April 16, 2008

The Dangers of Clinton's Strategy

After the American Century

Many have noted that Hillary Clinton is pursuing a strategy which is potentially destructive not just to Obama but also to the Democratic Party. But polling figures show that the strategy of all out attack on Obama, often using precisely the same arguments as Republicans, is having a destructive effect on Clinton herself. The Rasmussen daily tracking poll shows that Mrs. Clinton has been behind McCain now for more than one month. According to the same polling organization, Obama has been closer to McCain, and on a few occasions ahead of him, during the same period.

In short, Clinton risks being seen as a surrogate McCain, or a second-rate version of the "real McCain." She can talk about learning to shoot a gun as a young girl, and she can sidle up to the bar and have a beer and a shot of whiskey, but she just is not as believable in that role as McCain himself. She was not a fighter pilot, she only mistakenly claimed to come under fire. An undecided voter in the crucial swing states of Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida just might prefer the new (if old) face, and go for the Republican anti-Bush.

It gets worse. Suppose Hillary's endless attacks on Obama do eventually win her the nomination. The millions who voted for him are not going to be enthusiastic about her. Not now. She will have quite a struggle to unite the Democrats, and will have to start months after McCain has been at the same game in his party. Polls show that back in Februry most Democrats were excited about both their front-running candidates, but today the divisions are far deeper, with the split getting worse every day.

Now imagine that you are one of the remaining super-delegates, who has to decide. Clinton has managed to take some of the gloss off Obama, who nevertheless still leads McCain in national polls, while she is clearly weaker against him. The process of selecting a candidate is weakening the party, which now risks losing the White House, despite President Bush's extremely low popularity ratings that hover around 30%. If this goes on much longer, is it not possible that a new, no doubt impossible, scenario has a certain appeal, the scenario of an entirely new candidate coming to the rescue? Someone with experience. Someone who once received more than 50% of the national vote. Someone the party might unify around - like Al Gore.

Impossible now. But what if the race remains undecided until the end of summer?