Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Reflections on New Hampshire; A Show of Emotion Heard 'Round the World; Key Union May Back Obama Run

The twists and turns of this exciting race are not helping me get over my jet lag -- I wake up at 4am and can't get back to sleep as my mind starts to churn!  Some early morning thoughts:
1) A big turnout at the event tonight (the Grand Hyatt at Grand Central Station) is even more important now, both for financial reasons and to show everyone that the groundswell of support for Obama is real and a setback in New Hampshire doesn't diminish it.  The $2,300 and $1,000 per person receptions sold out days ago, but there's still room in a huge ballroom at the $500 per person main event, starting at 7pm, so RSVP now at and show your support!
2) There's no question that this is a big disappointment.  I thought the race was over yesterday, based on the polls that showed a convincing Obama win.  At that point, Clinton was likely pulling out of SC and Nevada and hoping for a miracle.
3) Taking off my Obama hat and putting on my hat as an American, this is good news.  I think a real horse race is healthy for our democracy.
4) Putting on my hat as a Democrat, I also think this is good news (as long as Sen. Obama eventually wins the nomination).  A horse race means that the media attention, money and time/energy of millions of fired-up Americans (esp. the younger generation) will continue to be hugely disproportionately weighted toward the Democratic race (I sense very little excitement about the Republican candidates and their race).  As long as the two front-runners continue to wage positive, issues-oriented campaigns, I think this increases the strength of the Democratic Party, which increases the chances, both this year and in the future, of not only winning the White House, but also increasing the majorities in the House and Senate, which is critical as well (let's not kid ourselves about the depth of opposition that any Democratic President will face in trying to implement change).
5) Speaking of a positive, issues-oriented campaign, I disagree with my friends who think Clinton will turn negative, even vicious.  It's certainly open to debate whether this is her instinct and standard playbook, but even her worst critics don't think she's irrational -- and if there's anything we've learned this political season, it's that Americans are sick of negative campaigns (a big reason Obama's done so well).
6) A week ago, had we known that Obama would finish fewer than three percentage points behind Clinton, that would have been viewed as a huge victory.  The problem is that expectations (myself included, of course) got out of control.
7) I think we can chalk up Clinton's win to two things (beyond the historic connection the Clintons appear to have with the people of New Hampshire):
A) Her almost-crying moment -- the reason everyone will focus on, as evidenced by, for example, this NYT article today:
Mrs. Clinton has meted out her inner life one teaspoon at a time: a suggestive line in an interview here, a hearty laugh there.

So on Monday, when she choked up during an appearance at a New Hampshire coffee shop, making a nakedly emotional plea for her candidacy, Mrs. Clinton prompted one of the most fiercely debated moments of the presidential campaign to date.

Scripted or not, this was a Hail Mary pass -- it could have turned into a Muskie moment, but instead appears to have really worked, esp. with women, by humanizing her.  If she wins the nomination, this will be the key 90 seconds people will be talking about for a long time...
B) The other reason for her win, which fewer people will focus on, is the power of the Democratic political machine, which the Clintons (for now) still own.  This has important implications for Super Tuesday, where the Obama team will have a huge challenge trying to match the machine in 20+ states on the same day.
I saw this in Cory Booker's first run for mayor, when he raised a ton of money and entered election day up 6 points in the polls yet lost by 6 points.  Despite all of the money, it just takes a lot of time to build up a machine, whose power to get out the vote and tip close elections cannot be underestimated. 
To win, a challenger like Obama needs to build a big lead (or capture -- or at least neutralize -- the machine).
8) Speaking of which, if they stick to their plans, this will be a key endorsement, as it will not only deliver Nevada, giving Obama important momentum going into Super Tuesday on Feb. 5th, but also show that Obama can successfully tap the machine, even after the loss in New Hampshire.  From today's WSJ:

In what would represent a major shift in union support, Unite Here, which represents 460,000 hotel and apparel workers, is expected to endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination today, according to people familiar with the union's plans.

The decision would be the first national labor endorsement for Mr. Obama and would give him a leg up in the Jan. 19 caucus in Nevada, where the union's 60,000-member culinary-workers local is by far the state's largest labor presence and is expected to turn out a sizable percentage of caucus-goers.

January 9, 2008

A Show of Emotion Heard ’Round the World

It was not that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton teared up. It was all the times she did not.

Even in low moments, Mrs. Clinton has been a picture of steely public composure. She has rarely, if ever, seemed to let herself go. Not when her health care initiative failed. Not the first time the world found out about her husband’s marital misconduct. Not the second time either.

In contrast, Mrs. Clinton’s challengers for the Democratic presidential nomination have been emotionally accessible. Senator Barack Obama wrote about his absent father in “Dreams From My Father” and about quarreling with his wife in “The Audacity of Hope.”

John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, is the star of a long-running, heart-rending family drama: he lost a son in a car accident and has a wife with incurable cancer and he discusses all of it with seeming ease.


Key Union May Back Obama Run

January 9, 2008

In what would represent a major shift in union support, Unite Here, which represents 460,000 hotel and apparel workers, is expected to endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination today, according to people familiar with the union's plans.


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