1.07.2008

New Hampshire: Barack Obama's Latest Hope

by Rick Rockwell

Democrats need to stay behind Barack Obama for at least a few more days in New Hampshire.

This is the only way to stop Hillary Clinton. By stopping Sen. Clinton (D-NY) that opens up the Democratic field to others, and to more debate about substantive issues, instead of empty soundbites and promises about hope. Of course, if more of the experienced Democrats drop out (like after the Iowa caucuses) then that strategy is also bankrupt.

This blog has denounced the horse race aspect of political coverage before, and so in a bit, some substance will follow.

But first take note: after Iowa’s third place finish, Clinton is merely nicked. And even a loss in New Hampshire would only be a mild wound. (Trying to draw sympathy, Clinton's advisors are telling the media a loss in New Hampshire would "cripple the campaign," but the Clinton machine is stronger than that.) Some forget, her husband also finished third in Iowa and did not win New Hampshire. Actually, President Bill Clinton and the current president (who also didn’t win the Granite State in his first presidential run) were the candidates who broke New Hampshire’s grip on the nomination process. But if Sen. Clinton beats Sen. Obama (D-IL) in New Hampshire, the inevitable coronation will be on again. And although former Sen. John Edwards is still alive in the race, he is a notch off the pace that has Clinton and Obama basically tied in the polls.*

Unfortunately, all three of the Democratic front-runners have major flaws. And if the race comes down to only Obama and Clinton in the next month, the Democrats will be in trouble in November. Despite the over-blown pronouncements of network anchors about a new era in American politics because an African-American won in Iowa (did folks forget Jesse Jackson won five primaries in 1984 and he more than doubled that record in 1988?), the reality is the wrong minority candidate is getting all the attention.

Here’s a question for the networks: why did they minimize the candidacy of the only Latino in the race almost from the beginning of his candidacy?

Gov. Bill Richardson has more experience than all three of the Democratic front-runners combined. He’s served in Congress, as New Mexico’s governor, and in Bill Clinton’s administration. (Take just Richardson’s Congressional service of 14 years, and it is almost as much as the 16 combined years of his media-anointed competitors.) Richardson has negotiated to get political prisoners released in Cuba and for concessions from North Korea. He successfully negotiated with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the mid-1990s to save imprisoned American oil workers. Some may not realize Richardson, even as governor, negotiated for the release of jailed journalists in Sudan in 2006, and in 2007 managed to negotiate a 60-day ceasefire in Darfur. In Congress, he built a record of championing Native American issues and he has a long list of bills to his credit.

Stack that up against Obama who has only been in politics for just over a decade, and most of that in the Illinois legislature. An op-ed in The Washington Post noted that folks should consider Obama’s record in Illinois as equal to anything in Congress and that comparing records among the candidates would be beneficial. Although some of that is wrong-headed (like comparing batting averages for a AAA farm team against major league baseball batting statistics) look at what Obama has achieved. Congressional Quarterly calls his record undistinguished and typical for a freshman Senator. To Obama’s credit, he teamed with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to get a law passed requiring the government to construct a searchable database that allows anyone to track federal spending (the database went online last month). Obama also teamed with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) to co-sponsor ethics reform legislation to hinder big money lobby tactics. And sure, Obama has tons of positions, like any politician, but stack that up against the results that Richardson has produced. (For more on the discussion about experience, please see the highlights from the New Hampshire Democratic debate.)

Oh, and that promise Obama makes about bipartisan initiatives if he’s elected? Check his record: he votes with the Democratic leadership 97 percent of the time: more than Hillary, and more than either Senators Chris Dodd or Joe Biden (who both dropped out of the race after Iowa).

All that said, however, here’s hoping voters in New Hampshire buy what Obama’s peddling. Maybe, after New Hampshire, by the time the media and the voters catch-on, some other candidate will grab the momentum that has swung Obama’s way.

*A statistical tie within the margin of error of the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll.

For more background on the campaign, please see:

(Political graphic by AZRainman, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. To see more of AZRainman's work, please check out his blog.)







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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

interesting. I don't agree but respect your opinion so much I am going to have to rethink my own a bit.

my initial feeling Obama can win in the general and he is one of those exceptions that prove the rule An Obama JFK parallel is a good one. but on the other hand I have always felt that the JFK presidency has been vastly overrated by historians ...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Hillary crying will help or hurt her?

Another Clinton shock tactic or was she sincere??

I think the average NH person will say, maybe we pushed too hard on the negative Hillary stuff so the crying might give Hillary a 4 or 5 point bounce. A double digit loss might finish her campaign so I think the crying was feigned but it will work.

If she was a man and cried like that she would be done.

Rick Rockwell said...

It is a good thing Hillary doesn't know about this blog. Just more reason to cry, other than those sinking poll numbers.

For those who didn't read about it, there's more background here. Given the context, I don't think it was a Muskie moment. If she loses in New Hampshire it won't be due to that moment.

As for the Obama fans, I agree there is room for discussion, but few in the media are discussing his thin resume. Of course, I do see the JFK parallel but JFK was both a war hero and someone who had 14 years of experience in Congress. That's a lot more than what Obama has. I also think JFK gets points for his promise even today, but with all the facts we know now about Camelot, his standing is hyped.

I worry that folks are so hungry for real leadership we are about to make the mistake again of electing someone who isn't ready.

Jeff Siegel said...

Please note that JFK beat Nixon, whom nobody liked, by two-tenths of a point. Kennedy's opponents cited two things: His religion and his inexperience. Compared to Obama, as Rockwell noted, JFK's handicaps look like like assets.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rick. Once Hillary Rodham drops out, we need to start thinking about beating the GOP.

I hope Gore jumps in, but in the end, if he does not, I am happy to try to win with Obama. If he loses, in the worse case, McCain will have his hands full trying to clean up the disaster of 8 years of Bush which might not be such a bad thing.

In any case, America was built on thinging big and new ideas, and who says a 47 year old man with a Harvard Law degree who is an obvious leader, cannot shake up the status quo and make change.

Time will tell

Rick Rockwell said...

That's not exactly what I said, but I think many agree getting Hillary out is the first priority.

This issue of "likeability" which the media have imposed on the race is of concern. George Bush was the most likeable candidate in many polls in 2000 and 2004, and see what we got. I want a president who encourages respect worldwide. I don't need one who I might like to have a barbecue with or share a beer with (the inane questions posed in some polls previously).

I will say that if Hillary crumbles after New Hampshire, then her well-oiled election machine was nothing more than spin and media myth.

Anonymous said...

It's not about likeability, its about leadership.

I actually think Hillary is a very likeable person. I have one aquaitance who knows her well who told me that in a small group Mrs. Clinton is a very impressive person. Presenting to groups, her likeability doesn't come across nearly as well, but she still seems likeable.

The point is perhaps she is just wrong for the times.
I also don't think Bush got elected because he was likeable. He got elected for 2 reasons

1. because Al Gore ignored his home state of Tennesse and lost it

2. because Bush stole the election in Florida.

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