Barack Obama & the Overconfident Democrats

by Rick Rockwell

This week’s unsolicited advice to Democrats: Beware overconfidence.

After watching Travis Childers get elected to Congress in a special election in Mississippi last week, Democrats believe they can run “any Democrat with a pulse” and win in November.

That may be true in some Congressional races, and maybe some statehouse races, but so far, that isn’t the case in the presidential race. So far.

But why else has Barack Obama been campaigning so hard for the past few weeks to link John McCain to the failed policies of the Bush White House. If Sen. Obama (D-IL) wants those charges to stick (and they are a stretch in some areas) to Sen. McCain (R-AZ) then he needs to use the Republican tactic that seems to work with the electorate: keep repeating it until it seems like it must be true.

This tactic shows a bit of overconfidence from Obama and his campaign. Yes, the math says Obama is the likely Democratic nominee, but he hasn’t vanquished Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) yet. And this week will likely provide no relief on that score either, as many are predicting Clinton will win Kentucky’s primary, and Obama will balance that with a win in Oregon. However, the supremely confident Obama camp is already planning a nomination victory appearance in Iowa, although the public wants the process to continue. Clinton’s only chance to give her candidacy some boost is to steal Oregon. Instead, like most of the campaign, she’s been playing defense and hasn’t found traction in the Pacific Northwest.

But as noted here before, the primaries aren’t going to settle the nomination. They are there now to give a boost to the argument of the Pelosi Club that the superdelegates should vote for the candidate who gets the most pledged delegates through the popular vote. (This idea ignores that popular votes don’t elect presidents. Did the Democrats learn nothing from the 2000 election? It also ignores that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has all but declared herself for Obama many times. Catch her introduction to his rousing speech at the Iowa Jefferson Jackson dinner in 2007 and you’ll see her “endorsement” was decided long ago.) All of this won’t be settled until May 31 when former Governor Howard Dean, the head of the Democratic National Committee huddles with the party's rules committee to work out a way to settle the nominating mess.

It seems Dean will have to find a way to make peace, because the candidate who says he can heal partisan rifts has no plan for doing just that within his own party, and the junior senator from New York has too much pride to go gracefully. Perhaps they’ll get it all figured out before the Democrats go to a big party to toast former Vice President Al Gore later that night, while raising some extra money for the party.

As usual with the Democrats these days it is all about cash. This week, The Washington Post revealed that top party donors aren’t waiting for Dean and the superdelegates to create a solution. Instead, donors have been holding meetings in attempts to mend the rifts within the party created by the bare knuckles primary fight. Those meetings were spurred on by former Senator Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader. So let’s take account now: Pelosi, Daschle, (and Daschle’s successor as the top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid, who is also a force), Gore, and Dean, all want a hand in deciding the nomination. This seems like the typical Democratic party process: too many cooks and egos and the result is a flat soufflé. But the overconfident mood says, no, of course, not.

The Clinton camps’ long shot is showing polling data and other indicators that say Obama can’t win now among white working class voters. Their rationale is that after Obama’s stumbles with the Wright debacle and other problems in the spring, some voters probably won’t vote for him in November, even if they supported Obama in the early primaries. Most Democrats don’t seem to want to listen to that warning. They point to the Childers win. They point to Obamamania. They point to Bush’s poll numbers.

McCain is not Bush, no matter how much the Obama campaign paints him that way. However, overconfidence says that strategy is the solution, so get ready to hear more of that for the next five months. Never mind that the Democratic house is in disorder because Obama hasn’t figured a way to shut down the creaky Clinton machine yet. Overconfidence says that’s not important either.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(Political graphic © copyright DarkBlack and used with permission. For more material like this, please see DarkBlack's blog. To see Saturday Night Live's latest take on the divided Democrats, please check below.)

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Anonymous said...

Probably to really understand why the democrats are going to steamroll the GOP in November one must be part of the vast majority of Americans who do not have an economically secure future.

The short list for those of us who have to look at our bank balance every day before we make spening decisions:

_home prices are crashing, selling a home is a scary proposition nowadays and equity in the house, once a wealth generating mechanism, is now a fond memory replaced by "foreclosures"

_Food inflation is noticable at the check out counter

_Gas prices are making a real dent in the average American's pocketbook

_The split between the rich and the poor have grown as Bush gives tax cuts to the rich who are exporting our jobs to China

_45,000,000 or so Americans without healthcare risk financial ruin if they get a terminal illness.

Aside from economic issues:
_Americas youth are off fighting a war that Bush started by lying to us all and our military is so overworked that there was whispers of a military draft. Young people in universities are voting in record numbers not only because Obama is an inspiring figure but also because they don't want to fight in Bush's war

There are many more but my fingers are getting tired.

I wish I had university tenure too, then I could sit back and slice up the ins and outs and whys of the election and put it into historical perspective and worry about winning blog debates. But since I don't, I will simply peer into my empty bank account and say that there are more of us than there are of them. So unless Bush can turn around the economy, win the war, reduce gas prices 80%, provide national healthcare and create about 5,000,000 new jobs a month starting yesterday, I am sorry but Obama and the democrats are going to steamroll the GOP.

Sorry but I think I have trumped you on this debate. If you don't believe me save this and take a look again on November 2.


Rick Rockwell said...

You may be right about most of what you wrote.

However, before my response, some clarifications, please.

We are in agreement on the legacies of the Bush administration. Indeed, much of this blog is devoted to recounting those failures.

Also, yes, tenure does make life more comfortable than the lives of those who are struggling. However, if you think we can buy what we like without a care or without checking the bank statement, then you don’t know what university professors are paid. I would point out that much of the writing here, by myself and others, is to point out the inequities we see in the current system, not from a position of privilege, but because injustice should be confronted. The current government wants a compliant populace, and we reject that.

Now, back to the main points:

Current polls and indicators may be too early to provide much guidance when considering the November results. However, if Obama is such a strong candidate he would have vanquished Clinton long ago (and vice versa). And Obama’s negatives are accumulating, not regressing. McCain may be one of the very few Republicans who has a chance against all that you have documented because he has a long record of opposing Bush on a variety of issues. Current polls tell us (just ask the Clinton campaign which is speaking about them at every turn) that McCain can beat Obama in the key electoral contests. My point of view is it is too early to call and the Democrats should act accordingly.

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