Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Super Tuesday ... Get Out and Vote

By Edmund F. “Ned” Brown, IV

Being from Chicago, we like to say to say, “Vote early and often.” Yesterday, I tried to give you an inside view of the GOP presidential primary. While there appears to be light at the end of the GOP tunnel, the Democratic battle between Senators Clinton (and maybe Billary) and Obama may continue to wage. It reminds me of the Battle of the Ironclad, with the Merrimack and the Monitor blasting away at each other.

Much has been written about the bare-knuckled political tactics of the Clintons- whether it’s their political surrogates or “Big Dog” Bill. South Carolina is a case in point. The Clinton crew has always bet that they could steamroll any adversary. The end for them (winning) always justifies any means. However, not much has been written about the toughness of the Obama brain-trust. We see a candidate soaring above the fray, but have no doubt, there is a street-smart group keeping him up there. Start at the top, the General Chairman of the campaign is Clinton former Secretary of Commerce, Bill Daley, brother (and emissary) of longstanding Chicago mayor Richie Daley. The chief strategist is David Axelrod, who has been with Obama since his first political campaign and help Obama survive some very tough races. Unlike Mark Penn, Hillary’s chief strategist, who loves political polls, Axelrod goes with a gut intuitive sense.

Rounding out the team is Rep. Rahm Emanuel who is in the toughest place politically. Why? Technically, Emanuel is supposed to be neutral. He owes his political spurs to Bill Clinton, but now needs the support of the Daley machine. Emanuel is very shrewd politically as evidenced that at a relatively young age, he is Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, a leadership position. Emanuel’s job is to torment the GOP, and get his members re-elected. He is very good at it.

The bottom-line here is that I think the Clinton folks underestimated the toughness of the Obama camp. They focused on the candidate being a consensus kind of guy, but that does not reflect the people running his campaign. For example, the Clinton camp tried to get tough in South Carolina by incorrectly linking a remark Obama made about Ronald Reagan as supporting his policies in a radio ad. Not only did it backfire, the Obama team had a counter ad ready saying that Hillary was a “do nothing, say anything “person. The Clintons blinked first and backed-off the attacks. To me, the Clinton/Obama battle is beginning to like a fight between the Hatfields and the Capones, and the street gang is winning.

While nobody can look into a crystal ball and predict the outcome of the Democratic primary, I will give you some “knowns” and you can draw your own conclusions.

• Obama’s recognition and approval ratings are surging in the past 30 days. Whether it is hard poll numbers or anecdotal, Obama has generated tremendous enthusiasm and support. The Clinton “inevitable” crowning of the nomination is like a ship trying to dock while struggling against an ever stronger outgoing tide. A case in point: Bill Clinton drew a few thousand people at a Colorado event on Saturday. The same day in Boulder, Obama drew over 16,000. Frank Rich in yesterday’s New York Times said that the comparison between Obama and John F. Kennedy is about the longing of Americans and the spreading desire for national renewal (i.e. change).

• A knockout punch for either campaign is not likely as a result of today’s primaries. Obama is the winner if the results are close, because the public’s expectations levels and the polls are lower. However, if Obama carries California (can you imagine being a candidate and having Oprah, Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver campaigning together for you) the win will be huge.

• The selection of a Democratic nominee will not proceed in a vacuum. John McCain is the de facto GOP candidate. Therefore, the Dems need a candidate to defeat a formidable adversary. Hillary’s credentials as being a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee will pale in comparison to McCain’s. Plus, she will get blasted for her changing positions on the Iraq war and her funding votes.

• If the Battle of the Ironclad continues beyond today, the real test for the general election will be the March 4 primary in Ohio. If Clinton cannot beat Obama in Ohio, one of the decisive states in the 2004 election, she will not beat McCain there in the general. And as I said yesterday, my bet goes on Gov. Charlie Crist as McCain’s #2 on the ticket to help lock-up Florida- the other pivotal state

Which leads me to my final observation about this fascinating Clinton/Obama battle and the answer to the tease in yesterday’s column.

Clinton needs Obama to win with her ticket, but he doesn’t need her Hillary has an insurmountable 44% of Americans (mostly over 30 years of age) who absolutely will not vote for her. And despite how mad many Republicans are with George Bush, they could vote for McCain. Conversely, Obama has brought hundreds of thousands of new voters out to support him. These people are supporting change through an Obama election- period. As any Clinton watcher will tell you, with Billary it is always about winning. And no matter what compromises they have to make or what they have to do to win, they will; that includes making nice with Obama to convince him to join the ticket to keep his followers.  Either way, Obama cannot lose. He’s a slam-dunk in the general as the V.P., and a strong contender at the top of the ticket.
Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
Stay tuned ...

On a personal note ... I’ve spent the past few days working the wards of Newark for Obama- again at 7:00 a.m. this morning. There is another NYSD story about my Newark experience. The prospect of working in the Ohio primary in early March is not fun, but you do what you gotta do. At least I get DPC to buy me lunch tomorrow at Michaels.

On Sunday, I took a brief trip late afternoon to Washington, DC for business meetings early Monday. I was stranded in DC on Super Bowl Sunday. Although I could have gone to friends to watch the game, I opted to go to Nathans, owned by NYSD’s own, Carol Joynt. As I entered, the bar was packed, not a seat to be had. In the corner and in a perfect spot to watch the game was one table with a Reserved sign on it. When I gave the hostess my name, she said, “Oh, Mr. Brown, that table is for you.” Carol had thoughtfully held it for me. Not only that, she and her son, Spencer, came down to keep me company for the first half of the game. We all know that Carol is a gifted writer and a great saloon-keeper; she also has a warm soul- all part of the wonderful NYSD family.