January 25, 2008

Clinton's FL & MI gambit: an opportunity for Obama

I have to say, Hillary Clinton's sleazy attempt to revalidate the Florida and Michigan Democratic Primary Delegates is a brilliant bit of electioneering:
- In what looks to remain a close race up until the convention, every delegate counts
- By taking this action, she once again puts Obama's team on the whining defensive (in terms of public/media perception)
- It also reinforces the optic that Obama isn't willing to fight (Josh Marshall's "bitchslap theory of politics," whereby Dems appear weak when they are attacked by the GOP and they respond not by directly fighting back, but by complaining about the unfairness of the attack)
- While Clinton is taking somewhat of a primary risk, and somewhat less of a general election risk, that she "turns off" people from her candidacy and the Dem ticket and voting in general, those risks, I think, are fairly small in that this is but one datum in a long primary campaign, and is (a) likely to be long forgotten, especially by November, and (b) not really likely to ultimately depress Dem turnout or drive many Dems from voting for her
- Even if this action does depress turnout or voting in the primaries, such turnout is likely to redound to Clinton's favor, as this amounts to a Rovean exploitation of the splitting of the (primary) electorate into a base (working-class white Dems) and an opposition; the opposition (college-educated and black Dems) is (a) unlikely to vote for Hillary anyway, and (b) likelier to be more "engaged" and informed, and therefore likelier to read enough about this action to in fact be turned off by the "dirty pool" aspect of it
- Finally, by defending the principle of re-enfranchisement of FL and MI Dem primary voters, she puts Obama in the position not only of "defending disenfranchisement," but of defending nitpicky/parsing/inside-baseball/ward-heeler/DNC old politics rules

The solution, and opportunity, here for Obama is obvious: he should magnanimously agree with Clinton, assert that, yes, every Democrat's vote should count -- and that he would welcome the seating and counting of the FL and MI delegates at the convention.

Ultimately, it seems, from some preliminary analysis, that FL and MI might not provide enough of a bump to put Hillary over the top, anyway -- especially if Edwards continues to hang in the race as a spoiler/kingmaker.

But aside from the delegate mechanics of conceding on principle, Obama would clearly and massively "win" the optics battle. It would reinforce his overall "new politics" messaging, it would solidify his support among those "turned off" by Hillary's move in the first place (including not only registered Dems, but also independents likely to vote in open Dem primaries and independents and registered Republiocans likely to vote in the general), and it would nullify his current problematic weak/whining positioning.

No comments: