October 27, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and those would work for Edwards, too. I love him, but he's in a distant third. That's maybe a good time to stop playing things safe.

Posted by: g on October 27, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's long been settled that Labour is a homologue of Labor. I wish to move the debate forward to the plight of our nation's cute puppies. This is an issue I poll well on.

Posted by: absent observer on October 27, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

A defining issue Obama could run on- much more successfully than HRC- is restoring our government. Much greater transparency -as mentioned by S. Crickmore- is a good start but not enough.

A post from last summer (by Mark Schmitt at TPM cafe) still comes to mind about accountability for the current administration's destruction of the gov't. From Mark's post:

"It is the actions, not the individuals, which must be banished from American politics forever: the secrecy, the raw exercise of executive power, the torture and domestic surveillance, the misuse of executive power to entrench partisan control, and the deceit. How do we restore the rule of law?

Consider, as an alternative to impeachment, and a means of reestablishing the lines of what just isn't done, a process modeled on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa. Efforts of this kind fall under the label, "transitional justice," described by the U.S. Institute of Peace as a way for "emerging democracies to reckon with the abuses of past regimes."

While I'm no longer hearing much talk of impeachment, as people are looking ahead, I do think there is fear that Guliani, especially, would carry on these abuses and also some worry of what the Clinton's would do when back in power. As an Obama supporter, I imagine him as a candidate with greater integrity and keep waiting on him to step up his campaign.

Posted by: noexpert on October 27, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

About the only thing that could prevent Hillary from winning the nomination is being indicted for campaign finance fraud, and even that might not do it.

Posted by: majarosh on October 27, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Saturday lashed out at rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, accusing her of dodging tough questions about Social Security

I guess this is what passes for an attack. But Social Security? Read the stinkin' SS Trustees' report. The issue is Medicare, not Social Security. Medicare will bankrupt the country for sure.

Posted by: TJM on October 27, 2007 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

I want somebody who will attack the consultants. Who will name names and promise that - within a month of being elected - these fellows will be flipping hamburgers in Des Moines.

Speaking of flipping hamburgers in Des Moines, it's pretty much guaranteed that Obama -- or any Democratic candidate, for that matter -- would be doing just that if s/he were to follow your advice. Of your four bullet points, three are pretty much nonstarters.

-- he doesn't need or want to be made to seem that he's defending an ad accusing a wartime general of treason;
-- Obama has his hands full defending his inexplicable decision to stick with a closeted homophobe, so he doesn't need to borrow any of Stark's trouble;
-- he's not running against Bush. He's running against Clinton. And not very well at the moment.

I'm not saying that you're wrong about what needs to be done. You're absolutely right. Obama squandered (yet another) opportunity to demonstrate initiative & leadership on the FISA issue. Somebody needs to get on Russert's face. Somebody needs to talk about the laziness of journalists & editorial boards. Somebody needs to scream about the folly of that MoveOn condemnation. And for crying out loud, EVERYBODY needs to be attacking Bush & the administration for simply being, well, Bush & his administration. But nobody running for president is running against Bush. He (and every candidate, for that matter) needs to be talking about the future, and he needs to be distinguishing himself (favorably, one would hope) from Clinton.

Posted by: junebug on October 27, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

frarnkly0 is perhaps right a new issue alone won't do. She isn't going to be too out of sync with focus groups. This is still a nomination about personalities. In regards to Britain, Cameron had Brown on the ropes see video, in question period following his refusual to call the nationl election..Maybe Obama can't go so far as Cameron in his attack on Brown, but Obama should try to rattle Hillary. She has a notorious quick temper which so far she has kept under wraps..It wasn't so much an issue but the Howard Dean scream, the Muskie tears that did them in. One bad-tempered outburst from Hillary could burst the dam, and bring on all the voter's doubts about her new serene maturity. But I suppose she knows this to.

Posted by: Steve Crickmore on October 27, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

The polls seem to say that Hillary Clinton is way ahead. They mean nothing. Closet Obama voters will decide who will win. I can't tell my neighbors that I like him, but I can vote. Hmmmm.

Posted by: Twelve on October 27, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Pulse Opinion Research
Iowa
Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters
October 23, 2007

1* I'd like you to compare two Presidential tickets. The first ticket is Hillary Clinton as President and an unidentified Southern male as Vice President. The second ticket is Al Gore as President and Barack Obama as Vice President.

Would a Clinton Presidency be more effective, equally effective, or less effective than a Gore-Obama Presidency at securing global cooperation on climate change with India, China, and Russia?

14% More effective
26% Equally effective
41% Less effective
19% Not sure

2* Is a Clinton White House more likely, equally likely, or less likely than a Gore-Obama White House to invade Iran without reason?

16% More likely
40% Equally likely
23% Less likely
20% Not sure

3*Great, is a Clinton Presidency more likely, equally likely, or less likely than a Gore-Obama Presidency to shut down detainee facilities in Guantanamo Bay?

17% More likely
48% Equally likely
14% Less likely
21% Not sure

4* Does a Gore-Obama Presidency have a better chance, equal chance or a worse chance than a Clinton Presidency of reducing global proliferation of loose nuclear weapons?

26% Better chance
43% Equal chance
12% Worse chance
18% Not sure

5* Fine, is a Gore-Obama Presidency more willing, equally willing, or less willing than a Clinton Presidency to risk alienating special interests by reforming Social Security?

23% More willing
42% Equally willing
13% Less willing
23% Not sure

6* Is a Gore-Obama Presidency more likely, equally likely, or less likely than a Clinton Presidency to reduce American dependence on foreign oil?

35% More likely
36% Equally likely
12% Less likely
17% Not sure

7*Okay, would a Gore-Obama Presidency be better, worse, or just as good as a Clinton Presidency for the environment?

46% Better
14% Worse
27% Just as good
14% Not sure

8* Is a Gore-Obama Presidency more likely, equally likely, or less likely than a Clinton Presidency to reduce the total number of abortions in the United States?

12% More likely
53% Equally likely
13% Less likely
22% Not sure

9* Next, would a Clinton Presidency have a greater chance, an equal chance, or a lesser chance than a Gore-Obama Presidency of changing America for the better?

19% Greater chance
36% Equal chance
29% Lesser chance
16% Not sure


10* Is Al Gore less honest, more honest or just as honest as Hillary Clinton?

31% More honest
14% Less honest
43% Just as honest
13% Not sure

NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence

The telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research on October 23, 2007. Pulse Opinion Research, LLC is an independent public opinion research firm using automated polling methodology and procedures licensed from Rasmussen Reports, LLC.

Posted by: Suetonius@religious.com on October 27, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

On the Labor/Labour issue: the AP stylebook says to use "Labor." Since I was raised on AP style, I still default to it.

In general, the comments here about the inheritance tax issue in Britain are correct. I wasn't trying to write a comprehensive post about it, just using it as an example. It was clearly an issue that resonated, and it picked up a lot of steam after Cameron locked onto it. Rising housing prices are certainly a big part of the reason, but more important was the fact that Darling was forced to respond, which meant that the Conservatives were setting the agenda. That's worth a lot, regardless of what the precise proposals on both sides are, and that's what Obama needs to do.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on October 27, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary has lined up everything to let her waltz to the nomination. Obama is her understudy if she stumbles/has a sudden health problem/etc. Assuming she doesn't he probably doesn't want to piss off the person who will be the leader of the party for the next eight years, and if he still wants to be president, he'll need to be the VP hoping for a succession. So don't expect too much in the way of attacks.

One thing I've got to hand to Hillary - she picked exactly the right year to run in. This is the Demacrats' year for the presidency, and she's arranged for it to be her year too. If the Dems can't win the presidency under these circumstances, they may as well hang it up as a political party. (And the country may as well too.)

Obama can only get the nomination if the front-runner lets him. And there's nothing for him to do about it. If I were him I'd concentrate on staying viable as a second choice, and try to win the veepstakes. It's his best shot at getting to the big chair.

Posted by: jimBOB on October 27, 2007 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

jimBOB,

If you look at the poll above, it is much likelier that people simply don't know what Hillary's positions are, like Obama just said. It will not be hard to draw some clear lines on the above mentioned issues now that voters are paying more attention.

Posted by: Suetonius@religious.com on October 27, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Twelve,

Obama voters might be embarrassed to tell their neighbors, but why not pollsters? I thought the problem tended to be the reverse: white voters were likely to exaggerate their support for A-A candidates when polled.

Suetonius,

I'm curious why you think the poll you quote demonstrates that voters don't really know Hillary's positions. Please explain.

Posted by: Blue in IA on October 27, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

An anti-war candidate will never win the presidency, period. If Iraq is going well today, Bush Jr would be a very popular president. Obama voting records and policies are similar to Hillary so what can he argue about? Not much. Edwards already pender to the extreme left anti-war segment of the democratic party so Obama can't go there either.

Keep in mind that Obama has not been challenged yet on his voting records in Il and DC and he has been getting mostly positive press coverage form the MSM.

Posted by: bob on October 27, 2007 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Blue in Iowa: Can't you see the large percentages of "Not sures"?

Not to mention someone who thinks the chance of X and Y are equal is easier to persuade than someone who believes one is likelier than the other.

I also have information you don't. I have the cross-tabs that break down the results, and I'd be happy to send them to Kevin Drum to post.

Posted by: Suetonius@religious.com on October 27, 2007 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Obama would do better if Bush bombs Iran; he would immediately display his strengths of negotiation, peace making, and consensus building (embedded in his DNA) while HRC would quickly morph into Bush Lite, aided a boost from bellicose Bill. An exogenous event such as this is Obama's only hope.

Posted by: Dilbert on October 27, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

AP stylebook says to use "Labor."

The AP stylebook is full of shit, then. The name is the Labour Party. Why disrespect the name by spelling it incorrectly? And after all that whining about the "Democrat Party"?

Posted by: Keith on October 27, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

people simply don't know what Hillary's positions are

The large majority of voters never know what their favored candidates positions are. Only a tiny percentage of the wonkified care about these things. For everyone else, there is a gestalt impression, and that is what candidates win or lose on. Hillary's massive poll leads are based on this more amorphous stuff. You'll never beat her with position papers.

Posted by: jimBOB on October 27, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary's massive poll leads are based on this more amorphous stuff.

The problem with that, though, is people do care whether she'll shut down Gitmo, invade Iran, reform Social Security, reduce the total number of abortions in the nation, etc. Those aren't wonky positions. That's what this election is about. I'd actually like to see the more detailed info.

Posted by: John Taylor on October 27, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes the crude analyses catch it best:

Obama: Highbrow
Hillary: Middlebrow

This is America, middlebrow wins, perplexing the highbrows no end. (Credit Garance Franke Ruta for this insight)

The other crude and compelling analysis:

Hillary: Tough customer. Will fight. Can't be swift boated. Will give as good as she gets.

Obama: When is he going to fight? Does he have the will to power? Is he too idealistic?

In this election Hillary is the safe bet. Her negatives are high, sure, but that is because she has been a target of the right wing noise machine for decades. Her negatives can't go much higher. On the other hand she is unlikely to screw up, so she has a safe 48% going in. To win she only has to persuade a few percent of the electorate. This is doable.

Obama, as an unknown, has higher highs and lower lows. He could win bigger than Hillary, but he could also take a Dukakis-like dive.

These forces may be too strong for Obama to buck. It looks like 2008 is Hillary's year, and Obama has a bright future.

Personally, my dream ticket is Gore / Obama. In the real world, I hope it is Clinton / Obama.

Posted by: tomtom on October 27, 2007 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary isn't middlebrow. Middlebrow America doesn't much like her. That's where her negatives are. That's just bad analysis.

Posted by: Kiara Jurgens on October 28, 2007 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

His saying that he's about to get tough reminds me of Kerry, months before the Swiftboaters weighed in, him blustering that he "wasn't going to stand" any attacks on his service in Vietnam.
I mean, I'M GONNA! I'M REALLY, REALLY GONNA DO IT!

Just DO IT, already.

Posted by: John Crandell on October 28, 2007 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

The only chance of stopping the Hillary coronation is probably a dark horse emerging out of Iowa. Obama and Edwards have sunk too much time and money there to be dark horses and their poll numbers aren't going up anyway. Dodd is a possibility, albeit a slim one.

Damn I wish Gore had gotten in. Hillary will make noises about dealing with the climate crisis, but then people connected with the energy industry will give a lot of money to her campaign war chest and she will quietly adopt ineffective half-measures or drop the issue entirely. If you doubt that, look at her failure to make a clear statement about telecom immunity and ask if that just might have something to do with the fact that she is the largest recipient of telecom cash in the Senate.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago on October 28, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

There is still time!

Posted by: Draft Gore on October 28, 2007 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK

I think he should go big and propose an ambitious mandatory national service program for 18-20 year olds, or 22-24 (post college after deferment): 6 months basic training (military) for all, followed by chosen tracks such as military, Ameri-Corp, Peace Corp, WPA, CCC, etc. This would be unpopular with teenagers, but they won't be voting anyway!

Posted by: Josh Ellsworth on October 28, 2007 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Obama could start by actually taking Senate votes and defending them, instead of slinking off on the difficult ones. He's all could'a would'a, should'a with no there there.

Posted by: Ralph on October 28, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Of course Obama should take the advice of the idiot paid for punditry and MSM and run his campaign according to their suggestions. I'd have more respect for HIM and any other candidate that had positions and stuck to them (there are one or two our there) BUT we sheeple will just be fine with letting the media shape and construct our government as they've been doing so admirably for the past 7 years. READ/THINK/DECIDE for your self...IF you can get any meaningful and accurate information on a candidate. Your never going to have a beer with a president anyhow!

Posted by: Dancer on October 28, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

This is the problem for any Democrat: They have nothing to offer the broad majority of the American electorate. If only middle income votes had been counted in the 2004 election, Bush would have won several more states. The Democrats have locked themselves into where they can only offer tax cuts to people making under $50,000/year, i.e., people who pay hardly any income taxes already. No Democrat could make a proposal like Romney's proposal to eliminate taxes on investment income for incomes under $200,000, a proposal that will have tremendous appeal to many people over 55, people who are living off income from savings.

Illegal immigration is another problem for the Democrats. What if the Republican runs on stopping state governors like Spitzer from giving drivers licenses to people in the country illegally? What will be the Democratic candidate's response? That its "unconstitutional," the same reason Dukakis gave for taking the pledge of allegiance out of the schools?

Democrats have failed at doing anything about the Iraq War and Democratic primary voters in these polls have been so willing to let Clinton off the hook (and Kerry and Edwards, too, in 2004). Doesn't make one feel confident that a Democratic president would be better than a Republican on foreign policy.

Posted by: Karen on October 28, 2007 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary has won the nomination. The horse race is now between Obama and Edwards for Veep. Unless she wants to pick some outsider with military cred like Wes Clark.

Posted by: hollywood on October 28, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Gosh, I think this might be one: how 'bout defending the Constitution and Rule of Law against rampant criminality, most salient right now in the FISA "reform" and TelCom amnesty issue?

Oops. Too late. Dodd now owns that one.

Posted by: oaguabonita on October 28, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Big problem: Hillary's campaign is way too disciplined, organized and proactive to be blindsided. Also, Obama on the attack is a contradiction of the politics of hope he's supposed to be running on. It's a quandary he's boxed himself into.

Posted by: Paula on October 28, 2007 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Later today, I will be posting a 'commentary' on this subject at our "Cactus Juice Commentaries" at our internet web site, www.chicanoveterans.org on the presumption that it would be way too lengthy. So, I am inviting the Obama supporters to come and take a gander. Of course, I expect the Obama supporters to disagree and disagree strenuously.

Respectfully Submitted.

Posted by: Jaango on October 29, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's funny that Obama dares to call Hillary ambiguous on her agenda, since he has been vague all along. He talks of "uniting" and change and hope, and "listens" alot... but what's HIS vision? I back Edwards b/c I know where he stands, I like where he stands, and he's assertive about it.

Posted by: Vaughn on October 29, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

[You will find no bridge here]

Posted by: Captain-Sky on October 29, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I'm not going to challenge or talk about the nature of the US politics here, but you're reading of recent British politics is fundamentally wrong.

Brown got into trouble because he decided to call off a snap election he thought he could win when polls - once the Conservative conference started and the likelihood of a resounding Labour win seemed to recede. As the Brits might say, Brown "bottled it." That was the biggest problem - that he gave the impression he was going to call a snap election and then changed direction immediately he encountered the slightest bit of resistance.

The "flip flop" made him look weak, poll-driven, and indecisive.

The inheritance tax issue was not important or central - only insofar as it was a part of a broader Conservative Party national conference which virtually guaranteed the Conservatives extensive and generally positive media coverage for 4 to 5 days. The effect of this coverage suggested a snap election would not neccessarily be such a sure run thing. But since Brown had already telegraphed that he was probably going to call one, he looked really bad when he decided not to.

This was the issue.

Posted by: Ben P on October 29, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Limit copyright protection. Bring back Napster.

Posted by: tempest49 on October 29, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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