Saturday, May 17, 2008

Race for the White House- 5/17/08

It is time for another edition of complete disjointed rambling and stream of consciousness typing about the week in Presidential politics, as I attempt to slog my way through this as fast as possible....

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton was the winner of the West Virginia primary, by a landslide margin as expected, although the victory was so immense, that it took many by surprise and fueled the fire regarding concerns that some have about Barack Obama and electability, especially with working class white voters.

Nonetheless, Obama managed to gather headlines of his own over the week with more and more endorsements by superdelegates and other entities, as well as an endorsement that was long coveted by both Democrats, that of former candidate John Edwards. While Edwards may have formally gotten on board with Obama, only after which it appeared he was inevitable (and despite the fact that Elizabeth Edwards was curiously not part of the endorsement event), it was a shrewd political move meant to deflect from the negative headlines surrounding Obama after the West Virginia debacle. The hope for Obama supporters is that Edwards can help convince working class white Democrats to rally around his candidacy.

The sense of "inevitability" regarding Obama and the nomination over the past week and a half, plus the fact that Republicans clearly have Obama in their political crosshairs this week, and the interesting back and forth that developed, hurt any possibility that Hillary Clinton has of regaining momentum and instead render her as more of an afterthought at this point. While she is expected to easily carry Kentucky this coming Tuesday, most expect a fairly comfortable Obama win in Oregon, where much of the voting has already been done and has been mailed in. There is one ARG poll that shows a very close race in Oregon, but that could very well be an outlier.

So, Clinton is now in the position where it appears that she may very well be campaigning for a VP slot on the ticket and hoping that her strength with core Democrat constituenties might make her an appealing prospect. People close to Obama and many others in the party and in the media insist that such a pairing is unlikely, but since Clinton has been pretty meek in going after Obama since the primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, and with all the talk about only staying in the race "until there is a nominee", her campaign is resembling that of a post-Super Tuesday Mike Huckabee as he technically campaigned in opposition to John McCain, but with the hope of being nice enough and rack up some points to merit VP discussion. (Speaking of Huckabee, he might have done in any hopes he had of being McCain's runningmate, which were apparently realistic according to one recent report, with an absolutely ill-advised and frankly despicable joke he told yesterday at an NRA conference about someone pointing a gun at Obama. Huckabee would apologize that evening for the remark, but the political damage to Huckabee might be profound as it relates to his short-term ambitions.) Getting back to Clinton though, if this is indeed the direction she is heading, she may very well suspend her candidacy after the final states vote in early June. Then again, she could decide to fight for Michigan and Florida all the way to the convention floor.

Since Obama looks like the likely Democrat nominee, Republicans are starting to zero in on him, but it was somewhat surprising to see the ramped up way Democrats and the Obama campaign (with Hillary defending him in this effort) responded to remarks that President Bush made this week at the Israeli Knesset in regards to dealing with terrorist states and "appeasement." Although neither Obama's name nor the name of any political party was included in the remarks, Democrats assumed this was a slap at Obama made on foreign soil and reacted furiously. They clearly hope that by picking a fight with an unpopular President and trying to link John McCain to him, they can score political points by showing how Obama would stick up for himself and also by trying to link McCain to Bush Administration policies.

The White House insisted that Obama was not the target of the remarks (they say they assumed people would consider it a knock against Jimmy Carter, if anything) and a lot of Republicans are saying that the Obama campaign and Democrats might feel overly sensitive about this as a vulnerability, considering Obama did proclaim a willingness to negotiate without condition with rogue leaders and dictators earlier in the campaign, and thus are protesting the President's remarks too much. McCain fired back forcefully at Obama, making it clear that he was perfectly willing to have a debate with the Illinois Senator over national security.

This could be a fight that both the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign relish having for different reasons, as both believe they will benefit. Obama wants to show that he is not going to be "swift-boated" and also because of the fact that this entire discussion practically cuts out Clinton from the equation. McCain believes he can win a debate about who is prepared to be Commander in Chief with Obama. Also, it is worth noting that conservatives, who have expressed a great deal of displeasure in recent weeks with the McCain campaign over some domestic policy themes and proposals, might be far more buoyed by a national campaign that would focus more on fighting terrorism and national security.

Time will tell how this "fight" might continue to play out, but if the movement in the daily general election tracking polls over the past couple days from Rasmussen and Gallup are any indication of micro-trends in the campaign, McCain may be getting the best out of the brouhaha.


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