Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Real Battle is About to Begin

By Edmund F. “Ned” Brown, IV

This writer’s political analysis and commentary tries to be different from the mainstream media in two ways: he looks beyond the reported storyline to examine what is not being said, and he adds his own inside knowledge of the players and the process.

A case in point was a front page story last Saturday in the New York Times that former Vice-President Al Gore and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might have to step into the primary battle and be honest brokers — an attempt to determine a Democratic candidate for President, and avoid a prolonged and protracted primary battle. Can we take more weeks of ridiculous insinuations of plagiarism when more important issues are confronting us?

The question not being asked in the Times piece is, “why would Gore and Pelosi insert themselves into a political food fight ... because they are loyal party leaders?” Hardly. What drives every politician are more narcissistic factors: ego, self-preservation and sometimes, revenge. What role do I believe that a former Vice-President and the current House Speaker (and Chair of the Democratic Party convention) will play? Howard Dean proposed that he be the honest broker, but he doesn’t have the political muscle for the task at hand; he needs political heavyweights like Gore and Pelosi.

Today, after the results in Wisconsin and the fact that Obama has closed a 20-point voter preference deficit in Texas and is rapidly closing Ohio, the handwriting is starting to show through the wall paint: Gore and Pelosi will be behind the scenes (or not so behind) players to get Hillary Clinton to end her candidacy.

Impossible? No. Bloody — quite likely. The Clintons are the “never die” comeback couple — defeat and surrender are not in their vocabulary. Already the Clinton spokespeople (Lanny Davis, Howard Wolfson, Ann Lewis, etc.) are saying that regardless of the Wisconsin, Texas and Ohio results, Hillary is in the primary race until the end. The Clintons would sooner create a major rift in the party than face reality, not to mention a political loss to John McCain and the Republicans in November.

How did we get here, and how would this scenario be possible? Up until as late as last October, Hillary had a substantial lead and campaign war chest in that her campaign believed she would dispatch both Edwards and Obama — not to mention the lesser-known candidates — by February 5. Everything was geared to wrapping up the nomination by Super Tuesday: personnel deployment, campaign funding — all the chips were on February 5. The Obama team demonstrated their field skills in Iowa (not so coincidentally, their Iowa Field Director is now running Ohio) and they threw a wrench into the well-oiled Clinton machinery. Hillary rebounded in New Hampshire after Obama made a condescending remark about Hillary “being likeable enough,” which likely caused him the female votes he needed to win. But Super Tuesday didn’t go as planned for the Clintons, and Obama split the total number of delegates.

Obama has now won nine primaries in a row after Super Tuesday. Not only has he drawn in millions of new voters, he has done a masterful job of converting large segments of previously skeptical voters. African-Americans in October supported Hillary to Obama by 2:1. In recent primaries, Obama is now capturing 85-90% of the Black vote. White males are now overwhelmingly throwing their support to Obama- surprisingly in Southern states like Virginia.

Listening to party leaders, every one of them has said that this primary will not go unresolved to the Denver convention in August — that they are united on. A large reason for resolving the primary situation sooner rather than later is that the GOP already has their candidate in place, and has begun formulating their campaign message. Not Hillary, her campaign is saying that she will stay in right through the summer primaries. There are a number of sound political reasons why I believe Gore, Pelosi and many of the Democratic leaders will move to get Hillary to exit and make Obama their nominee. Among them are:

• Obama leads McCain in head-to-head match-ups where Hillary trails McCain. McCain is a “left of right” Republican that can draw independents — so can Obama, but not Hillary.

• As GOP pollster Frank Luntz said this week about Obama, “He has the 3 Big M’s: money, momentum and message.” Hillary has to win Texas and Ohio overwhelmingly (by 15-20 percentage points minimum) to demonstrate that she too can build momentum for her candidacy; that no longer appears likely.

• Hillary’s 44% negative rating (that has remained unchanged for months) leaves a glaring Achilles Heel for a GOP challenger like McCain in the general election.

• The Democratic Party needs the millions of new and young voters Obama has drawn into the process who will vote for him and not likely for Hillary.

The #1 reason Nancy Pelosi will push Hillary to exit will be self-preservation. She likes being the first female Speaker of the House. Pelosi has up to 18 Democratic freshman members in potentially politically vulnerable seats she needs to get re-elected — some in very tough races. There are also 25 retiring GOP House members (to 5 for the Dems) that give the Democrats a chance at solidifying their majority.

If you were a House candidate whose coattails would you want to ride?

In Red State Stock Car racing terminology this is called “drafting.” You get behind the leader to use less effort and have a shot at winning; that’s the metaphor for Congressional candidates letting the Obama campaign lead the way in the fall.

Conversely, a Clinton (or the Clintons) candidacy could get brutal and ugly with the GOP, and the Congressional candidates will get tumbled in the backwash. By the way, although Sen. Chuck Schumer is supporting his home state colleague in the primary, he is also the Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The Dems in the Senate have a slim margin of 51-49. Schumer, when he puts his DSCC hat on, will eventually come around to Obama as well if he wants to expand his party’s majority.

And what about Al Gore? He still faults Bill Clinton for his behavior in the White House as a primary reason for Gore losing in 2000. Big Al is now a Nobel Peace Prize and Academy Award winner, not to mention a multimillionaire. What else does he need from politics? It could be time for a little payback.

Click here for NYSD Contents