Friday, March 7, 2008

Shades of 1976

As some of you may know, I spent the Monday and Tuesday of this past week in Columbus, Ohio working for the Obama campaign.

As you can see from this photo taken late Tuesday March 4 by the Columbus Dispatch, it was hard work, made even harder with rainy weather that turned into sleet and then snow. I spent much of both days in the Linden Neighborhood of Columbus, a poor part of the city that is 90% African American. Our repeated canvassing efforts (I walked two precincts 5 times each over the course of 36 hours) did help Obama win the Congressional District (CD-12), but our efforts failed to help Obama win the state.

A few weeks ago I predicted how the Ohio primary would turnout, and I was off in my estimate. I was wrong in thinking that Obama would carry the popular vote, and I did not expect Hillary to carry some congressional districts by large margins. For Hillary's success, I can only think that Ted Strickland, the current governor of Ohio and staunch Hillary supporter, deserves the credit. For it was he who helped direct the Clinton campaign strategy in Ohio in the weeks after the humiliating Wisconsin defeat, and helped to fashion a campaign statement that appeal to voters in decaying rural communities and once thriving industrial bastions such as Akron and Youngstown.

On the drive back to Ann Arbor, I wondered how the race will go from this point. The delegate numbers favor Obama, as it will take Hillary winning percentages of 60% in the rest of the primaries to lead Obama in pledged delegates. While Hillary supporters can argue until the cows come home that she won Michigan and Florida's Democratic primaries, there is no denying that she said one thing and did another. Of course, she has that right, since the Clinton rules are still in effect. Say one mean think about her or ask about her tax returns, and a life-long partisan Democratic turns into Ken Starr.

I keep on thinking of the Republican 1976 primary, where Gerald Ford won a convention fight against Ronald Reagan that left deep wounds within the party. While Ford was able to appeal to a loyal portion of the GOP, his general election campaign lacked the passion and energy that Reagan clearly had. However, Reagan's failure in 1976 brought victory in 1980, and a new Republican majority. Least someone call my a Republican for the use of history, I do wonder how Hillary can carry a party that will lose much of its post-2004 passion if Obama is not the nominee. I would hope that Hillary would be gracious and realize that her stepping aside is for the good of the party and an almost assured general election victory. However, I'm sure that she would argue that such a stepping down would depend on the meaning of the word "is."


Katie Dorn said...

Why is it that when someone refers to Obama, he is usually called Obama or Senator Obama, but when Hillary Clinton is referenced, she is usually called Hillary. Less formal, as if not taken as seriously. Similary, Condoleezza Rice is often refered to as Coldoleezza or Condi, insetad of Dr Rice, or even Rice. My parents even refer to the govenor of Michigan as Jennifer (said with obvous disgust). Why is it that if a woman is in a position of power, we can't even refer to her with the same respect as her male counterpart?

Jon Vander Plas said...

I don't know if this race reminds me of Ford/Reagan so much, as the charismatic visionary is still likely to win the nomination in this case. If Obama does claim victory at convention only to be defeated by McCain, who benefits from the extended slug fest - where does that leave Obama and the Democratic Party? If McCain wins I think he's likely to be a 2 term president.