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Tilting at Windmills

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January 21, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE KRUGMAN-OBAMA CAGE MATCH CONTINUES....When Barack Obama's campaign decided to post a bit of oppo trash talking against Paul Krugman on its website, they didn't know what they were getting themselves into. Krugman hasn't let up since, and Matt Yglesias comes to the rescue here. But after performing rhetorical CPR, he adds this:

That said, I'll freely grant that I'm getting a bit tired of defending Obama and his campaign. Stuff like this from Krugman clearly hurts them, but the easiest way to deflect claims that Obama is the more conservative choice would be for Obama to say so himself in a clear and direct way. Given that Clinton is very much running as her husband's wife, it should hardly be impossible to make the case that establishing continuity with the moderate Clinton administration is the moderate choice.

Believe me, I sympathize. But look: Obama has clearly chosen his course, and there's really no way for him to give a wink and a nudge to folks like Matt and me to let us know that he's just kidding about all this kumbaya stuff. After all, it's part of his whole appeal to both independents and moderate conservatives, and his candidacy depends on that. So if you're a liberal in Obama's camp, you just have to cross your fingers and trust him.

Because in the end, this is what it all comes down to. Is Obama kidding or not? Does he really believe that he can enact a progressive agenda by reaching out to Republicans and bridging the red-blue divide, or is he just saying this as a way of shaping public opinion and winning an election? And if he does believe it, is he right?

As a lot of us point out endlessly, both Obama and Hillary Clinton have very similar views on both domestic and foreign policy. Not identical, but pretty close. So really, the key question for progressives ought to be this: Which political style is most likely to advance the cause of progressivism? The soothing, post-partisan Obama style, or the more directly political Clinton style? Can Obama move public opinion in a progressive direction via stealth? Or will the public need something more? I suspect the latter, and it's the reason I continue to have more of a skeptical Krugmanesque attitude toward Obama than an upbeat Yglesias-esque one.

On a related subject, Matt also brings up the electability argument again, suggesting that Obama is more electable than Hillary against an opponent like John McCain because he appeals more to independent voters. And you know what? My gut agrees. But my gut is a well educated, middle class, politically active blogger gut, and that's a pretty small constituency. I'm the classic "wine track" voter of the kind Obama attracts, and I'm also a strong believer that, recent elections to the contrary, the middle is more important than the base in presidential elections.

So this argument appeals to me. Hillary will draw fewer independents than Obama. She'll probably also draw fewer men. And the fever swamp will go absolutely nuts. (Though whether, in the end, that helps or hurts, is hard to say.)

But in the real world, there are lots of other demographic and constituency issues than that. Hillary's strengths are considerable: She'll draw more women than Obama would. She'll draw more Hispanics. Unless things go way off the rails in the next few weeks, she'll draw 90% of the black vote, the same as Obama. She'll appeal more to blue collar workers and union members. She'll draw more of the white vote. She'll appeal more to moderate hawks. She'll be more immune to attacks based on experience.

The electability question — or, more accurately, the coattails question, since I think either candidate can win in November — is worth thinking about. And independents are an important part of it. But they aren't the end of the story, and us white, middle-class, well-educated, wine track technocrats should probably keep that in mind.

Kevin Drum 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (125)

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> Because in the end, this is what it all comes
> down to. Is Obama kidding or not? Does he really
> believe that he can enact a progressive agenda by
> reaching out to Republicans and bridging the
> red-blue divide, or is he just saying this as a
> way of shaping public opinion and winning an
> election? And if he does believe it, is he right?

Everyone likes to talk about Obama's experience as a community organizer in Chicago, but I can tell you that the only time a Chicago community organizer gets anything done is when he cuts a deal with the (Richie) Daley Machine. In other words, sells out to power in order to get crumbs for the people he claims to be helping. So count me as a bit skeptical of the "wink-nudge" theory.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 21, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just the general election that matters. Clinton will never get Republican votes in the Senate. Obama will. He'll need three or four and he'll get them to pass liberal legislation, like health care reform. Clinton will get four years of filibusters and gridlock.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 21, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

My opinion is that ANY of the Democratic field will be a vast improvement the Bush Administration.
That said, I don't want to see Sen. Clinton on the Democratic ticket come November.
I believe that she will have a negative impact on downticket races, because I suspect that Republican voters and leaners will turn out in droves to vote against her. And while in the voting booth, they'll vote Republican for most other races as well.
I see the possibility in that of losing the Senate and a winding up with a smaller majority in the House, even if she manages to pull off a win for the Presidency.

Any-Dem-but-Clinton: lots of Republicans stay home
Clinton: high Republican voter turnout

Posted by: kenga on January 21, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately a Hillary candidacy will also mean a much smaller turn-out of dems at the polls, and a much bigger chance of her being beaten by McCain, since the repugs will come out in droves to avoid another Clinton regime.

Posted by: Dilbert on January 21, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think you misunderstand Matt's point completely. No one is suggesting that Obama should suggest that he is "just kidding" about trying to work with Republicans to enact a progressive policy agenda. What Matt is saying is that he should let voters know that his policy positions -- especially on the war -- are more progressive than Hillary Clinton's. For all the comments about how little difference there is between them, and all the attempts to muddy the waters on this exact question, Obama is clearly less hawkish overall than Clinton.

(Whether Matt's suggestion is a good idea politically is another question entirely. It might be, but I'm not sure...)

Posted by: Alex R on January 21, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Which political style is most likely to advance the cause of progressivism?

We've seen both styles from Hillary. When she had a chance to effect real health care reform, she tried to ram something through, and the result was that the cause of health care reform was set back by many years.

But maybe that was the old Hillary, and we see the new Hillary trying to reach across the aisle when we see her voting for the AUMA (and simultaneously claiming that she wasn't fooled by Bush's lies when he said it wasn't a vote for war, and justifying her vote for it on the basis of Bush saying at the time that it wasn't a vote for war), followed by years of cheerleading for the war and later for the surge, then a nuanced about-face on the issue, without admitting she was ever wrong to support the war, and being very vague about what she'll do to end it -- saying in some contexts that she expects to have troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

I don't think either the old Hillary or the new Hillary would be a good president. I think if she's elected we'll get the old hillary trying to ramrod legislation through congress on domestic issues, and the new Hillary on foreign policy where she tries to out-macho the warmongering GOP so as to avoid appearing weak.

Posted by: bob on January 21, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Alex: But how can Obama do this without losing some independents? This is a standard political problem that every presidential candidate faces, but Obama has it worse than most. If he starts talking about how progressive his policies are, he starts to look more partisan and loses some of his appeal to moderates.

Besides, Obama's domestic policies aren't more progressive than Hillary's. They're less. Only by a bit, but still.

On foreign policy, I agree that he's more progressive than Hillary, though not by a lot. But he's been pushing foreign policy pretty hard as a differentiator, and I'm not sure he has very much farther he can take it.

He's just in a tough boat.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 21, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

The electability question is no question at all. Who will vote for Mr. Clinton who would not also vote for Mr. Obama?

And vice versa.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 21, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be more likely to vote for another Clinton if her name were Chelsea.

Or is that their plan for 2024?

Posted by: craigie on January 21, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I hate that "wine track" label. Can't I be called "microbrew track?"

Posted by: skeptic on January 21, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Wireless hub track?

Posted by: craigie on January 21, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Guess what, somebody clued in Independents and Republicans to Obama's progressive streak.

Obama has a reputation for being more liberal than Hillary among the crossover voters I know. Yet they would vote for him anyway. Something about "gridlock" and "what's best for the country".

Go figure!!

Posted by: Lucy on January 21, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is the more conservative choice

Kevin, your argument is weak. If you want to know that Obama is more liberal than Hillary, just compare their voting records in the Senate. Obama is certainly more liberal. And if you don't know his policy positions, look at his website. His policy positions are certainly at least as liberal as Hillary's.
Your problem with Obama boils down to he is not angry enough with conservatives and Bush. But the attraction of Obama to independents and moderates is he can express liberal values without sounding angry. He is able to take conservative points of view and express them as his own or politely disagree with them. This is what he was doing with Ronald Reagan several days ago. This is what he is doing when he supports merit pay for teachers. Obama is less about framing and partisanship and more about unity with Americans in a common purpose.

Posted by: Al on January 21, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Either Obama or Clinton will win against anybody the Republicans float. What is still not clear to me is the effect on the down-ticket races. I think Clinton would prompt more ticket splitting, meaning less gains in the House and Senate.

Posted by: F. Frederson on January 21, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your gut is right. HRC is the one factor that can truly energize a demoralized and divided Republican party base this year. They see her as a secret socialist power hungry liar who must be stopped at all costs. Whatever else they disagree on, they all agree on that. It will be a crusade.

HRC likes to say that she's taken all the right wing punches and she's still standing. She's standing, but she's deeply and irreparably damaged as a general election candidate. Nearly half the entire American electorate is primed to believe the worst about her. You may say that they will try to do the same thing this to Obama, but it is simply not possible within a 10 month time span to instill a message and an emotion as deeply and broadly as the anti-Hillary reflex among the Republican right wing.

She has zero ability to appeal to Republicans. She will lose massively among Independents. And, if the Republicans nominate McCain, she will hemhorrage male Democrats.

Why didn't the Democrats come together around ANYONE ELSE? Richardson! Biden! Dodd! ANY one of our candidates (other than Kucinich or Gravel) would have been better in a general election than Hillary Clinton. She will be an albatross on the whole party. Nobody else starts out so far behind in non-Democratic hearts and minds as she does.

Posted by: Fran on January 21, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Bob (and others) on this one. All the talk of Hillary as a successful policy wonk is a mystery to me since her most notable actions either totally failed (Health Care) or enabled a cowboy president to jump into a disastrous war. Neither style worked and I've seen precious little evidence to suggest that she's learned anything from those clear failures.

I'll put it this way: HRC's idea of "bipartisanship" was to vote for the Iraq war and support it up to the point that it became politically unfeasible at which point she shifted her view to fit the majority opinion in America.

Obama's strategy is to build bipartisanship around progressive ideas and make small compromises to see those ideas reach fruition. I don't believe he'll sell out his ideas just for the sake of bipartisanship. I could be wrong. But we already know that HRC will.

Also, I don't get how the "experience" message resonates at all. We only have to think back to Bill's experience with the GOP in the 90's to see that next Clinton presidency will be fought tooth and nail by the GOP machine. A vote for HRC is a vote for gridlock. People who suggest otherwise vastly underestimate GOP hatred toward the Clintons.

Remember, its the same party that used rumor and innuendo to launch a bogus investigation eventually ending with a stained dress and congressional sanction. These people have no decency and hope for restraint against HRC is a fantasy world.

Posted by: Nobcentral on January 21, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Unless things go way off the rails in the next few weeks, she'll draw 90% of the black vote, the same as Obama.

True, but the African American turnout will be much greater if Obama is the candidate.


Posted by: aaron aardvarka on January 21, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

People who use the "kumbaya" meme against Obama are appearing increasingly obtuse - probably deliberately so.

And anyone who doesn't understand that Bill "The era of big government is over" Clinton isn't the embodiment of Obama's point about Reagan having re-framed "conventional wisdom" flunkis Political Science 101. I'd expect better from Kevin than this stuff. (Krugman isn't politically sophisticated either - he's a technocrat who claimed "I'm not that liberal" just a few years ago who found religion when he got freaked out by Bush and, like a lot of newcomers to whatever faith, isn't good at political nuance. He judges candidates by their policy pronouncements in a primary - which is a fool's errand.)

The truth about the Reagan brouhaha is that Bill Clinton is a hopeless hypocrete - he ran as a "tough on crime" (to the extreme of making a show of overseeing the execution of a mentally deficient murderer during his campaign), was a straight-up Democratic Leadership Council guy (a group which was predicated on controlling the "excesses" of '60s and '70's liberalism), and pledged to "end welfare as we know it." This is pretty basic stuff, and not to hear it discussed by alleged political sophisticates - in favor of bullshit memes like "kumbaya - is distressing. In the same interview that Obama was, off the cuff, discussing Reagan that got quoted, he also put forward his consistent progressive agenda of using government to help those who most need it. Repeating Clinton talking points - especially when they're wholly disingenuous and historically revisionist - isn't credible. Just endorse Hillary and be done with it, Mr. Drum, if that's where your heart takes you. But enough with the reductionist nonsense.

Posted by: brucds on January 21, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

My problem with Obama and his 'conservative' comments is that they demonstrate a poor ability to actually reach out to moderates. Instead of saying dumb things about Social Security or praising Reagan (for things Reagan didn't do) he should be identifing the issues that moderates and moderate conservatives identify with and speaking to those.

There would be nothing wrong with him praising personal effort, individual responsibility and saying nice things about small business. But to make some utterly loopy comment about Reagan shows that he CAN'T reach across to others and find common ground.

He's been surprisingly inept at the practical issues of trying to find common ground with ordinary people.

Posted by: JohnN on January 21, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Hillary will draw fewer independents than Obama. She'll probably also draw fewer men. And the fever swamp will go absolutely nuts."

There's a contradiction here, in that the more the fever swamp disses her next Fall, the more indy women and men will support her.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on January 21, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

These electabiliity arguments never fail to produce the worst candidates.

Why would Dems turn out for Obama and not Hillary when Obama spends half his time trashing us? And I'm not sure why anyone believes that Obama won't be smeared with new shocking stuff before all is said and done.

Posted by: Jon on January 21, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary already proved that she can work with Republicans and she has done so as senator.
Obama is overated and a cry baby enough said.

Posted by: Stella on January 21, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I am a perfect demographic for Obama; yet I support Hillary. It has nothing to do with who is more liberal or electable; it has to do with gut and determination. While Obama is singing nice platitudes of SAA reform or Reagan, Hillary is in the trenches trying to get every vote she can; about Nevada's shennigans? It is troubling and does need some investigation, but and I am sure there are a lot of exaggerations. So it is primary season and people say a lot of things; what matters is the end result- in that sense I see a Hillary/Obama ticket as inevitable.

Posted by: Raoul on January 21, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum, please provide us in detail your evidence for saying HRC is more progressive than BO. Enough talk, show your readers the proof.

Posted by: GOD on January 21, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Obama: "Republicans were the party of ideas for the last 10 or 15 years" and that Reagan changed the ideological landscape in ways that Nixon or Clinton did not"
Rep. Barney Frank responds with indignation, listing,
Medicaid, Medicare, the Environmental Protection Agency, Community Development Block Grants

Obama will.[get Republican votes in the Senate.] ....Gary Sugar at 1:37 PM

What has his record been on that in the time he has been a US Senator? Has his stirring rhetoric moved the hard-hearted and overcome filibusters?
His record in the senate has not been exceptional while he record in the Illinois legislature is less than courageous
The Republican and media slime machines have concentrated on getting Clinton defeated. Once that is accomplished they will start on Obama and, by the time they're done, even his supporters won't be thrilled with him.

Posted by: Mike on January 21, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

"The more the fever swamp disses her next Fall, the more indy women and men will support her."

Did it work out that way when Kerry was swift-boated? I didn't notice indy women and men flocking to Kerry after those attacks, did you?

Unfortunately, attacks work. The Clintons understand this well.

Posted by: Fran on January 21, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK


What did the losers have in common? They were all 'competent' politicians with a fairly tight grip on the interest groups and the machine, and yet they lacked the personality and the vision to pull it all together.

Why did Clinton win? People liked him more.

Which group does Clinton II belong to?

Posted by: lampwick on January 21, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

And, if the Republicans nominate McCain, she will hemhorrage male Democrats.

I don't consider myself a Democrat, although I prefer the Democratic nominees over the GOP nominees across the board. I'd hold my nose and vote for Hillary if the other choice is Huck or Giuliani (or, in some alternate universe, Ron Paul).

If it's a choice between Obama and any of the GOP nominees, I'll go for Obama in a heartbeat. He'd be the first Democratic candidate I could be enthusiastic about in as long as I can remember. I've voted for other Democratic candidates, including both Gore and Kerry, but that wasn't because I had any enthusiasm for their candidacy, it was because around 99.999% of the eligible population would make a better president than Bush.

If it's a choice between McCain and Hillary, it's a tough call. Both would be deeply-flawed presidents IMO. Both would tend to get us involved in avoidable wars, based on their respective cheerleading for Bush's wars. McCain is hard to figure out, but the hard-core wingers don't like him on a lot of issues, so he might end up having to compromise with the Democrats on a lot of issues. There's a good chance that he'd be a single-term president because of his age, so that's a chance that Obama might be able to run again in four years rather than eight.

If it's McCain vs. Hillary, I'd probably just not vote, because I wouldn't see either outcome as clearly more desirable than the other.

Posted by: bob on January 21, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty convinced that either Hillary or Obama will beat McCain or Romney, or whoever wins the GOP nomination.

So IMHO, the 'electability' argument ought to focus on their effect on down-ticket races. My gut feeling is that Obama's got a better chance of winning big, and lifting a few more Dems into the Senate than Hillary might.

And that would be important. If the next President has 58 Democratic Senators rather than 55, s/he only has to win two Republicans over, rather than five, on any cloture vote. Two is going to be do-able a lot more often than five.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 21, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

When one looks at Obama's actual voting record, in Illinois and in the U.S. Senate, it certainly seems like a progressive record. And when he goes before an older, religious black audience and states that gays, Jews ,and atheists should be embraced because they're being persecuted in the ways that blacks once were (and still are), that seems like a progressive mindset to me.

It just baffles me that so many people are looking at this guy and seeing something more conservative. When he talked about Reagan being popular, many liberal opinion leaders are getting up in arms. But it's true! Reagan is popular. His elections were crushing successes, and a lot of that came by chipping off solid chunks of the Democratic electorate. If a candidate can bring those people back into the fold without compromising his progressive positions on issues (which I see no evidence Obama has done), then that's a good thing. When he co-opted right wing framing points (in re Social Security), he did it explicitly in the context of presenting a progressive fix to the problem in the form of raising the payroll tax caps -- the same thing that has long been pushed in favor of here and in most other liberal arguments. Is this not a good thing? If a progressive candidate can steal Republican frames and use them to advance a liberal agenda, how is this a bad thing? Really baffled here. I know, Kevin, that you've also long commented on Republican successes in framing and how this helps them sell their agenda.

It's not necessary to listen for dog whistles or coded messages about Obama's progressive credentials. It's right there in his policy positions (which are not, in total, more conservative than Senator Clinton's, though some are in marginal amounts). And progressives would reject these because he's finding success at selling progressive solutions by stealing the Republican talking points? Look, the populace thinks Social Security is in jeopardy. It has long thought so. It's been told so for years and Democrats have made virtually no efforts to fight this meme and convince the public otherwise. So now they're convinced. So what's a good candidate to do? I see three solutions: A) ignore the situation entirely (which hardly seems like a good solution; voters don't like having their concerns ignored); B) spend vigorous effort and time and money trying to convince people that there is no crisis and only minor fixes are needed (a great mug's game); or C) turn the right wing hot air machine on its head, use the support they've ginned up amongst the populace, and agree that there's a serious problem, action is needed, and then push through a progressive resolution. Why is this so hard to get?

Posted by: jbryan on January 21, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Lampwick, we can also add in Walter Mondale, too.

The whole dynamic of this race is quite similar to Mondale/Hart. Mondale will win again, too. It doesn't matter whether there's any "beef" there or not; Donna Rice is equally inconsequential. The party establishment always gets its guy (or gal) when it can get together and get behind someone.

And it will be the same this year. An uninspiring machine politician with no ability to reach out beyond the party base will be our nominee. I'll just have to hope we don't get slaughtered--in a year in which every possible star is aligned in favor of the Democratic party.

Democrats are nothing if not self destructive.

Posted by: Fran on January 21, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Clinton will never get Republican votes in the Senate."

I think this is directly and materially wrong. Senator Clinton HAS got Republican votes in the Senate on some of her chosen initiatives.

How can she possibly be both Republican-Lite and anathema to the right? My conclusion: she isn't.

My personal take is that she can be pretty accomodating when it's appropriate. That was Bill's style. That is exactly the quality the pisses of the right. I will not be intimidated by the likes of Newt, etc.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on January 21, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Come on Kevin. You are (and will continue to be) one of my favorite writers/bloggers, but this is really getting tiring.

Enough with the (out-dated and frequently rebutted) references to Obama's political philosophy as "kumbaya." That is such an over simplification of what he is trying to do, and what he has accomplished in the past, that it really is beneath someone with your proven capacity for thoughtful political analysis.

Obama clearly believes that he can reach more Americans and bring more voters under the wing of the Democratic Party (and behind progressive goals and objectives) by sounding less like a "typical" progressive or "typical" (or establishment) Democratic Party candidate.

He also clearly believes that he can build valuable trust and respect with some members of the opposition (not the political hacks mind you or movement conservatives) by first building consensus on less controversial issues, like (for example) government transparency.

By referring to his politics or campaign as "kumbaya" you lump Obama in with those who seek bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship, like David Broder and Joe Lieberman.

Obama has consistently, throughout his ten years as a legislator, used his form of bipartisanship and outreach as a tool to accomplish progressive ends.

Also Kevin , I think it is sort of silly to suggest that Dr. Krugman only really started attacking Obama after the Obama campaign dared to compare two of his op-eds and demonstrating a stark change in Krugman's tone towards Obama's candidacy. Remember that Krugman had already published an (overly dramatic) op-ed attacking Obama for daring to even raise the issue of Social Security, in which Krugam (in the title of his op-ed) referred to Obama as a "Sucker."

And to this day I fail to understand how comparing one of Dr. Krugam's op-eds to another should be considered "oppo-research."

Also, rather than blaming Obama for Krugman's wrath, should it not be prudent to ask if Krugman is in the even in the right here? He continues to almost purposefully misunderstand Obama and his political philosophy, and continues to attack Obama for not talking in a manner that Krugman finds to be worthy of a progressive candidate.

Also, is it not strange that Krugman repeatedly attacks Obama for adopting Right-wing talking points but completely ignores when Sen. clinton attacks Obama (dishonestly) for supporting a "trillion dollar tax increase" on the middle class (a true Right-wing talking point if there ever was one). Krugman also refuses to raise Clinton's 2002 vote giving the President the authorization to go to war in Iraq, or her vote for the Kyle Lieberman resolution in 2007.

In this sense Kevin, your (quasi) defense of Dr. Krugman amounts to nothing less than he said/she said analysis of his attacks on Obama, with most of them focused on nothing more than (and a misreading of) Obama's rhetoric; while at the same time ignoring Sen. Clinton's very real lack of progressivism on matters of foreign policy, which have had very real and disastrous consequences.

Posted by: Aaron M on January 21, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Well, maybe one reason they see something more conservative is Obama's going on the record about being willing to invite Republicans into his cabinet, his totally unjustified praise of Reagan compared to Democrats, his emphasizing his willingness to work with Republicans (= enacting part of the Republican agenda; how progressive is that?) and so forth. I see someone who is either not that progressive or is going to get seriously rolled.

Yeah, let's leave some Republicans in charge of the EPA and Labor, sounds real progressive to me. I'd trade two Democratic senators for two progressive Democratic heads of those two bureaucracies in a heartbeat (as long as the department heads couldn't be removed.)

Posted by: John on January 21, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Aaron M: People like Kevin Drum and Krugman are not interested in fairness. All they want is to paint Obama in a certain way and ignore the facts.
It's all part of the 'fairy tale' allegory of Obama that's been making the rounds with HRC supporters.

I'm still waiting for you Kevin to show me the 'beef' on this progressive thing you talked about. Enough of the token pseudo pro-Obama posts your throw your readers once in a while. Why not do your job and lay out the positions of the candidates on a whole variety of issues.

Posted by: GOD on January 21, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

If a Democrat wins the White House he/she won't need GOP votes as both houses are already in Democratic hands and appear likely to stay that way. The Democratic Congress won't have George Bush to hide behind as to why nothing is getting done.

Posted by: aline on January 21, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

You've lost your natural-born mind if you believe the Clintons will draw 90% of the black vote. They haven't just burned the bridge to the African-American vote, they've thrown a grenade on it and it will NOT come back.

She's has already sacrificed the general election in order to win the nomination. No amount of 8 paragraph soliloquies will change that. She's also losing the YOUTH vote.

This is non-debatable. Hillary will draw the bare minimum of democratic votes. Obama would draw all-time high turnouts all over the country.

Posted by: Luv on January 21, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

So this argument appeals to me. Hillary will draw fewer independents than Obama. She'll probably also draw fewer men. And the fever swamp will go absolutely nuts. (Though whether, in the end, that helps or hurts, is hard to say.)

But in the real world, there are lots of other demographic and constituency issues than that.

I dunno. If she's drawing fewer independents and fewer men, doesn't it come down to her having to make up the difference with liberal women?

I'm not saying she couldn't. But if she did do better that way, it wouldn't seem to have much to do with drawing more whites, blue collar people, union members, or any of the other constituencies you mentioned except "women".

Posted by: Royko on January 21, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Er, "But in the real world, there are lots of other demographic and constituency issues than that." should have also been italicized.

Posted by: Royko on January 21, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

jbryan couldn't have said it better. If the goal is to move progressive ideas forward and implement progressive policies, who cares how the issues are framed?

Many liberal bloggers seem to want antagonistic confrontation. While that might pad a politician's liberal street-cred, the chances of it actually resulting in the implementation of progressive policies is slim-to-none.

If Obama is able to acknowledge Republican talking-points only to turn them on their head with progressive solutions......what's everyone crying about?

Posted by: Dan on January 21, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Obama did not praise Reagan, he buried Clinton!

How many of you have bothered to even listen to what he said? Few it would seem.

Posted by: ME on January 21, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK


This is an excellent post, and it's the first time I feel you have clearly explained why a Clinton vote may be as safe in the general election as an Obama vote.

I remain unconvinced. Putting aside our demographics, elections on a fundamental level are about appeal and personality. That being the case, a candidate with charm and charisma will generally do better than a candidate who comes across as canned and prefabricated. Democrats NEVER seem to understand this, hence the nominations of Gore and Kerry.

It's fairly basic. He's more appealing and that's why he'll do better in the general election. Why on earth make it more complicated?

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on January 21, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I like both Hillary and Barack. For me, ideally, they would be on the same ticket this year! I hear the concerns of the various commenters here that Hillary at the top of the ticket will increase turnout among Republicans and that it might hurt Democrats in the marginal districts!

I think there is a similar risk with Obama that people are underestiamting! I work with several staunch Republicans. They all hate Hillary but they all equally hate Obama. Why? because, these Republicans are convinced he is a muslim Manchurian candidate. I have argued with them many times that this is nonsense to no avail. There is also another thing at work here something they won't explicitly acknowledge. That is the fact he is an African American. While we Democrats celebrate this, I don't think Republicans do.

If Obama is the nominee, the conservative attack machine will crank-up (the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Bill Bennett, etc) its volume and will go after him for a full 8 months and they will send droves of their right wing Republican bretheren to the polls!

My point is that whoever is the Democratic nominee Hillary or Obama or Edwards they will do this our candidate! They are very good at drumming up mock outrage and anger against our candidates!

I don't think we can make any judgement now on which candidate will bring out Republicans and which candidate will not. Republicans are used to power and won't give it up easily!

Posted by: Long Time Democrat on January 21, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama's going on the record about being willing to invite Republicans into his cabinet"

You mean like Clinton's Defense Secretary William Cohen.

And of course Hillary touts her great work in the Senate passing bipartisan bills with John McCain and Lindsey Graham no less.

You Clintonistas need to re-enter the realm of reality. The fervor coming out of the recycle bin is beginning to make you all look more than a bit daft.

Posted by: brucds on January 21, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I am going to choke, whether with laughter or bile or both I don't yet know, when Hillary appoints Joe Lieberman to her Cabinet.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 21, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama is the nominee, the conservative attack machine will crank-up (the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Bill Bennett, etc) its volume and will go after him for a full 8 months and they will send droves of their right wing Republican bretheren to the polls!

Of course they will. But these sorts of attacks work against some politicians; they don't work against others. At the conclusion of Bill's presidency at the end of the nineties, he remained popular -- his wife wasn't. Why? Because people liked Bill, and they didn't like Hillary.

Obama has a compelling personality. Hillary isn't widely liked; her negatives are huge and, contra Kevin's longtime assertion that these would plummet back to earth as she reintroduced herself to voters who would discover she isn't the nasty person they remembered... they've stayed higher than anyone else's. And they'll remain that high, because, unfortunately, a whole lot of people outside of the party simply don't like her. And even then, many of the people inside the party like her because of her husband.

Yeah, yeah, it's not fair. And it's a horrible sign for democracy that elections can be so driven by personal considerations and candidate stories and how funny and likable a person is. But there it is all the same.

Posted by: jbryan on January 21, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

No one would ever mistake me for a fan of Barack Obama. However, in perfect fairness to his "let's-bring-people-together" approach I'd point out that in the one real trial we've seen of now-Sen. Clinton's alternative, done the way Hillary Clinton wanted to do it, her husband's administration tried to address the health care problem and ended up getting nothing done.

Of course, it wasn't her fault. In the world of the Clintons, nothing is ever their fault. All I'm saying is that it might be wise to look past the campaign spin about Sen. Clinton's vast experience that the obedience-trained media is now dutifully recycling and consider what she has actually accomplished in government -- which is not substantially more than Sen. Obama has accomplished, with fewer resources and without the advantages available to someone married to the President of the United States.

Posted by: Zathras on January 21, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK
(= enacting part of the Republican agenda; how progressive is that?)

You mean like NAFTA and Welfare Reform?

Posted by: kenga on January 21, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK


So why don't we just nominate John Edwards and not agonize over the mythical Clinton/Obama choice? You posted a link to a Pew poll from last spring that showed Edwards as being exactly in sync with the average Democrat... maybe we average Democrats should be supporting him.

Posted by: Jim on January 21, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

We can win, but likely barely, with Clinton (even though I gag at the thought).

We can win HUGE with Obama.

We might win somewhere in the middle with a Hillary-Obama ticket, strange as that thought might be. That is of course provided the ex effing President can shut his mouth, or is sent on a permanent mission to an Arkansaw brothel.

Enough said.

Posted by: manfred on January 21, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Obama, HRC, are those people Democrats? Yes? Harry Truman must be rolling over in his grave.

Of course Mr. Nobody sounds like a Democrat. Not that his Senate voting record backs up the rhetoric, but hey, at least rhetoric is a start - the other two don't even give you that.

Posted by: alex on January 21, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

G-d forbid Cranky!

And it's my understanding that Paul Krugman got more liberal in the same way that Norma Desmond got bigger. That is, they didn't, but their contexts changed.

It's very hard to vote for anyone that says outloud that they disagree with me on some of the more important issues. I know it's not very politic of me not to recognize the winking and nudging and the insistence that this person is really a liberal progressive.

I think that I may stay home or vote for the Green Candidate. Why contribute to a Democratic President that will roll back the country some more?

Posted by: jerry on January 21, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

The media has kept that race crap going. Anyone who misunderstood what Bill or Hillary said is a fool. I'll vote for the party's nominee. Anyone who does otherwise is probably a closeted Republican.

Posted by: Patty on January 21, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

They are both deeply flawed candidates for a variety of reasons, both internal, and external--and both of them antagonize multiple voting blocs.

I only hope Edwards stays in long enough for people to realize this.

Posted by: amberglow on January 21, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK


It's important to say now that I will vote for a different candidate altogether so that people will not take my vote for either Obama or Clinton for granted.

So that's my final offer Barack -- can the Democratic bashing or I'm voting Green. And as for you Clinton, let's have a bit less war mongering from here on in.

Posted by: jerry on January 21, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK
....They haven't just burned the bridge to the African-American vote, they've thrown a grenade on it and it will NOT come back....: Luv at 2:44 PM
Puh-leeeeze. You're becoming ridiculous.
he buried Clinton!....ME at 3:01 PM
While belittling a two term Democrat may gain points with Independents, it's hardly reassuring when he attacks a moderate from the right.
We can win HUGE with Obama....manfred at 3:28 PM
Sure, if your opponent is Alan Keyes
....Obama has a compelling personality...jbryan at 3:20 PM

Here's a nice story (via Corrente) about Obama and Alice Palmer
....The day after New Year’s 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city’s South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama’s four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot....His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.
A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it....

This is raw, naked ambition and it is not pretty.

Posted by: Mike on January 21, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Thr ruthless Kumbaya singer - good attack Mike.

Posted by: wks on January 21, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Nader is saying today he will decide soon on a run in 2008. So that's it Obama/Clinton. More pandering and convincing me you two are no different than Romney, and I'll be voting Nader.

Posted by: jerry on January 21, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

I live in (very) red state, rural Indiana. I don't know one other person who reads blogs except me. They are blissfully and totally unaware of all this analysis going on. They are the "beer-drinking" element of the Dem - and Republican - parties.

Most of the Republican males, as well as a significant number or Dem men, hate Hillary, that's true, and they'll never vote for a woman. But you'd be surprised how many Republican women will vote for her (sisterhood is powerful). But, if you think these guys, Republicans or Democrats are impressed by what they see as an airy-fairy Ivy League "wine-drinking" African American man, think again. It isn't that he's black - in our all-white factory, years ago, Jesse Jackson won our informal straw poll - that's because people were convinced Jesse cared about working folks like us. They don't feel that way about Obama.

I know we all obsess over every word these candidates say but that's not the way it is in the real world. They vote on practical issues. For the Democrats in these parts, that means "it's the economy, stupid," and they believe the Clintons have a track record in that regard.

There were good times around here when the Clinton's were in the White House. Everyone who wanted a job, had one. They'd like to see those times again. That's why I believe Hillary will win.

I don't know what

Posted by: Vicki Williams on January 21, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

After reading the comments of Matt Yglesias, I followed the link to Krugman expecting to find that Krugman had overstated his case. But I agree 100 percent with Krugman. The Reagan narrative as created by his worshipers has been at least partly accepted by Obama.

Reagan exacerbated partisanship and division of the country by race. Suddenly, you had a whopping 90 percent of African Americans voting Democratic, against Reagan whom they rightly perceived as anti-civil rights. Suddenly, you had huge majorities of Whites Southerners voting Republican. Reagan absolutely capitalized upon a white backlash to the Civil Rights movement and he was very divisive. It is totally ironic to see Obama describe Reagan as an effective leader (without agreeing with his policies) when Reagan was so different from the kind of politician Obama aspires to be.

By the end of Reagan’s term, not only was the country more divided along lines that proven to be very persistent, but many of his supporters were openly admitting that they did not care so much that he failed to make progress toward many of his “conservative” goals, such as smaller government and lower deficits. By the end of Reagan’s terms, many conservatives were taking solace in the fact that his huge deficits tied the hands of liberal politicians who wanted to spend money on something other than the Department of Defense.

The Democrats in Congress who supported Reagan were hardly the result of an effort toward bipartisanship. They were the Bole Weevils, a group of 45 conservative Southern Democrats, led my Congressman at the time, Sonny Montgomery, who supported Reagan more reliably than even his Republican supporters. These people and their supporters, during the Reagan years, were converting to the Republican Party in droves. They are still conservative republicans and they will not support a Democrat or progressive democrat initiatives.

I think all this would be more prominent in the writings of Matt Yglesias if he were not so obsessed with selling the equation that a vote of yea on the Iraq AUMF = a vote to invade and plunder Iraq = an unbridled pro-war disposition.

Posted by: little ole jim on January 21, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Let me see, how much conventional wisdom about Obama do I spy in Kevin's post:

"oppo trash talking" Interesting description of a non-commentary comparative view of Krugman's remarks.

there's really no way for him to give a wink and a nudge to folks like Matt and me to let us know that he's just kidding about all this kumbaya stuff.

Wink, nudge? Kumbaya? Obama is explicit about his liberal agenda. His rhetoric is supported by a record that attests to his ability to massage the opposition into supporting his initiatives. Much has been written about this, yet Obama is cast as the coy stealth candidate.

Is Obama kidding or not? Does he really believe that he can enact a progressive agenda by reaching out to Republicans and bridging the red-blue divide, or is he just saying this as a way of shaping public opinion and winning an election? And if he does believe it, is he right?

See above.

she'll draw 90% of the black vote, the same as Obama.

Can we hold you to that?!

She'll appeal more to blue collar workers and union members. She'll draw more of the white vote. She'll appeal more to moderate hawks. She'll be more immune to attacks based on experience.

OK, that much seems indisputable. Maybe Obama isn't as electable as I think he is, and maybe Hillary isn't as unelectable as I think she is, but if I'm going to cross my fingers and jump I'd rather go with the, you know, "non-bickering candidate".

Posted by: Lucy on January 21, 2008 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Obama will lose badly in the general election. You are all in progressive fairy tale land.

Posted by: calvin on January 21, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Oprah and voting on skin color.

Posted by: Luther on January 21, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

There were good times around here when the Clinton's were in the White House. Everyone who wanted a job, had one. They'd like to see those times again. That's why I believe Hillary will win. - Vicki Williams

I see that dynamic becoming more pronounced as the economy tanks during the year. It will reinforce nostalgia for better times. There are a lot of people that complain about the Bush-Clinton dynasty, etc., but you've got the inverse of that here. Voters may start viewing the Clintons as a known quantity that was better. The generational issue will become more pronounced in a bad economy as well. There are a LOT of boomers that are queuing up for retirement and they are going to see their 401K's go to shit and they are going to be mad as hell and ready to vote for a Democrat.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 21, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Harvard boy and Kevin's memory problem.

...isn't as good as Hillary Clinton's? That's what I remember.

Jeebus, didn't Hillary health get it's BO from Edwards hard productive sweat?

Why yes it did.

Matt could remember his face if it bit him in his back side. Hey, that's what I remember and I always remember it right, so does Matt every remember to flush the toilet after every use? I bet not.

Posted by: me-again on January 21, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

er I mean "couldn't".

Posted by: me-again on January 21, 2008 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

In terms of Clinton's "broad support" where is the evidence for this in recent primary elections?

In which case has she actually received strong support from a group which has not reliably voted for the Democratic party the past 20 years? (And she may well be alienating a significant part of the base as well with some of her electioneering tactics).

I think anyone who believes that Clinton has cross-over appeal amongst independents and even some more moderate GOP voters (except highly educated GOP leaning women over the age of 60 -- a narrow demographic) are fooling themselves.

In terms of the 2006 vote, one thing that is important to keep in mind is that each of the Democratic winners was tailored to the quirks of each state (a pro-life Democrat in Pennsylvania in Casey; a former-Reagan administration official in Jim Webb in Virginia; Jon Tester a farmer with a buzz cut in Montana). That is micro-targeting in a big way.

Even in a case like Virginia, which I know pretty well, I can understand perfectly well why Hillary Clinton was not rolled out in 2006 to Get out the Vote throughout the state. The Webb campaign relied on Obama's help in late September in Northern Virginia; and downstate in October and Novemeber.

The Clinton role was much more behind the scenes at the late stages of the election in terms of fundraising (Hillary Clinton held a closed fundraiser at a restaurant in Northern Virginia; later Bill Clinton headlined a big Northern Virginia fundraiser. Later BILL also spoke to rally Northern Virginia Democrats the night before election night in Alexandria).

In terms of a general election candidate, Obama hands down has a much better growth potential. As someone pointed out to me -- while Clinton might even win Florida -- it is conceivable that her nomination could actually jeopardize the Democrats chances of winning Blue leaning places like Pennsylvania and Oregon; never mind the battleground states along the Mason-Dixon line.

The x-factors are who the GOP nominee is, and whether there is an independent candidate in the race as well.

Even putting these aside, if a candidate cannot win a majority of the independent vote in most battle ground states, that means the candidate will need to get 1. substantial cross over support from the GOP; or 2. massive turnout from the party base -- preferably both.

There's a lot of time between now and November, but right now I don't see either of those scenarios playing out for a Clinton general election candidacy.

Posted by: Franklin on January 21, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

"There are a LOT of boomers that are queuing up for retirement and they are going to see their 401K's go to shit ..." by Doc

Don't know about you Doc, but last week my 401K went to shit. It's not going, it's gone!

Last time that happened was in 2001, just after someone who spouted platitude throughout his whole campaing, won.

Likeablility, schmikablility, I don't want a candidate who I feel like having a beer (or wine) with. I want a candidate who can fix the problems.

Doc is right, if the economy keeps tanking us boomers are going to go to the polls in masses and drown out them young whippersnappers who have the audacity to hope.

Posted by: optical weenie on January 21, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

John Edwards for President -- Because you know he's a phony, but so are the others and besides he's got a nice haircut and a great smile and says all the right things!


Posted by: MarkH on January 21, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

You call that blogging? Here are two huge factors you completely missed:

1) Clinton energizes the republican base. They will show up in larger numbers to defeat what they see as evil.

2) Obama energizes youth and those who haven't bothered to vote in the past. They'll stay home for Hillary.

Posted by: optimyst on January 21, 2008 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

"She'll be more immune to attacks based on experience."

what does that MEAN? is it because she has less? is it because her extra two years in the u.s. senate have given her a chance to get some really awful votes out of her system? what? what? what?

Given that obama has held elective office for several years more than hrc, i just don't get the whole experience thing.

if you could make a post explaining to me and a multitude of my friends and relatives who are currently favoring obama and donating money to his campaign why you, and a few other mid-left bloggers, seem to think that hrc has more experience than obama, we would greatly appreciate it, because on it's face it make no sense at all.


Posted by: freestone on January 21, 2008 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

I still can't believe that so many "progressives" keep missing the forest for the trees. Obama's candidacy is based on the premise of uniting the progressive base while drawing meaningful numbers of moderates and Republicans into his tent as well. If Obama succeeds in garnering the nomination, the next phase of his campaign will commence, and this phase will be all about having other Congressional candidates joining his coalition and replacing as many obstructionist Republicans as can be swept out in a watershed election.

This is why Obama's rhetoric is peppered with "we's" and "us'es". He has no intention of moving the current Congress. His plan is to build a national coalition of the willing, to transform politics from a majority position, not as beggars and barterers as is this Congress. Attacks from liberals on Obama will lessen his ability to grow the coalition and increases the likelihood that a Hillary-led ticket will cause the Democrats to lose one if not both houses, regardless if Hillary can garner one vote more than her opposition does for the Presidency. Its a different game that Obama's playing, and its a shame the Clintons never thought of doing the same thing when they had the power to do so back in the 90s.

Posted by: tonyroma on January 21, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

My feeling is that Hillary will become the next president. The economy is tanking pretty badly. Many people who are ambivalent towards Hillary will end up voting for her based on her perceived strength on the economy.

Posted by: ppk on January 21, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a 51 year old African-American female. I've been a registered voter since I was 18 years old and I've voted in every Presidential election not to mention my local and state elections no matter where my family has lived. I'm a life long dem. If Hillary Clinton is the dems. nominee, I will vote for anyone else but Hillary. Enough of the Clintons. There would be just one continuous scandal after another. Anyone who is supporting Hillary must have a bad memory. The Clintons wore this country down with all of their bad behavior. Hillary must be a very desperate woman to want to ride the coattails of a man who embarrased her publicly as Bill did. I fully support Sen. Obama and one of the previous writers was right, they have burned their bridges with this African-American voter. The Clintons are counting on the ignorance of certain black people to carry them through. But to the members of my community, it is time to get off the Clinton Plantation. Come out and vote for an honorable man.

Posted by: Lynn on January 21, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, so you're not going to become an attack dog for the Clintons as well heh. I like how you and Krugman have quietly ignored all the rovian tricks the clintons are playing. And instead focus on useless minitua. Krugman has had 0 effect on his readership (highly educated liberals, who still overwhelmingly support obama).

Posted by: Jor on January 21, 2008 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

These electibility and working with gridlock arguments don't even exist. Any Democrat will probably win in the next election because of the mess the Republicans have made out of our country. The Congress and Senate will likely be changing soon too, also Senator Clinton has been very effective in working across the aisle as a New York represenatative, armed services comittee, etc. I cannot believe that any Democrat would put a novice in the driver's seat with America facing so many problems. As far as her insurance program failing, the Republicans, and the special interest groups worked hard to kill that and 10 years ago the country wasn't behind the idea. Now that we're all getting ripped off and can't afford health insurance we are receptive to the idea that she foresaw long ago.

Posted by: Linda on January 21, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

The past two presidential elections have been amazing close. Granted the the GOP was much stronger in '00 & '04, and even then it was basically a 3%-5% margin of victory for Bush against Kerry and Gore.
IF Kerry or Gore had swayed that 3-5% independent vote things would be much different today.
My gut says that Hillary mobilizes the Republican base more than Obama, and if the GOP can select a nominee with independent appeal they can give her a real fight. She will still get the base of the Democrats, because we're so sick of the Bush world veiw, but the GOP will be motivated to come out against her. This is the most similar situation to 2000 or 2004, were it could have gone either way.
Obama doesn't fall prey to those two componentas of the general election, mobilizing the opponents base, and lack of support from independents. That is why Obama is more electable in the general.

Posted by: cboas on January 21, 2008 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Many people who are ambivalent towards Hillary will end up voting for her based on her perceived strength on the economy.

What "perceived strength" would that be? The fact that her husband did a pretty good job on the economy when he was president?

Posted by: bobb on January 21, 2008 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary energizes Republicans and deflates Democrats.

Hillary unites Republicans and divides Democrats.

The best choice for the general is Edwards. Hands down he has the broadest coat tails.

Once again, the Democratic party will settle for moral victories over electoral victories.

Posted by: Hogman on January 21, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK


You've done a disservice to your readers here, despite the link to the so-called "trash talking oppo research" on Obama's website. The terms you use imply personal invective on Obama's part. Krugman, it's very clear to see, did switch gears in terms of how he characterized Obama's health plan. All Obama's website did was to compare earlier and later remarks on the very same plan--and completely accurately. Saying "he once praised the plan he is no criticizing" (and criticizing stangely personal terms) is opposition research? Give me a break.

Posted by: Matt on January 21, 2008 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

I've been seeing comments like this one around the sphere for the past week or so -
-- while Clinton might even win Florida --
These people are grossly uninformed. NO Democrat can win Florida this year. Florida ( & Michigan) will have no delegates in the national convention because they reset their primary ahead contrary to DNC rules. By leaving her name on the FL & MI ballots, Hillary also violated their rules. But I don't think the national party will do anything against her. Just setting the record straight . . .

Posted by: bob in fla on January 21, 2008 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

Alright, this is just pure nonsense.

Feel free to ignore the fact that there's a considerable portion of this nation that just plain does not like Hilary Clinton...much moreso than Barack Obama, Kevin. You say the public needs more than stealth progressivism, but what about Capitol Hill, where Republicans will more than likely still have enough power to squash Democratic bills that try to be as bold as Krugman and Clinton naively are suggesting. Furthermore, continue to disregard the inevitable partisan fighting that will continue and most likely escalate with a Clinton presidency.


Posted by: Quinn on January 21, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

This is pretty weak stuff by Kevin. He bascially says Obama is okay, provided he is pulling a con job on the people. But if he is not, then let's go with the people we know can pull an effective con job, Bill and Hillary. Is that what the liberals' view of politics is reduced to?

Kevin also is wrong in thinking that Hillary (without Obama as VP) will get as many black votes. There will be a serious revolt (mostly stay at home) if Hillary succeeds in disposing of Obama (unless she persuades him to accept VP). But I doubt that a Hillary/Obama ticket adds many votes, it just preserves the base.

Posted by: brian on January 21, 2008 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm late to the party here, but I just have to respond to what Gary Sugar said at the top of the comments, because it precisely characterizes what troubles me most about Obama's message and the thinking of some of his supporters.

Clinton will never get Republican votes in the Senate. Obama will. He'll need three or four and he'll get them to pass liberal legislation, like health care reform. Clinton will get four years of filibusters and gridlock.

Put me down as expecting that Obama will get four years of filibusters and gridlock. Surely the last 16 years have taught us that. If the Rs don't oppose on policy grounds, they will oppose for partisan advantage. They will obstruct by any means necessary or possible, whether it's Clinton or Obama. Ask yourself really: do they hate Hillary because of something she (or Bill) did? Or do they hate her for the joy and sport of it? And how is Obama any different? They aren't going to go along with him because he smiles at them and lionizes Reagan. They will declare holy war and destroy him. The question is: is he ready?

Posted by: Chase on January 21, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

The second paragraph in the last post is a quote from a previous post. The comment system deleted my formatting. Sorry.

Posted by: Chase on January 21, 2008 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

I want to echo and expand upon Freestone's (January 21, 2008 at 5:39 PM) comment above: while I agree with Kevin's pt that the differences btw Obama and Clinton are slight, I think his characterization of the distinction that counts -- that of which political/electoral strategy best enhances progressives' chances of driving through significant legislative changes -- isn't complete on either side of the equation. Freestone rightly pts out that right way to understand the Obama strategy is as an attempt to broaden the overall electorate and produce an expansive majority that is receptive to both significant and essentially progressive leaning change -- ala Roosevelt's approach in the New Deal. While I think his Reagan quote was either a gaffe or strategic error, I think his overall gameplan pretty consistently reflects NOT a classic "compromise" or "triangulation" strategy, but rather an attempt to reorient the electorate around a broad, deeply collective, logic. I think this reflects his understanding that, if Dems can win big majorities, the entire political playing field will be pushed leftward. In my opinion, whomever can effect THIS sort of shift is the Dems' best bet.

The OTHER, and far more important flaw in Kevin's & others' view of the candidates is in the characterization of the Clinton strategy.

The dynamics of the moment have pushed Hillary to adopt a more confrontational rhetoric -- and thus lead Kevin to characterize her as representing a more distinctive and clear Liberal alternative to Bush in comparison to Obama. I suppose its possible that this is the Real Hillary, but I can't shake my intuitive sense that her (and her campaign's) deeper instinct is based in Bill's old DLC "New Democrat" logic, which in my opinion represents the worst sort of conventional thinking among the old gaurd Democratic leadership: a weak-kneed resignation that "the electorate" is both fundamentally conservative and, well, dumb. In other words, the important distinction is that the Clintons have built a poltical persona/approach, and corresponding political machine that is fundamentally unambitious and unwilling to even attempt to form the kind of broad coalition necessary to effect the sort of seismic shift in the electorate needed to do Big Things. Additionally, whether fair or not, I don't think Hillary, with her persona pretty much set by her history in Bill's admin, even has the capacity to play the sort of politics necessary to pursue an ambitious long term strategy. Nothing in her campaign thus far suggests to me that she can imagine or execute the sort of framings of issues that pulls the electorate (and more importantly the broader "potential" electorate). I think her political DNA was formed from the multiple defeats of the early Clinton presidency -- and has produced exactly what some fear from Obama: an approach that is way too accommodating to conservative interests because she ultimately refuses to NOT play on conservative's turf and by their rules of politics.

I'm sure many will disagree with this analysis of HRC, and I would readily concede that supporting Obama represents a bit of a hopeful gamble. I honestly worry that I and other Obama supporters are reading things into him that aren't really there (my sense is that there are two sides of Obama - the conventional conciliator and the inspired coalition leader), but my own choice to go with Obama is based on favoring the uncertainty of Obama's capacity to effect large-scale change over what seems to be the near-certainty that HRC can only muddle through and in the process reinforce the sclerosis of American political institutions.

Eric Lock

Posted by: Eric on January 21, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone think it is possible that there will be an Clinton/Obama ticket?

Posted by: MGJ on January 21, 2008 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK
Feel free to ignore the fact that there's a considerable portion of this nation that just plain does not like Hilary Clinton...much moreso than Barack Obama

I will go on record saying that I have complete confidence that a considerable portion of this nation will not like the Democratic nominee. This will be true of Clinton, Edwards, or Obama. I am very sorry to say that Republicans especially still have a huge problem with candidates of color, especially when it comes to high offices such as President or Governor.

Clinton has been around longer than the other two and is well-known to conservatives. They hate her. But they will work up a good hate for Obama if he is nominated. They will turn out in large numbers to vote against him.

That's the Republican party and that's your hard line conservatives. They will have zero effect on how I vote.

Many so-called independents also are prejudiced against women and people of color. I am not smart enough to figure out which of the Democratic candidates will generate the least resistance and which is the most electable. Therefore, I will vote for who I think is best.

Posted by: little ole jim on January 21, 2008 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone think it is possible that there will be an Clinton/Obama ticket?

It's an outside possibility, I think. It could happen as a way to "reunite" the party after a divisive nomination process.

Posted by: Quinn on January 21, 2008 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK


Hillary can't win anymore because she will not get the black vote after attacking Obama. They will just simply stay at home or vote for someone else. Don't assume that blacks will follow along blindly behind the liks of Charlie Rangel and Bill Clinton. That day is now over.

Posted by: Tennessee on January 21, 2008 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

I've been advocating an Obama/Clinton ticket for some time. Barack will be 63 and Chelsea will be 44.

Posted by: jerry on January 21, 2008 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

All this talk about Obama's "kumbaya" approach is ridiculous. Anybody who has ever run a business knows that if you want to make big changes you have to support from the ground up. It is not possible to make big changes when 50% of the people are fighting against you. Bottom line: Obama has the right approach.

Posted by: Clyde on January 21, 2008 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

If you wanted to usher in an era of progressive government Edwards was the candidate. He would have crushed the Republican and would have been great for the Senate races. Universal healthcare would have passed before Memorial Day.

Obama and Clinton will win the general but neither will help build the Dem brand and their influence in down ticket races is probably a push.

Posted by: opportunity costs on January 21, 2008 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's easy to underestimate how many moderates and conservatives like Obama. As soon as Obama threw out the phrase, "Obama Republican" he gave it a name. I'm one in the camp that would vote for Obama over McCain, McCain over Huckabee, but Huckabee over Clinton. This is not because I think Obama is particularly more conservative than Clinton--it's just that I think Obama is willing to articulate a politics based on hope rather than fear. I'm sick of being a terrified country--and I care about that more than the issues.

Posted by: Dan on January 21, 2008 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

I guess as time goes by people's opinions harden and things get nastier. Of the three, Edwards is probably my favorite, but he simply does not have a chance to win. As for Hillary, I have no clue how someone who is as obviously intelligent as Kevin doesn't see how Hillary is a worse candidate in the general election. The Repubs are not enthusiastic about any of their candidates, but they will come out against Hillary in droves, and independents will not be anywhere close as excited about voting for Hillary as they will be for Obama. That combination greatly increases the chances the Dems could lose in November. Plus, I'm just sick and tired of Bill Clinton. Whatever you may say about him as President, he is clearly a moral reprobate. The man had an affair with a young intern in the Oval Office for God's sake, lied about it point blank, and never really apologized to the nation. He is filling he airwaves with outright lies ("I never supported the war"), and is generally just a boorish jerk at this point. No more Clinton, no more Bushes, PLEASE.

Posted by: Jim on January 21, 2008 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Little ole Jim:
You are right that there is a group of Republicans who will never vote for a liberal. You are wrong, though, to make blanket statements saying Republicans will not vote for Obama. I am a conservative Republican who last voted for a Democrat in 1976 when I was 20 years old. I voted for Carter. I am sick to death of Republicans. I don't like Hillary Clinton and would NEVER vote for her. I will, however, vote for Obama in the unlikely event that he gets the Democratic party's nomination. I have read both of Barack's books and I recognize that he is extremely liberal but I appreciate his ability to see both sides of an issue and to think outside the box. I have Republican friends who feel the same way. Barack's positions are based on his principles not the latest polling or triangulation.

It looks to me like the Democrats are determined to blow a very good opportunity to regain the White House. One thing is certain: if Hillary is the nominee I will vote for the Republican candidate.

Posted by: Clyde on January 21, 2008 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

After tonight's debate there is a zero chance that we will see a Obama / Clinton ticket. It's finally starting to dawn on Barack that his opponents only care about winning, they don't care about principle. You can see it in his face that he is wishing and hoping that there can be a meaningful exchange. Instead the same old smears and innuendo comes out. So he laid the smackdown on her a couple of times and she didn't enjoy it. We didn't know that she was a shill for Walmart while First Lady of Arkansas. She doesn't advertise this on her resume - how come? He also told that old hound dog to stop howling around and find something better to do. I think from now on you will see a strong counter response every time Bill gets his juices going and starts to blather.

Give em the straight talk they deserve - Go Obama.

Posted by: John K on January 21, 2008 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

The Clinton presidency was deeply flawed. We don't need a repeat. If the Democrats nominate HRC, then I'd consider writing in Al Gore. I might even vote Republican (for the first time in my life) if McCain is their nominee.

Posted by: Michael K on January 22, 2008 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK


I think Obama is a good man and I might be tempted to vote for him, but how do you get over his far left positions? He is smart and of high character (a rare combination for a politician), but his liberal positions are a recipe for disaster. Wouldn't you rather vote for McCain, who is probably less smart but of even higher character and takes mostly conservative positions?

There also is the lack of experience. He almost seems naive and at least tentative in trying to deal with Clinton's deceptions. How would he deal with the bad guys around the world?

Posted by: brian on January 22, 2008 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

I do hope you idiots don't bloody well continue this Clinton-Bush cycle, it's not only tiresome to read about, but doesn't seem particularly healthy for your Republic.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on January 22, 2008 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

In this previous days debate, Obama stated he was just looking for about 60%, a working majority.

He is not going to be striving and pandering to the hardcore republicans. He is going to try to convince the more centrist or liberal independents/republicans to unite, and perhaps make a shift in the political party spectrums, where the Democrats can appeal to a larger amount of people.

He also has talked/written about a concept that he believes, that all Americans, Republicans or Democrats, have certain shared views/values. I think he is right, and that perhaps 60% of the people can agree on that basis.

Also, when you open people's hearts, you can better reach their minds and communicate, perhaps convincing some of those indepedents/republicans to adopt certain Democratic ideas. In the current polarized political climate, changing peoples views is nearly impossible.

Posted by: Levgre on January 22, 2008 at 6:02 AM | PERMALINK

Obama would be negotiating down from an already weak position, which will leave you with nothing. No healthcare. No ability to effect the environmental degradation.

Secondly his record needs to be taken into account. His votes with the Republicans on robber baron policies like 30% credit card interest rates, against being able to sue on the CAFA bill!, with the republicans on Schiavo, his siding with the Cheney energy policies, his trash talk on Social Security, his willingness to abandon principle on McClurkin.

Anyone who is counting on Obama is counting on some phantom of their own making conjured up to make themselves feel better but that has no basis in reality. Obama is trying to get votes playing all sides of everything and standing for nothing.

Posted by: Chrissy on January 22, 2008 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

There is a huge problem in people like Ezra and you and Krugman in your trying to pigeonhole Obama. And it shows in the confusion of the commenters.
What no one seems to realize is that Obama is totally different from the kind of candidates we have seen before. Given the way he has consistently defied the CW and everyone else when they try to either assess, chide or berate whatever Obama is doing, I think it points to the obvious and yet you guys still continue to miss it just like the insider pundits in the msm.
Because Obama is at the forefront of this new breed, he is virtually alone in presenting something else and this has everyone scratching their heads.
You cannot keep trying to put Obama in the same box as other candidates of the past 40 years and expect to come out looking wise.
You need to stop trying to compare him with pols like Clinton as it will never work.
You will continue to sputter, backtrack and explain why you have been defied again. You need to look at Obama from the light of the newer breed just coming onto the scene. These guys are progressive but, without the agenda and the ideology that has bogged others down. Krugman is such an ideolog he will forever be at odds with Obama but, his style of partisan thinking is going out of style and is seen more and more as out of touch.

Posted by: vwcat on January 22, 2008 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK


You're off base on two points here.

George W. Bush ran precisely the sort of campaign in which Obama is presently engaged. He took traditional conservative positions, policies that were opposed by a majority of the electorate, and cloaked them in the mantle of compassionate conservatism. He introduced bills, particularly in his first time, with soothing names that suggested they meant the opposite of what they did. Whenever he could, he found a Democrat who was willing to cross party lines to introduce a bill - including Kennedy on health care reform. And you know what? It was a devestatingly effective strategy. It drove all of us nuts. How do you rally people to oppose a Clear Skies Act? Who could be against it?

Contrast that with Hillary's major policy advances. Her health care initiative was boldly conceived, daringly introduced, and resoundingly defeated. In the Senate, she's introduced about twenty bills, some substantive, but none controversial. She knows she doesn't have the votes to pass the things she'd like to write. Obama, however, has a track record in Illinois of enacting liberal policies - ethics and health care reform - under the guide of bipartisanship. It may not satisfy our red-meat craving for all out partisan warfare, but hey, it works.

You're also wrong about expanding the electorate. We've seen record turnout so far in all three Democratic races, eclipsing the much smaller numbers on the GOP side. That suggests, for starters, that the Democratic base is going to be more energized irrespective of who the candidate is. But it's also worth looking at the nature of the first-time voters we're seeing here. The *sole* group that's turning out in disproportion to its usual percentage of the electorate is younger voters, and they're heavily backing Obama. Let me repeat that. Turnout is up across the board, in every demographic segment - that suggests to me, at least, that it's being driven by party dynamics more than individual candidates. But it's up much more among young voters, and they're coming out to vote for Obama. Not only is that likely to give Dems an edge in 2008, but research has repeatedly shown that our voting preferences are largely determined for life in the decade when we first vote. By drawing a new generation to the polls, Obama is creating a Democratic bulge that will pay dividends for decades. That's an effect Hillary can't hope to match.

Posted by: Cynic on January 22, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Don't listen to your gut, Mr. Drum. Look at the evidence so far. Independents and disillusioned Republicans overwhelmingly favor Obama.

And on the issue of attacks, folks need to consider that Hillary has not yet been at the receiving end of the harshest possible attacks she'll face. A Democrat simply cannot go there -- Monica, etc. (Which is also why the Clintons' campaign to use Bill as surrogate in chief is so cynical.)

But you can be sure Republicans will -- Monica, Travel-gate, etc., it's all fair game for them.

And Obama won't do his agenda in a "stealth" manner. That's his point. He doesn't need to.

Against McCain, Hillary will lose every state Kerry lost, plus New Hampshire.

Posted by: Howard G. on January 22, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

"How can she possibly be both Republican-Lite and anathema to the right? My conclusion: she isn't."

An observation made some time back: Hillary is perceived to be more liberal than she is. Not what you want if you're progressive.

And as to a Hillary/Obama ticket, I'd say Bloomberg/Obama is more likely. Obviously not likely. But to the complications of the electability argument, factor in the distinct possibility of a Bloomberg candidacy should Hillary and someone-other-than-McCain be the nominees.

The Republican party is listless and demoralized. But the one shared organizing principle they have left is Clinton hatred. Nothing would unite and energize them like Hillary as the dem nominee. That party may not know what it's for, but it damn well knows what it's against.

So if Hillary is the nominee, the Repub base will turn out. If it's also McCain, independents will go Republican. If it's not McCain, you'll have Bloomberg.

If Hillary can win under any of these scenarios, it's by a hair, at best. At best.

Regardless, if I could ask for one thing from my next Prez, after the horrors of Bush, it'd be honesty and transparency. I want somebody I can actually believe. When I hear the Clintons' disingenuous attacks on Obama, his Reagan comments, his war votes, I'm reminded that that's not what they represent. Not by a long shot.

Posted by: lewp on January 22, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, I came away from the CNN Democratic debate last night with the feeling that Obama needs to get a thicker skin if he wants to compete on the national level. Is he really shocked that the Clinton campaign combed through his record to try to portray some of his votes negatively?? It's like in Casablanca when Claude Reins is "shocked, shocked that there's gambling going on" at Sam's bar! This is why more years of experience at the national level is so important -- battle-scarred veterans of politics understand this.

Posted by: Lisa on January 22, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I am a lifelong Republican. But this time around, I will not vote for any Republican candidate because of what Republican office-holders have done to this country, individually and collectively. They have driven this country into the ditch.

On the other hand, I would never vote for Clinton. Bill and Hillary call out the venom in a person. They are divisive and disruptive of a nation�s health. To think of the future in those terms is to become weary before the journey even begins.

My vote goes to Obama because he stands above the fray, as much as possible, and talks in terms of a unifying struggle for the future of freedom in America.

Obama has the capacity to bring out the best in people. He asks individuals to make a difference in the lives of others and in the life of the nation. Although appreciative of policy, he grasps the essential role that a new political language and an inspired leadership can bring to the table. He alone is the candidate of change for he alone can act as a catalyst to ignite the best in all of us.

It is sad to see what has become of this great country during the Bush/Clinton dynasty. Too sad for words.

Posted by: Jerry on January 22, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I'm one of those wine and cheese liberals and I'd just like to go on the record that I will never under any circumstances vote for the Clintons. They've had their time to run the show and the depths they have gone through to win a third term prevent me from being able to ever support them again. And to hell with Paul Krugman, the shill!

Posted by: John on January 22, 2008 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

I understand your points and I do worry about them, but I can take a chance and vote for Obama for all the reasons Jerry mentioned in his post above. The Republicans give me no reason to believe in their competence. I am sick of the religious right pushing its social agenda. The issues they believe are important are just not of concern to me. This whole gay marriage argument makes no sense. If a gay couple wants to marry, let them marry. Exactly why should the federal government be involved in this decision? The Republicans are incompetent and focused on the wrong things.

I believe we have some big problems in this country that are not being addressed because we are too divided and because the Republicans can't seem to get beyond tax cuts as a basis for economic policy. We do need to fix health care, social security, Medicare, energy dependence, etc. I'm not naive enough to say Obama can get all of this done, but if he can get Independents and a modest percentage of Republicans behind him he will stand a chance to get some of it done.

It may just be that for some of our problems a liberal solution is better than no solution. You make a good point about Obama's inexperience. He will no doubt require some on-the-job training, but he is a smart guy who will figure things out quickly.

Posted by: Clyde on January 22, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

As a moderate/conservative white woman Republican in her 50's, I would never vote for Hillary; nor would any of my Republican family or friends. The majority of my women friends are also so anti-Hillary and leaning to Obama. I am 100% for Obama and will vote for a Democrat for President for the first time in my life and I've voted in every election. If Hillary is the nominee, I will vote for whoever the Republican nominee is.

Republicans will attack any Democrat in the general election, but they will be much less aggressive toward Obama. Why?? Two very strong reasons: the utter disdain and repulsion toward the Clintons. They will do anything to stop her and Bill from being elected again. More importantly, in the big picture, Republicans have been trying for over 45+ years to earn the votes of African Americans. If they rip apart Obama, they'll kill any hope of ever getting the
Black vote for another 45+ years. For the future of their party, they can't risk it.

If the Democrats are smart, shrewd, and practical and want to win the White House and eight years of more civil discourse in Washington, they will do everything in their power to assure Obama is their nominee. If Hillary is their nominee, they will lose the votes of the majority of: African Americans, young voters, independents, moderate Republicans (women and men)and some Democratic men.

Posted by: Mindy R. on January 22, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Lisa -

If Obama needs a thicker skin, what about Hillary? She gets to whine about being tag-teamed in a debate? She gets to cry? Why the double standard here? I've had great misgivings about another Clinton presidency and nothing that occurred so far has lessened my concerns.

Posted by: Jim on January 22, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK


For you and Paul Krugman, both of whom I admire greatly, I submit the following from Eugene Robinson (who says it better than I could). After referring to Obama's "observation that Ronald Reagan had 'changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,'" Robinson writes as follows:

Let's take a moment to consider that remark. Whether it was advisable for Obama to play the role of presidential historian in the midst of a no-holds-barred contest for the Democratic nomination, it's hard to argue with what he said. I think Bill Clinton was a good president, at times very good. And I wouldn't have voted for Reagan if you'd held a gun to my head. But even I have to recognize that Reagan -- like Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union -- was a transformational figure, for better or worse.

Bill Clinton's brilliance was in the way he surveyed the post-Reagan landscape and figured out how to redefine and reposition the Democratic Party so that it became viable again. All the Democratic candidates who are running this year, including Obama, owe him their gratitude.

But Obama has set his sights higher, and implicit in his campaign is a promise, or a threat, to eclipse Clinton's accomplishments. Obama doesn't just want to piece together a 50-plus-1 coalition; he wants to forge a new post-partisan consensus that includes "Obama Republicans" -- the equivalent of the Gipper's "Reagan Democrats." You can call that overly ambitious or even naive, but you can't call it timid. Or deferential.

That concludes the excerpt from Robinson's column. What bothers me is that more progressives such as you and Krugman can't seem to see the possibilities here.

Suppose that Obama wins the nomination. Suppose he then chooses as his running mate Jim Webb, himself a transitional figure, a former Republican who has become a Democrat. Webb combines unmatched military experience and scholarship with a passion for economic fairness that rivals that of John Edwards. Out of such a pairing one can see the makings of a progressive coalition that could overcome the 60- vote requirement in the Senate.

But for this to happen, progressives need a voice that is eloquent and persuasive in terms of their values, a voice that respects and reaches out to the best in the other side, and (maybe most important of all) a voice that can inspire Americans to believe in themselves and their country (as FDR could do, and, much as we hate to admit it, Reagan could do). Remember that both of these men were re-elected by 60% of the voters and a virtual sweep of the electoral votes.

It's sad to see the Clintons, and some of the most articulate writers on the left, nit-picking away at Obama.

Posted by: CMcC on January 22, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just the general election that matters. Clinton will never get Republican votes in the Senate. Obama will. He'll need three or four and he'll get them to pass liberal legislation, like health care reform. Clinton will get four years of filibusters and gridlock.

I really don't understand why people think that the Republicans will somehow be nicer to Obama than they are to Clinton. The vicious anti-Bill Clinton attacks started before he was even inaugurated for his first term. He certainly hadn't done anything to provoke it -- he was a centrist politician! It was pure politics.

The Republican attack machine will just as a surely target Obama as it would Hillary Clinton. And with Clinton, all possible damage has already been done. Obama may not realize what the game is until it is too late. The bi-partisanship stuff goes one way. The only way to force Republicans to cooperate in the Senate and House is to make them fear for their political lives if they don't.

All this said I prefer Obama (because he is more liberal!), but the idea that the Congressional Republicans will treat him better than they would Hillary is total fantasy.

Posted by: Ted T. on January 22, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Unless things go way off the rails in the next few weeks, she'll draw 90% of the black vote, the same as Obama."

I hate to tell you this Kevin, but you're wrong here. Things have already gone off of the rails here and the black community will not come out in November to rescue the Clintons this time. They have done some serious damage to the Democratic party with their Rovian attacks on Obama and dog whistle type race baiting.

I am an African-American attorney with progressive values. My politically active family and I (including my seven professional siblings and my 74 year-old mother who is an active retiree) were die hard Clinton fans in the 90's who voted for Gore and Kerry in the subsequent elections. We even voted for Hillary in her bid for the NY senate.

However, the buck stops here folks. We simply cannot countenance the nasty campaign the Clintons have run against Senator Obama. Therefore, we have taken an oath to NEVER vote for the Clintons in the general election. This is not a decision that we take lightly. Nor are we happy about being in this position, but we feel like we would rather take a stand here, than support someone without integrity down the line.

Posted by: MJ on January 22, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton might in fact do better than Obama among this or that demographic group. Those gains needs to be measured against the likelihood that she would drive up Republican turnout as well, as others here have pointed out.

As to what kind of President she would be, she knows what has worked in her career and in her husbands, and she would likely try to emulate the Clinton presidency post-1994.

As to what kind of President Obama would be, I don't have a clue, and neither does anyone else.

They're both far from ideal as general election candidates -- Hillary is hated, and voting for Obama is a crapshoot. Its not 2000, and the world is just a wee bit too scary for America to vote for a crapshoot candidate who makes them feel good about themselves. Pairing them up for a ticket, hoping these negatives will be offset by the presence of the other person, is probably the Dems best bet.

Posted by: Markus on January 22, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

"However, the buck stops here folks. We simply cannot countenance the nasty campaign the Clintons have run against Senator Obama."

And why can't you? The Clintons are in this to win, and they are simply treating Obama the same way they would treat a white politician that was threatening their plans. What could be more equitable than that? And if in fact their attacks are unfair, it should be EASIER for Obama to fight back than if the charges had some merit.

If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen!

Posted by: Markus on January 22, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen!"

Well then, you may just get your wish then. Those of us who think that there is supposed to be something different about the Democratic party may just stay out of the kitchen in November to make the point that our integrity is not for sale. Perhaps we didn't get the memo, but we thought that the democratic party was supposed to be about inclusion and unity, and not Rovian divisiveness. If it is just about winning at all costs, then it does not need, nor does it deserve, our votes.

Posted by: MJ on January 22, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK


Some further observations.

Bill Clinton could have been a transformational figure. He combined eloquence and intelligence in an unequalled fashion. From the moment I first heard him talk, about some mundane education issue as I recall, I knew he was special.

Going into the White House, he had the themes and the formulas to broaden progressive appeal. He was the Man from Hope. He talked of a "new covenant," a phrase at once constitutional, biblical, and historical. He said abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare." He talked about how everyone "who worked hard and played by the rules" should have a good life in America. These are formulations that the vast majority of Americans can support.

For reasons that have never been clear to me, he forgot about his "new covenant." I've long thought that a major error he made was putting health care legislation ahead of welfare reform. It's almost impossible to over-estimate what a drag "welfare" had become on the liberal brand.
Whatever the reasons, Clinton did not fulfill his promise.

Central to his problems, of course, was Monica. Let me make a point which I've not seen much discussed. Remember 1992. Going into New Hampshire, Clinton was faltering, actually about to go down. Stories of his womanizing were out there.

The crucial moment, as I recall, was the Clintons' appearance on 60 Minutes. Sitting down on a couch, holding hands, they looked into the camera, into the eyes of all Americans. They acknowledged problems in their marriage, but they promised that all that was in the past. Bill made a commitment to the American people, and Hillary vouched for him. She "stood by her man," to quote a country song she had previously disparaged, and I've long thought that she saved Bill's campaign at that moment. In other words, he owed he presidency to her.

And then the Clintons betrayed us. Hillary would have been justified in walking out of the White House, because her husband had not just betrayed her in the normal sense of that term, but made her into a liar. In fact, she might be better positioned today if she were an independent person. And if some of you think all this is in the past, you know it's not if you saw The Daily Show last night. There was a reference to a "cigar" and a "vagina."

And, by the way, someone needs to spare Bill Clinton from further disgrace. He's been shown red-faced in anger, and today he's shown sleeping through someone else's remarks. How low can he go? Nominate Hillary, and it will be an everyday question.

Sometimes politicians need to know when they have forever screwed the pooch (so to speak). For example, Ted Kennedy was presumptuous enough to seek the Democratic nomination in 1980 several years after "Chappaquidick (sp?)"! What was he thinking? Of course, he failed, but in the process he did much to destroy fellow Democrat Jimmy Carter (who, remember, only narrowly lost to Reagan).

Suppose the Republicans nominate John McCain. Now suppose he chooses Condi Rice as his running mate. Do you really want to run Hillary against this pair? Or how about McCain and Colin Powell? Republicans will unite against the evil Clintons, and women and blacks will be split. McCain will look at Hillary during a debate, smile, and do a repeat of Reagan's "there you go again." And it will be all over. It won't even be close.

Posted by: CMcC on January 22, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK
She gets to whine about being tag-teamed in a debate? She gets to cry? ....Jim at 12:53 PM
Interesting, people saw for themselves the double teaming and misogyny from the media while there was no whining and no tears. Yet Mitt cries real tears and no one remarks on it. Now there's a double standard.
....Rovian attacks on Obama and dog whistle type race baiting....MJ at 1:46 PM
You must be new to politics if you think there are any 'Rovian' on the Democratic side. You need only check the last real bit of Rove politicking in 2000 South Carolina or in 2004 Swift Boating. But others have said they'd prefer to vote for warmongering McCain rather than a women, so for someone to accept a Confederate flag waving Republican would be no surprise
.... Do you really want to run Hillary against this pair?.... CMcC at 2:14 PM
Yup, I see no problem with any Democrat running against any Republican on the merits. If you think More Of The Same McCain has a cachet with the voters this year, you're mistaken. His support for the war, against choice and now for supply-side voodoo and rightwing christianist nonsense will make him toxic no matter how the media kiss his wrinkled old butt. Posted by: Mike on January 22, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary will not draw the traditional 85-90% of black votes if she is the nominee. I truly believe that a significant minority, after what transpired in South Carolina - whether real or simply the perception of what happened - would rather stay home than to support them. The Clinton's have burned some bridges with the African American community.

Posted by: nathan on January 22, 2008 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think anyone is saying the Republicans will be easy on Obama if we wins, just that they won't hate him. If you want evidence, read the comments in this column by lifelong Republicans (including myself) who plan to vote for Obama. Further, read the columns that George Will has written about Obama -- he obviously admires the man. Other conservative journalists have written positive things about him too. The best thing any conservative will ever say about the Clintons is that they are smart politicians.

The Republicans hate Hillary and they always will. Obama could get more legislation through Congress than she could.

Posted by: Clyde on January 22, 2008 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK


I agree about individual Republican or independent voters liking Obama. I am talking about the Republicans in Congress -- they will do their absolute best to destroy ANY new democratic president -- be they Obama or Clinton. As will the Republican presidential candidate this fall -- do you think he will fight less dirty against Obama than Clinton?

I think that Clinton has the ability and will to fight back. I'm not sure that Obama will before it's too late.

Posted by: Ted T. on January 23, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is not a candidate that black americans should support. Anyone who takes us for granted, and expects us to vote for him strictly based on skin color is wrong. He has made no mention of what he plans to do about the 3 most severe evils that affect the black community - discrimination, rascism, and restoring affirmative action to its rightful recipients- the ancestors of former slaves. Getting serious about hate crimes is something that he has made no mention of. He'll never get my vote.

Posted by: sandra jones on January 30, 2008 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Hhhlfktp on June 27, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK



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