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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

 
Obama vs Expired Dog Food

by digby

I've posted a number of emails from a friend of mine who works in Democratic circles, whom I call "Deep Insight." Today he does an overview of where we stand as we move into the general election. Here is an excerpt:

Maybe 2008 will be the last election in “Nixonland,” the title of Rick Perlstein’s recent book. Nixon was a genius at turning his personal resentments and humiliations (there were more than a few) into political touchstones. He gave us the “Southern strategy, and perfected the politics of white backlash introduced by Strom Thurmond and George Wallace. During his whole career, he promoted the Democrats as the “elite.” They were variously branded “wimps” who would not stand up for America and represented the party of “acid, amnesty and abortion.” The “silent majority” of the non-union white working class has been a mainstay of the GOP Presidential coalition since 1972. While Republican economic policies have put stress on the economic fortunes of working class families, the rhetorical repetition of “family values” was constant.

As Kevin Philips points out in his new book, the government has been cooking the economic numbers for years. The inflation rate, as it affects most Americans, has been understated. The unemployment rate, which just had the biggest one-month jump in 22 years, also underestimates real joblessness. The size of the Federal deficit has been hidden behind the Social Security surplus.

With current gas prices, healthcare costs, flat wages and the decline in housing prices, many Americans are in an economic vise. So we will see if GOP distraction on race and “values” works this year. There are two problems for the GOP with this tack. The Democrats now lead the GOP on handling the “economy” 56% to 24%, and as the party more aligned on “moral values” 50% to 35%...

The Republicans will try and make this the race between Maverick McCain and Reverend Wright. Obviously, Obama will run against George Bush’s record. Mr. Bush has done such damage to the GOP brand name (a 58% negative rating in the recent CBS/ NYT poll) that John McCain will run far and fast from the GOP label. As Republican Tom Davis said in an internal Republican memo, the GOP brand has the appeal of “expired dog food.” The mainstream media is assisting McCain in this distancing effort by pointing out how unpopular he is with conservatives.

Some movement conservatives in the GOP do not care if McCain loses. They can rebuild their grassroots money machine and go back to what they enjoy the most – obstructing progress. But Republicans in Washington and major corporate interests who have grown rich with the GOP spoils system will fight to keep the gravy train running. This is one of the reasons McCain’s campaign is crawling with lobbyists for both some odious foreign regimes and corporate special interests. The resignations of five lobbyists from the upper echelons of the campaign just underscores the inside Beltway nature of his campaign. Former Senator Phil Gramm, who helped give us Enron and now is a lobbyist for UBS, is listed as a chief economic advisor. Gramm, a rightwing ideologue, would be particularly unsuited to deal with our current economic woes.

Senator McCain’s age will also be an issue. This may be especially true of his age cohort, a group most resistant to Mr. Obama’s candidacy in the primary. Close to half of the voters in both Pew and New York Times polls said that they were less likely to vote for candidates in their 70s. Only atheists fared worse. There is also the question of McCain’s health. Dumping his health records out for a four-hour review the Friday before Memorial Day may not have answered all of the questions.

The Obama campaign with its Internet base and decentralized structure has taken Presidential politics to new places. His quarter of a billion dollar fundraising effort, fueled by small on-line donations, is revolutionary. The social networking and volunteers inspired by his candidacy are remarkable. Certainly his campaign infrastructure will be a formidable plus in the fall. McCain will use the public money ($90 million) and the hierarchical RNC in an attempt to equalize the money. The RNC ($40 million currently) has 10 times the cash on hand as the DNC. McCain will get on his high horse about accepting public money and the editorial boards will applaud, but his campaign will effectively use the RNC. The bigger money will find its way to rightwing 501c4, c6s and 527s. It is naive to think a great deal of conservative “independent” negative advertising will not be dropped on Senator Obama. There is very little “independent” advertising currently planned by progressive groups to define John McCain.

The Obama campaign has to expand the electoral map so the GOP cannot devote undue resources just to defend Ohio. This is what the Bush campaign was able to do in 2004, as its base states were secure. Though it is a stretch, Obama can win without Ohio. Florida does not look very promising now for Obama, and the DNC primary mess there hurt. Many 2004 red states - Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Virginia and North Carolina - must be seriously contested. Winning Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico along with the rest of the 2005 Kerry states results in a 269 electoral vote tie. The House could then determine the outcome in a fitting coda to 2000 and the Supreme Court decision. Obviously, it would be far better to run up over 300 electoral votes.

Current polling indicates a close race between Senators McCain and Obama. But the underlying dynamics of the race still favor the Democrat. The Electoral College math may be difficult, as the popular vote total will work against Obama. He will need a clear popular vote victory, as he appears competitive but not over the top in many traditional GOP states. He will run up the numbers in many “blue” states. This could be an election where we wish there were a national popular vote instead of the relic of the Electoral College.

Senator Obama needs a different composition in the electorate from that of 2004. Turnout was up sharply from 2000 to 2004, and it has to grow considerably in 2008. One difficulty is that on the progressive side in 2004 over $150 million was committed to persuade voters and to increase turnout. Additional money went into voter registration. To date, the independent side has only raised at best about 25% of the 2004 total. So this effort has to be better funded to help bolster the type of turnout needed in November. While the Obama campaign will make up for some of this through grassroots organizing and enthusiasm, it will be a serious problem if the progressive NGOs are poorly funded.


We have all talked a lot about the fantastic machine that Obama has built and what it means for the future. My friend here doesn't think it's going to be quite enough on its own and that some "independent" work is needed to supplement, both with the 527s beating back the wingnut attack ads and with GOTV.

I tend to agree, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I believe that allocating power across all levels of politics usually results in better outcomes. Obviously, any candidate wants to control as much as possible during his campaign. Too many cooks spoil the gazpacho and all that. But in these two cases, I think independence could be helpful. Certainly McCain is going to "repudiate" these groups for as long as it takes them to be fully aired in the free media. Obama should have that option as well. And you just can't have too many people helping to register and get out your vote in the fall.

I'll be interested in your thoughts.



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