HILLARY PUTS HER FAITH IN TEXAS AND OHIO TO RETAIN HOPE OF NOMINATION
By Leonard Doyle
February 14, 2008
With her back to the wall, nobody doubts that Hillary Clinton will put up a tenacious fight to derail the Obama bandwagon which is picking up momentum. The only question is how nasty a struggle it becomes and how much ammunition she hands to the Republicans in the process.
As news of her defeats in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC sank in, Mrs. Clinton was as far away as possible, courting Hispanic voters in El Paso, Texas. She did not mention Tuesday's defeat, even as the wheels started coming off her campaign. Mrs Clinton's deputy campaign manager Mike Henry, who ran her field operations, quit in an internal power struggle.
But by yesterday morning, her campaign was on the offensive, demanding Barack Obama engage in more televised debates and accusing him of misrepresenting her positions.
Part of Mrs Clinton's strategy is to build a "firewall" in the Ohio and Texas primaries on 4 March, to hold back the prairie fire of enthusiasm driving Mr. Obama forward. But staking everything on one or two important races is a very high-risk strategy, one which failed Rudy Giuliani in Florida, forcing him out of the Republican race.
In her desperate attempt to wrest the Democratic ticket for the White House from Mr. Obama, well-heeled backers of Mrs. Clinton are now expected to turn to the dark arts of the political playbook, including discrediting her opponent. It would be a role reversal for Mrs Clinton who once complained that there was "a vast right-wing conspiracy" out to get her.
But if the fight turns ugly, Mrs. Clinton could end up wrecking both her and Mr. Obama's chances of winning the White House in November. The Clinton campaign has already suffered badly by trying to raise the issue of Mr Obama's use of cocaine as a youth and then attempting to use the race card against him before and during the South Carolina primary. But more is now expected and the Obama campaign has said all along that there will be a lot of turbulence before it clinches the nomination.
Mrs. Clinton's latest strategy could be to discreetly encourage independent organizations to fight on her behalf -- a variation of the "Swift Boat" campaign that helped destroy John Kerry and win George Bush a second term in 2004. Some of her wealthiest backers are drawing up plans to skirt around election laws and run their own independent advertising campaigns attacking Mr. Obama ahead of the primary battles in Ohio, Texas and elsewhere.
Susie Tompkins Buell, the founder of the Esprit clothing company, is considering paying for advertisements that would deliver a harder punch than the bland, uplifting advertisements the Clinton campaign is running. "We're just trying to figure out things to do to help," Ms. Buell told the Wall Street Journal. "We all feel very passionate about it, so the question is, what is the best thing we can do to get her across the finish line?"
Mrs. Clinton and her staff are forbidden by law from talking to anyone running an independent campaign on her behalf. But in an extended television interview on the eve of her defeat in the "Potomac Primaries" she did the spadework for anyone contemplating running "attack ads" on her behalf. "We still don't have a lot of answers about Senator Obama and his dealings with Mr. [Tony] Rezko," she said referring to a former political backer who is facing trial on federal corruption charges.
The danger for Mrs. Clinton is that attack ads by independent organizations could backfire. Mr. Kerry has already warned against the sort of tactics employed by the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" group that questioned his record in Vietnam.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME, RIGHT WAY TO WIN AN ELECTION
By Rupert Cornwell
February 14, 2008
The key to success in U.S. presidential politics is to be the right person in the right place at the right time. That, in a nutshell, explains why a first-term Illinois senator is now the clear favorite to win the 2008 Democratic nomination, and quite possibly the White House as well.
No one doubted Barack Obama's huge political gifts when he first publicly toyed with the idea of a presidential run in late 2006. But many wondered, wouldn't it be better to wait until he had gained more experience?
In an ideal world, yes. But no U.S. presidential year is like another. The Obama qualities are perfectly suited for this particular moment.
A better and more popular president than George Bush would have created an entirely different environment for his succession. Instead, Mr. Bush's miserable failure has generated a national yearning for a new beginning, with which the Obama message of hope and change resonates perfectly.
As for experience, the Bush adminstration was brimming with it, only to commit the monumental blunder of invading Iraq. America wants a feel-good story, and Mr. Obama provides one. Were the public mood less sour, a feel-good might not matter.
This explains his trump card that Hillary Clinton and other candidates simply haven't been able to match -- an ability to inspire people to vote in unprecedented numbers. In a normal year Ms. Clinton's voting support would be more than respectable. Not in 2008.
Mr. Obama's sweep of Tuesday's "Potomac primary" was astounding for its size and the breadth of his support. For the reason look no further than the turnout; in Virginia alone almost one million, compared to under 400,000 in the Democratic primary of 2004.
For Ms. Clinton everything now depends on Ohio and Texas, two "mega-states" that vote next, on 4 March. A split is not enough, she almost certainly will need to win both. Yet the momentum is with Mr. Obama. Her leads in both states have eroded. He has more money than she does, and the electoral calendar favors him. When he has time to get voters to know him, he tends to prevail. There are almost three weeks until Texas and Ohio, a political eternity.
But the gap also allows Ms. Clinton time to regroup. Mr. Obama's youth and race make him a tricky target. But the Clinton campaign is nothing if not battle-hardened, and will not shrink from stepping up its attacks. Yesterday it aired its first (albeit relatively mild) negative ad against him.
Three weeks too is more than enough time for a huge gaffe from Mr. Obama, or for the media which have thus far treated him with kid gloves, to unearth some damaging revelation from his past. Would the unsullied, almost virginal aura that constitutes much of his appeal withstand serious mud thrown in its direction?
For the moment, however, all is set fairer than anyone would have believed six months ago. Mr. Obama is simply the right person in the right place at the right time.