The Democrats: Hillary Blunders; Obama Surges (Again)

Posted: Mar 17, 2007 5:51 AM
The Democrats: Hillary Blunders; Obama Surges (Again)

The wholesale migration of Democratic African-Americans voters towards Barack Obama and away from Hillary Clinton accelerated this week and began to reach epic proportions. Hillary has now gone from a 3:1 lead among blacks to an 11 point lead to a dead even 36-36 tie, all in the wake of her criticism of Obama.

The result is that the Democratic presidential race is now a decidedly two-way affair. Time Magazine’s most recent poll shows Hillary’s margin diminished to seven points (30-23) with Obama actually one point ahead in the West and only four back in the South. Virtually all of Hillary’s lead comes from a 2:1 margin in the northeast. But overall, Hillary has fallen in the Time polls from 40% in January to 30% in early March, while Obama has risen from 21 to 23 in the same period.

How did Hillary screw it up?

First, she blundered badly by sending out her rabid attack dog Howard Wolfson to criticize Hollywood mogul David Geffen for his attacks on the Clintons. Geffen described Bill as “reckless” and bemoaned the pardons the former president passed out, especially to fugitive Marc Rich.

That was way too much for the former president and syndicated columnist Bob Novack reports that he flew into a Clintonian rage – the sort we all saw when he unloaded on Chris Wallace on Fox News. Clinton’s advisors (read flunkees) huddled by conference call in the wake of his tirade and decided to please Bill and Hillary and lash back at Geffen.

That was a huge mistake. Obama had been wondering how to gain among blacks without embracing Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson – whose support would alienate white voters. Hillary’s attack solved his problem. Faced with a white candidate rapping an African-American, blacks deserted Hillary and brought Obama to within eleven points of the former First Lady.

Then the Clinton team panicked and made the second mistake: Sending Bill and Hillary to Selma, Alabama to horn in on the 42nd anniversary celebration of the voting rights march. That was Obama’s day and Hillary’s attempted one-upsmanship cost her dearly. Voters laughed at her affected preacher’s southern drawl and blacks snickered cynically when she said that Martin Luther King had cleared the way for her candidacy for president! Apparently they had all noticed that she’s not black and Obama is!

The Selma bounce – which we predicted last week – has now materialized and all but extinguished Hillary’s front runner status as Obama surged into a close second place. Of course a big part of the credit belongs to the Illinois Senator for his courageous speech in Selma where he criticized the “anti-intellectualism” of the black community where if you “know how to conjugate a verb” you are seen as acting “white.”

Now it is very likely that Obama and Hillary will continue slugging it out until February 5th of next year, when the race will be over. As of now, this has become a two-way race!!!


Why is Hillary Clinton’s campaign team -- supposedly so experienced and so far superior to those of the other candidates-- advising her straight into defeat?

She’s gone steadily downhill since she announced, and at this rate, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd will be ahead of her in a few months.

One key reason may be that her 'team' may not be used to working in Democratic primaries and never expected any real opposition this time. They simply don't know how to deal with the nuances of a primary, as we can see in what’s happened to her ratings.

Bill Clinton didn’t have a primary in 1996 and Hillary has none in 2000 and only token opposition in 2006. So, two of her top three advisers – Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson,- have had no experience in serious national primary campaigns. It shows. And the third member of the top tier, Mandy Grunwald, is a film producer, not a strategist.

But one thing is clear: All of them, and Hillary, too, expected to simply walk away with the Democratic nomination and then grab the White House. Just like the two New York Senate races.

But then along came Obama.

After his announcement, Hillary had no choice. She had to jump in. But she and her advisers still thought that she could run as a sort of imperial- incumbent- in- waiting whose ascendancy was a given.

That didn’t work.

Obama and Edwards didn’t hesitate to criticize call her on her Iraq war vote. (The one that was never mentioned in the New York Senate campaign) And the Democratic left has repeatedly challenged her conservative positions.

Her advisers thought that they could use the same tactics that they had used in the Clinton White House and in her two virtually unopposed Senate races. And so they attacked Obama.

Those didn’t work.

Instead of helping her, she completely lost her lead over black voters. It was a disaster.

They thought that she would charm the voters once they got to know her.

That certainly hasn’t worked.

It’s going to be a very long campaign and already, she doesn’t seem to be wearing too well. A year and a half more of Hillary as Oprah is not something to look forward to. The flat voice, the canned lines, the “Bill and I” lines are already grating on her listeners. So far, the ‘charm’ hasn’t worked.

They thought that the voters wouldn’t pick up on her flip flops and canned lines.

They were wrong about that. She’s been castigated by the left at every campaign stop and the term ‘scripted’ is probably the single most frequently used description of her.

They thought that they could still treat the emotional and angry rantings of Bill Clinton as if they were the emotional and angry rantings of a sitting President of the United States. So when he said: “Attack”, they aimed.

That backfired.

They thought that Bill Clinton was her ace in the hole – the world’s best political consultant, her private guru, who would guide her to an easy and early victory.

But that certainly hasn’t been true. His clouded judgment and obsession with rewriting his own legacy gets in the way of objective advice.

So, the woman with most brilliant political team in the country has been repeatedly outmaneuvered and outsmarted. She’s on the defensive and going downhill.

Her attack dog Wolfson has been put on the bench. Bill Clinton has been relegated to private fund raisers. And Hillary is tanking in the polls.

Some team!

Look for some heads to roll. Already, there are leaks at a very high level, as the Novack column suggests.

Look for the ‘team’ to start pointing fingers.


On the same day that the Time Magazine released its poll showing Hillary tumbling, The New York Times published an interview with Hillary Clinton that will haunt her for the remainder of the campaign. Asked about her twisted, convoluted, contradictory Iraq policy, she avowed a determination to stay in Iraq after she becomes president!

A few weeks ago, she said she’d end the war in 20009 when she was elected president. Now she’s saying that she’d “start” to end the war. And just a few ago, Hillary said she would vote for an amendment to the appropriations bill calling for a total withdrawal from Iraq by March of 2008 (and sooner if the Iraqi government doesn’t meet certain specified goals during the interim). While the other 534 Senators and Congressmen see the amendment as a cutoff of funding, she insists it merely sets a “goal.”

This is Classic Clinton – as in ‘it depends on what the meaning of is is.”

(By the way, Hillary apparently doesn’t like to read the bills she backs. She claims that her 2002 vote to authorize the President to send American troops into Iraq was actually a mandate for ongoing UN inspection and now this specific cutoff of funds for the troops is, in her view, merely advisory).

So she wants to pull out but also keep the troops there – end the war, but keep it going – in other words, have her cake and eat it too!

She told The New York Times that “I think we will have a remaining military as well as political mission, trying to contain the extremists [in Iraq].” She elaborated on what the troops would do once she took office:

  • "help the Kurds manage their various problems in the north,"

  • "prevent Iran from crossing the border and having too much influence inside Iraq."

  • "logistical support, air support, and training support” for Iraqi troops

Her latest position provides Obama with an easy ability to contrast his positions on the war with hers. The Illinois Senator says flatly that we should pull out totally and that he thinks the war was always a mistake and still is.

Of course, Hillary is right and Obama is wrong. We can no more completely pull out of Iraq than we could have withdrawn from NATO during the cold war. But her position will severely damage her support and credibility among Democrats who want a total cutoff of all funding for the war. In the latest Fox News poll, Democrats supported the withdrawal by 77-18.

Until the Times interview, the only serious issue separating Obama and Clinton was the irrelevant one of whether she should apologize for her vote authorizing the war. But now she has created a huge issue by announcing her decision to stay in Iraq.

Hillary’s plan sounds downright Republican and very much like one ventured by former Rumsfeld deputy Dov S. Zakheim who estimates that this more limited mission would require only 75,000 troops, down from the 160,000 we will have there after Bush reinforces our presence this year.

Her pessimism comes at a time when US combat deaths in Iraq have dropped by 25% from 88 every thirty days to 66 now that Bush’s redeployment is taking place. It also comes as the Iraqi government is celebrating a huge drop in Baghdad violence.

So, why does Hillary do this?

First, as a woman candidate, she is always sensitive to gender stereotypes that question a woman’s ability to be an effective Commander-in-Chief. So, she has to show that she’s tough.

And, second, she is in awe of some of the generals and military types who provide her with advice on the Armed Services Committee. She wants their approval.

So, she tries to have it both ways.

Hillary’s constant flip-flopping on Iraq will bring her no end of grief in the primaries.