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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hope I'm Wrong

Ok, I'm going to take the risk and go on record with my predictions about tonight: significantly worse than expected for Obama. He loses all the most important swing states tonight, including MA, NJ, MO, and CA by decisive margins. HRC emerges from tonight with new momentum.

Part of this is just gut instinct, but I have a really bad feeling about tonight. I just don't think Obama has had enough time. It's like NH voters getting cold feet being forced to choose on such short notice. It's going to be time to go with the "safe choice" again tonight, I think.

The undecideds are going to go with HRC, I think. He just hasn't had time to make the sale, and they're going to stick with what they know. That's what I think anyway. I'd be glad to be wrong.


At 8:28 AM, Blogger fronesis said...

I don't know anything, really, about the actual electoral nuts and bolts of things, so a prediction from me would mean nothing.

Still, I'm going to say that Frances is wrong. Why? Because even from over here on the other side of the Atlantic, it really feels like something is happening in America - it's in the air, and it's on Youtube. I think there will be record turnout for Obama and I think the Independents and the undecideds will realise that the 'safe choice' is the WRONG choice in 2008. After the last 8 years it is NOT time to return to the party establishment. It's not time to nominate another Clinton.

I think people will ask themselves if it's really possible that someone with intelligence and vision and the ability to inspire people with words could be in the White House in January. And for an answer they'll hear the Obama meme: si, se puede.

And finally, if Frances is right and today is the beginning of the end for Obama, then my own prediction is that McCain will find a way to beat HRC. But if Obama gets the nomination, he'll absolutely blow McCain away in the general election.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Frances said...

Fronesis, I share your pessimism about the prospects of a McCain/HRC matchup. But lots of smart Democrats I know are more optimistic about Hillary's chances, given her disciplined candidacy and campaign skills. Maybe they're right. Maybe she can win the office.

But I'm afraid that a McCain/HRC campaign will go forward without much emotional investment on my part. The whole idea just fills me with fatigue and a sense of loss.

The Clintons were hell on the Democratic party back when they were in the Oval Office. They figured out how to survive personally in a hostile political environment, but they didn't do the party any good as a whole. And I trace establishment Democrats' extreme fearfulness and willingness to accept right wing narratives right back to the Clinton years.

And now the two of them are going all out to kill off the best chance the party has for a brighter future. I hope they don't succeed, but I think they're going to.

But, Fronesis, I hope you're right to hope! Maybe you can see things more clearly with more distance. I guess we'll know more tomorrow.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Wilson said...

I don't understand; even if Clinton wins tonight, what's to stop Obama from being relevant 4 or even 8 years from now? He's a young man and he's not going anywhere. A Clinton victory doesn't seem like it would kill Obama.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

My heart sides with Fro, but my memories of 2000, 2002, and 2004 have me really feeling Frannie's fear today. 2006? Hmmm. . . So I'll predict muddle.

However, I do differ significantly from Frances on the effects of the Clinton presidency. Despite his relentless survival instinct, the Big Dog did the Democratic Party an immense amount of good. Here's a party that was lost in the wilderness, couldn't win and couldn't govern. Clinton ended that. He completely changed the party image from its post-Carter/LBJ funk. His personal sins had less affect on the party than on Clinton himself.

How often do Dems win presidential elections? Not often. Bill won THREE: 1992, 1996, and 2000. He presided over an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity, much of which owed to his decisions in office. Now he might even get his wife elected the first woman Prez despite her unlovable demeanor and non-stop demonization from the right. This is not a man who, on balance, has hurt his party. Quite the opposite, in fact. The reason we're all in such stress right now is that Clinton SAVED the Dems, and we are a grateful bunch. Grateful enough to overlook the obviously superior candidate (Obama)? Maybe.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Frances said...

Wilson, I understand your point. But my feeling is that Obama is the man for the time right now. He will be a totally different politician in 4-8 years. He will be an establishment figure, the next nominee-in-waiting. There will not be this energy and open-endedness. It will merely be "his turn." The careerists and the establishment types will line up behind him, and he will be indebted to them. He will no longer represent reform and renewal in the party in the way he currently does.

I don't see the Clinton years in nearly so positive a light as TMcD. He did some good things (against great odds), no question about it. But we owe Newt Gingrich's speakership in part to his mistakes in his first two years. And we can chalk up Al Gore's failure to win against the callow and obviously dimwitted Bush in significant part to Clinton fatigue. Remember Bush's line about"returning honor and dignity to the Oval Office?" It got big cheers because it spoke to a deep discomfort with the way Clinton had conducted himself. People didn't want him impeached (and the GOP certainly overreached on that), but--make no mistake--his personal behavior was a huge liability for the Democratic party and for Al Gore.

As for Clinton getting his unlikeable wife the Democratic nomination, I'm not too impressed by it. Do you have the slightest doubt that George W. Bush would get renominated if he could run again? I think Bush's approval ratings among Republicans are at least as high (if not higher than) Bill Clinton's ratings among Democrats. With all due respect to V.O. Key, voters may not be fools, but they follow their party leaders almost like sheep.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Frances, I think you're way off here. 1994 was part Clinton failure, but it was also greatly about the tail end of post-1964 realignment. What killed Clinton early on was his progressivism--not his centrist caution--on health care and gay rights. But Clinton left office with approval above 60%, has similarly high post-pres approval ratings, and remains WILDLY popular among Dems nationally.

Not so for GWB among the much more loyalty-driven GOP. With overall approval ratings around 30%, he's lost even much of his base. I can tell you anecdotally that many of my GOP college buddies can't stand the man. One, who has never voted Dem in his life, now calls himself a "Goddamn Republican, meaning I spend a lot of time pulling out my hair and asking, 'goddamnit, why am I a Republican?!'" Polls bear this out. W might win a squeaker GOP primary, but only because otherwise the party is utterly fragmented. I suspect that, even if he could run again, his party wouldn't let him.

As for 2000, Monica-gate may have turned the media against Gore and fired up the GOP base, but Gore still got MORE VOTES than Bush, despite Gore's lackluster campaign style and the difficulty of any party (especially the Dems) holding the White House more than eight years running. And Bush was not a non-entity. He was the more charismatic son of a respected former Prez and the governor of a huge state. He had instant credibility. Gore's mistake was not to use Clinton MORE, at least so he could run on that record. He also should have called out Bush on the "honor" line and tied him to the impeachocrats in Congress. Even then, he still won, in large part thanks to Clinton coattails.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Frances said...

Bill Clinton may be remembered more fondly by the broad public than George W. Bush, but he and George W. Bush actually enjoy similar levels of popularity within their own parties.

Current Pew Research Center polls place George W. Bush's approval ratings at 71% among Republicans. The GOP would unquestionably renominate that man, even if he is one of the worst presidents in history. No other GOP candidate could defeat him in a primary.

Last summer a CBS poll had Bill Clinton's favorability among Democrats at 79%, and that was before he had done anything to upset anyone during the campaign this year.

Is it any wonder that Bill Clinton is able to help his wife win the Democratic nomination? It has nothing to do with whether or not he was a good president. It is his popularity within the party that is such an asset to HRC.

TMcD, I think you do too much to let Bill Clinton off the hook for his mistakes. My view of his disastrous first two years was that it was FAILURE that repulsed the public, not progressivism. In other words, his approval rating plummeted for many of the same reasons that the current Democratic Congress is plumbing new depths of unpopularity. (It can't get anything done.) And I totally disagree that Gore should have made more use of Clinton in 2000. Clinton was a two edged sword during the campaign, thanks to his own highly embarrassing behavior. Clinton fatigue was real and it greatly harmed Gore.

But setting aside our differing evaluations of the Clinton presidency, the broader point is that a president can suck beyond all belief and still remain hugely popular within his own party. I think Nixon's rating among Republicans when he RESIGNED was still 68%.

It really takes some doing to unseat an incumbent in a primary, which is sort of what Obama has to do. That Hillary is having so much trouble holding off Obama's challenge--given the assets she has--is a real warning sign for me.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

(Take two: Blogger ate version one)

Frances, how many Dems were calling for an expanded Clinton role in 2000? Lots and lots. Gore avoided it to "be his own man" as the press refrain went, stepping out of the Big Dog's large shadow, not b/c of Clinton fatigue. How many Republicans are calling for ANY role for GWB in 2008? None. He's poison.

You also can't divorce THAT Clinton failed in 1993-4 from WHY he failed. Which is that he got stuck too far out to the left of Congress and the public on (a) gays in the military, and (b) health care (see Brooks in NYT today). I was alive back then, and this is clearly how I remember it. Not to sell Obama down the same cautious road, given today's improved issue environs, but Clinton's failures have to be seen in true context. The hip proggy narrative now taking root about those years and their conservatism is dreadfully wrong.

BTW, do you post on Obsidian Wings using a shortened moniker? I think I've seen your voice today and before.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Frances said...

I've left a handful of comments (as "Fran") at Obsidian Wings. I like Publius a lot, not so much Hilzoy (though she's ok). I've seen you comment from time to time at Kevin Drum's site, I think. (Did you make reference to the fact that life would be a lot better for red state Democrats with Obama stickers on their cars?)

It's not a "hip proggy narrative" about the Clinton years that I'm embracing. I remember the Clinton years well, too. I just remember them differently; the failures and missteps stand out in my mind more than in yours.

Clinton certainly did face a very hostile political and media environment. Just as the context explains why the current Democratic Congress can't achieve much of anything, one should always measure what is achieved against what was reasonably possible.

But here's where I think we really disagree: I just don't think an ideological analysis of American politics takes us very far. Clinton wasn't successful because he was "centrist" or because he liked to bomb Iraq regularly. He was successful because policy outcomes were good, and the economy was roaring along (with the assist of the tech and housing bubbles).

Policy failure repulses people far more than excessive "liberalism" or "conservatism" does. Most people don't even understand what ideology is. Bush is unpopular not because his policies are too right wing, but because things aren't going well. The war is dragging on interminably, the economy is tanking, and Katrina was a huge embarrassment. If this war had ended with a ticker tape parade like the first Gulf War, he'd still be popular with more people than just Republicans.

The low information nonideologues hold the balance of power in American politics. An FDR can be massively popular, and so can a Ronald Reagan. It's a matter of trust, of leadership, of achievement, and of good (and lucky) outcomes. Ideology has very little to do with it.

At 3:35 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Good memory. Yeah, that was my bumper sticker comment at P. Animal. I remember wondering if you were posting on that string too. I'm with you on Publius and Hilzoy. I don't read Publius as much as I used to, but I still think he's one of the best.

As for ideology, I think you're right in one sense: the haze of public perception. But things are different if you look at Congress itself. The Clinton admin. got off to a bad start b/c Dole pushed the gay issue up on the agenda to tag Clinton as a 60s lefty. It worked. Congress wouldn't have supported it no matter what Clinton did. The badly conceived health care mess played into the same trap, this time self-inflicted. So when the Clintons steered too far left for Congress, the narrative quickly took hold with the public too. Ideological daring can win over the masses retroactively if enacted and successful, but ideology clearly matters in both whether something can get passed in the first place and how the narrative of failure develops later.


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