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Tilting at Windmills

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February 19, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

EQUAL TIME FOR HILLARY....An Obama backlash might not make any difference if Hillary Clinton's campaign keeps taking on water. Just today, we learned that:

  • HRC was unable to put together a full slate of delegates for the Pennsylvania primary. In practice this doesn't matter (they'll be assigned later if necessary), but it demonstrates once again just how unprepared the Clinton team was for a campaign that extended beyond Super Tuesday.

  • A "high-ranking Clinton official" confirmed to Politico's Roger Simon that Hillary would try to pick off Obama's pledged delegates prior to the convention. Not his superdelegates, who are fair game, but the delegates that Obama has won in the various primaries and caucuses so far. This strategy just reeks of desperation and prompts two questions: (a) why would she do it? and (b) why would a high-ranking campaign official actually admit it? [UPDATE: The Clinton campaign categorically denies they plan to do this.]

  • SurveyUSA reports that Clinton is only barely ahead of Obama in Texas, one of her "firewall" states.

In some ways this is a game of trivia, things that will all be forgotten almost as soon as they're reported. But a steady drumbeat of this kind of stuff can be deadly, especially for a candidate banking on her experience and party connections. She really needs to step up her game.

Kevin Drum 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Comments

Mark Kleiman:

http://www.samefacts.com/archives/hrc_/2008/02/what_hilzoy_said.php


Note to self: If I ever run for office and base my campaign on the idea that I am ready to lead from day one, I must remember to actually run an effective campaign.

Posted by: krugwoman on February 19, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that an Obama backlash is brewing among the right wingers who were formerly warm towards him due to their irrational Hillary-hatred, but I think it's mistake to accept the Clinton line that she's already been vetted, and her negatives won't go even higher.

In addition to the stuff Kevin lists here, there's the Clinton/Kazakhstan/mineral deal story and who knows what else...I agree that there's a chance the Obama campaign might implode, but I don't think it's a very big chance based on the savvy campaign he's run. More likely is that a combo of scandal and ineptness could deteriorate Clinton even further.

Posted by: greg on February 19, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

And now a fundraising Obama pancake is up for bid on ebay. The pancake "magically" shows Barack Obama's initials. Supposedly, all the money raised will go to his campaign. This movement is amazing! Nothing Hillary can do to stop it.

Posted by: revmike on February 19, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I actually like Hillary and will cheerfully vote for her if she wins the nomination. But damn, she sure did put together a lousy political team.

Posted by: PaulB on February 19, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Pancakes can do that?!

Posted by: Bob M on February 19, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Seriously - here's the pancake link http://cgi.ebay.com/Barack-Obama-Pancake-all-money-donated-to-campaign_W0QQitemZ300200125040QQihZ020QQcategoryZ50790QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Posted by: revmike on February 19, 2008 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I actually like Hillary and will cheerfully vote for her if she wins the nomination. But damn, she sure did put together a lousy political team.

I echo PaulB in every particular here. The suckassity of her team is especially troubling given the years she and Bill have in the political game. Valuing loyalty over competence is a trait that does not inspire confidence.

Posted by: shortstop on February 19, 2008 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Pancakes can do that?!

Pancakes...is there anything they can't do?

Posted by: Homer Simpson on February 19, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

"a nice home in the suburbs" -- Victor Davis Hanson

The Obamas live in Hyde Park, which is the city.

Posted by: goethean on February 19, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

oops, that was for the Michelle Obama thread.

Posted by: goethean on February 19, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The Clinton's are now backtracking on the idea of going after Obama's pledged delegates. These people are so reckless that they are swift-boating themselves. Also, a 5 point lead in Texas is not going to net Clinton enough delegates to make a dent in Obama's lead. This race is over. Do. The. Math.

Posted by: Mike on February 19, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, if you read the Politico story a little closer, you'll see that the unnamed spokesperson says they'll try to pick off delegates if there's a stalemate. I didn't see any mention of doing this prior to the convention.

This distinction is important. Despite the perpetual outrage from Obama supporters of anything that smacks of political campaigning, I think it stands to reason that a second ballot will see both sides trying to pick off delegates. That's pretty much how it works.

Oh yeah, and the Clinton camp has put out a statement denying the Politico story. But Obama supporters have a simple formula: anything that makes Hillary look bad is true, anyhting that puts her in a favorable light is a despicable lie, so I don't suppose any of it matters.

Posted by: ChrisO on February 19, 2008 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Mike, thanks for responding right on time. The Clinton campaign isn't denying the story, by your reading, they're "backtracking." You guys are nothing if not consistent.

Posted by: ChrisO on February 19, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the Clinton campaign is as bad as it seems now or if they really just ran into a better team on this one. The sort of gaffes we are seeing seem to me like the sort of thing that you might see a lot in big complicated campaigns. To put it another way, the team that loses the Superbowl, even if they get beat badly, is still a pretty damn good team comparatively. Not really making an argument that that is what has happened here. Just putting it out there.

On the pledged delegates story, I have to say that it seems like bullshit to me. I don't know exactly where the reporter got his quote but

1. I don't trust Politico

2. even if one thinks the absolute worst of Senator Clinton, it is quite difficult to believe she would stoop this low

3. it is self evident that it would never work and would cause more political harm than good to Clinton's political prospects.

Posted by: brent on February 19, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Actually, if you read the Politico story a little closer, you'll see that the unnamed spokesperson says they'll try to pick off delegates if there's a stalemate. I didn't see any mention of doing this prior to the convention. This distinction is important."

While I agree that the distinction is important, the very fact that anyone even remotely associated with Clinton would say anything even remotely like this at this stage of the contest is really just amateurish, not to mention stupid.

Posted by: PaulB on February 19, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

"This race is over. Do. The. Math."

The fat lady may be warming up but she definitely has not sung. Until we know the results in Texas, Ohio, and the like, the race isn't over. Come on, now, we've seen just how inaccurate the polls can be. If Hillary wins big in March, that punctures Obama's "inevitability", leading to god knows what outcome.

Posted by: PaulB on February 19, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

This strategy just reeks of desperation and prompts two questions: (a) why would she do it? and (b) why would a high-ranking campaign official actually admit it?

No, wait! Three questions!! This strategy prompts three questions: why would she do it? why would a high-ranking official admit to it and why the hell would anyone believe what Roger Simon writes in The Politico?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on February 19, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

"why the hell would anyone believe what Roger Simon writes in The Politico?"

In all seriousness, does he have a reputation for being inaccurate or for playing fast and loose with the facts?

Posted by: PaulB on February 19, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

This is in keeping with the other tactics the Clintons have used, and I wonder how many of her supporters would recoil if she actually did do this. They don't seem to care about anything else, what makes this different to them? It isn't technically illegal either, and that's the excuse they have used for every other thing they have managed to justify to themselves.

Posted by: Soullite on February 19, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

In response to Brent's analogy re the Superbowl -- the Clinton campaign did a lousy job in the preseason as well. I'm a Virginia voter and our household must have received 20 phonecalls from the Obama campaign since June and the "Potomac Primary." We received one call from the Clinton campaign, the day before the primary.

To continue the analogy, the Clinton campaign forgot about basic blocking and tackling, and it's in the GOTV (get out the vote) effort that Obama's strengths and experience as a community organizer are showing us just how good he is.

Posted by: Bill on February 19, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Guys, read the quotes in the article again.

The headline could just as easily read:

"Clinton Camp Says Obama to Woo Pledged Delegates"

Posted by: Tracer Hand on February 19, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

"'a nice home in the suburbs' -- Victor Davis Hanson

The Obamas live in Hyde Park, which is the city."

just a quibble, but the Obamas live in Kenwood, which is just north of Hyde Park.

Posted by: Auto on February 19, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ohhhh, if only political campaigns were all smooth and predictable, you know, like life...

Posted by: elmo on February 19, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, your blog is better when you stick with policy and leave off the campaign rumors. A lot of this nonsense is concern trolls trying to damage all Dems.

Posted by: bakho on February 19, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

"It's toWoo, it's toWoo!!!"

Sorry - that popped into my head, and the only way to get it out was to type it ...

Posted by: kenga on February 19, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it now that it seems Obama might just win, Democrats are starting to become disillusioned about him?

Can it be that democrats feel more comfortable as underdogs and/or losers politically? And now that we have a really good chance we feel the need to sabotage ourselves?

I remember feeling similarly around 2004 when my beloved Redsox finally won the World Series after 85 years. I didn't know what to do with myself now that the curse of the Bambino was over.

It was only cool to be a Redsox fan when they lost it in the final moments. Now it is not so cool... dare I say it. Almost Republican to be s Sox fan.

It just seems eerily similar to that. And now, evrytime Clinton or Obama seems to have an edge on the other, the MSM and blogs start shooting them down. It is almost better to be in second place... how can this be good?

Do democrats instinctively cannibalize themselves when they think they are in position to win?

Posted by: cboas on February 19, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

In re: cboas above,

Why is it now that it seems Obama might just win, Democrats are starting to become disillusioned about him?

Can it be that democrats feel more comfortable as underdogs and/or losers politically? And now that we have a really good chance we feel the need to sabotage ourselves?

Be the first one on your block with this shiny new bumpersticker. It
probably won't look so good in a day or 2, though.

Posted by: marcel on February 19, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

And does anyone realize that Hillary hasn't really been vetted. Name me the last time she has run a hard race? She runs the show this time, not Bill. Face it, once Rudy dropped out in 2000, she hasn't hasn't been seriously challenged in NY since. So I wouldn't put much stock in that she's vetted and all that. Just look at the campaign. Her campaign was filled with so much hubris that they didn't plan much for after Super Tuesday.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on February 19, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Let me throw a little Bill into the pancake batter:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClfpG2-1Bv4


Is that why they call him Big Dog?

Posted by: huntsman on February 19, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding the above video:

Jeebus... did you see Bill's eyes do that inside-outside-upside-downside thing when they asked him about sticking a cigar up the birth canal of the 22 year old intern?

Jeebus...

He'd make a great first hubby wouldn't he?
lol......

Posted by: oh my oh my on February 19, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Is Kevin right that the Pennsylvania delegate error can be easily corrected? Atrios implies otherwise.

Posted by: JackD on February 19, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

It was only cool to be a Redsox fan when they lost it in the final moments. Now it is not so cool... dare I say it.

Honey, that's why I live on the north side of Chicago. My constancy will never be tested.

Posted by: shortstop on February 19, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Laughing uproariously at marcel's bumper sticker!

Posted by: shortstop on February 19, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

cboas' comments are why everyone is sick to death of the Red Sox these days. Stop the navel-gazing, for crying out loud.

Thank God Obama roots for the other Sox, the ones who ended an even longer curse (88 years) in 2005 but never made a federal case out of it.

Posted by: Vincent on February 19, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Valuing loyalty over competence is a trait that does not inspire confidence.

And it was the definition of W's maladministration from Day 1 - I've kinda had my fill of it after 8 looong years.

Posted by: ckelly on February 19, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Has it occurred to anyone that the Clintons, who are after all, political realists, may have concluded that nothing she does at this point will work, and that they are going through the motions on the off chance that Obama might screw up ? From my perspective, the press have been spooky in their implied endorsement of Obama (via their refusal to do any real vetting of the candidate), and if Hillary Clinton doesn't see this or realize its implications, then she is truly politically clueless, and this I do not believe for one second. Take the Iraq war as just one instance. Obama has voted to authorize money for this abomination from the beginning, and yet there has really been no significant challenge from the fourth estate. Maybe they are afraid to take on a black man, I don't know, but as a long time observer of presidential politics, I'm left feeling very uncomfortable about this guy. I'm inclined to agree with the French - anything in politics which smacks of ideological, quasi-religious ferver is a deadly poison to the body politic. I don't like the ecstatic suspension of belief on the part of Obama's supporters. It really does feel like a cult, and not at all like a political movement.

Posted by: rbe1 on February 19, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure any of this is really going to register with voters at all, at least to make any impact or difference, but one thing it does suggest is the tenaciousness of Hillary, which is a good thing if not straying over into voraciousness.

Posted by: Jimm on February 19, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Roger Simon (not to be confused with Roger L. Simon, a lower form of right-wing life)has repeatedly demonstrated Clinton Hatred. One example:

"Politico chief political columnist Roger Simon began his November 16 column by asserting, "The (rhymes with rich) is back.""

Look at mediamatters for many, many more examples. As I said, the Obama campaign,(or the McCain campaign) could not raise enough money to pay for the constant stream of media attacks against the Clintons.

Posted by: solar on February 19, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK
From my perspective, the press have been spooky in their implied endorsement of Obama (via their refusal to do any real vetting of the candidate), and if Hillary Clinton doesn't see this or realize its implications, then she is truly politically clueless, and this I do not believe for one second. Take the Iraq war as just one instance. Obama has voted to authorize money for this abomination from the beginning, and yet there has really been no significant challenge from the fourth estate. Maybe they are afraid to take on a black man, I don't know, but as a long time observer of presidential politics, I'm left feeling very uncomfortable about this guy. I'm inclined to agree with the French - anything in politics which smacks of ideological, quasi-religious ferver is a deadly poison to the body politic. I don't like the ecstatic suspension of belief on the part of Obama's supporters. It really does feel like a cult, and not at all like a political movement.

I don't get this at all. What should the press do to truly vet Obama? You point out that he's voted to authorize money for the Iraq War "from the beginning". Which is pretty misleading to me since he wasn't in the Senate at the "beginning" of the war, and spoke out against it before it was waged. He was elected in 2004, nearly 2 years after the war began, and since then, his voting record is virtually identical to Hillary's on Iraq. The press only goes into a frenzy on issues where they can contrast the candidates, and since there's essentially no distinction between Hillary and Obama on Iraq, except that Obama opposed the invasion, what is there to vet on that subject?

And here we go with the "cult" nonsense again. The guy gives great speeches which inspires a lot of people to support him, and suddenly their mindless sheep.

Here's a newsflash for everyone, inspiring people is exactly what speeches during a political campaign are supposed to do. That's really the whole point of campaigning.

As Democrats, we should be ectastic that we have a candidate that so many people are excited to support. I don't know why our side seems content to settle for candidates that generate lukewarm feelings at best.

Now after Obama is elected, it'll be up to us as voters evaluate if he's making good on his promises.

Posted by: Joe on February 19, 2008 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

rbe1 v. Joe a far superior exchange than scotian v. me.

Progress!

Posted by: Lucy on February 19, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm inclined to agree with the French - anything in politics which smacks of ideological, quasi-religious ferver is a deadly poison to the body politic. I don't like the ecstatic suspension of belief on the part of Obama's supporters. It really does feel like a cult, and not at all like a political movement.

I'm sorry, but this is pure garbage, and you sound about as desperate as you claim Hillary and her campaign is, almost as if you are on marching orders.

I don't care if you're losing, spreading this nonsense and trash about Obama cultivating a cult movement is frankly ridiculous and damaging to not only the Democratic party but the country.

It almost seems as if the message is that we shouldn't ever bother raising our expectations in politics or in our politicians, that the idea of being inspired for change is somehow loony, that we should all just accept our yoke, shut up, and accept droll politicians spewing infantile platitudes and watered down promises of change we should all know we'll be lucky to see 1% implemented.

I'm not buying it, and this is a serious black mark against Hillary if she's enabling this discourse in any way, as are the stupid plagiarism charges. Desperation is decidedly unsexy and uninspiring.

Posted by: Jimm on February 19, 2008 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Has it occurred to anyone that the Clintons, who are after all, political realists, may have concluded that nothing she does at this point will work, and that they are going through the motions on the off chance that Obama might screw up ?

Pathetic, if true.

Posted by: Jimm on February 19, 2008 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm

I guess you're right. It's not a cult. It's just a bunch of independent thinkers who have realized that everything Obama does is good and everything Hillary does is evil. Nope, no groupthink there.

Posted by: ChrisO on February 19, 2008 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK
I guess you're right. It's not a cult. It's just a bunch of independent thinkers who have realized that everything Obama does is good and everything Hillary does is evil. Nope, no groupthink there.

Generalize much? Some examples of this would be nice...Even better would be some examples of unfair or untruthful attacks against Hillary by Obama or his supporters...

I know I can site a bunch of dishonest (or just dumb) attacks from the Hillary camp that they threw against Obama....off the top of my head: twisted Reagan quote, twisted "praise" of Republican ideas, claimed he has no ideas, claimed he wasn't against the war, attacked him for "plagiarizing" his speeches, attacked him for not debating enough...

Give me some examples of the Obama camp doing this. I'm not saying his campaign hasn't done it, but if it has, it's not nearly to the same degree.

Posted by: Joe on February 19, 2008 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

sound like a group of people following an overconfident leader entered into a confrontation in which they expected a quick, decisive victory. they were so sure of themselves ahead of time that they did not have any plans ready in case things turned out differently than expected. hmmmm

Posted by: erock on February 19, 2008 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Texas is "one of [Hillary's] 'firewall' states"? How many firewall states does one campaign get, anyway? I thought New Hampshire was a "firewall state." And Nevada. And New York. What happens if we get all the way to June and she's still behind? Michigan becomes her really, truly, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat, this time for *sure* firewall state?

I dunno; this "firewall state" business for Clinton reminds me a lot of how many times the Bush Administration told us that we had "turned a corner in Iraq." We turned so many corners I think we ended up doing a 540 and started heading back the way we came.

Someone should point out to the Clinton campaign that, once the firewall is breached, you *burn up*. It's probably an analogy they want to stay away from, ya know?

Posted by: Douglas Moran on February 19, 2008 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, enough with the Clintonites versus Obamamania whining. The truth is that most democrats like both candidates, but differ as to which of the two is the best. So many are clamouring for blood, for melodrama that it's become rather silly. All things considered, it's nigh impossible to recall a primary season that is as civil as this one has been, despite pressure on both remaining candidates to go for the killing blow.

I think I speak for many of us when I say I like both Obama and Clinton, but I slightly prefer one over the other.

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