Some 10 days before pivotal Texas and Ohio primaries, and days before what could be a make-or-break Presidential debate in Ohio, Senator Hillary Clinton has sarcastically mocked her rival Senator Barack Obama at a political rally.
This comes on the heels of yesterday’s mini-furor between Clinton and Obama over two Obama mailers: Clinton angrily delivered her denunciation of them and Obama almost matter-of-factly then told reporters the mailers were accurate and old hat. He countered that most of what was in them had been previously debated. The result: yesterday’s noisy, big issue vanished from news cycles by this afternoon.
Now, today, there’s a clip of an again seemingly harsh Hillary Clinton, this time mocking Obama’s style, rallies and, by implication, his supporters for believing him. The Huffington Post has the clip HERE. Watch it and make your own decision.
If you twin these two developments together as eleventh hour political pushes, you can look at it several ways:
(1)It helps show that Clinton is not giving up, still has a chance and will fight to the end, thus helping get her followers to the polls. Quite possible. It is likely to rally her present political base.
(2) It will help undermine Obama’s credibility and appeal as a candidate, undermining the idea of his authenticity both due to the mailers’ content, questions about his specificity and the charismatic nature of his campaign rallies. Highly unlikely. Clinton has not completely convinced the press that she is accurate on the mailers. Re-read the stories. After Obama’s rebuttal the issue fizzled. Her charge created the big story but his response defused much of it in the media’s eyes. Also: you can’t remove charisma by saying it does not exist and making fun of it. Obama came under some criticism in some media and weblog circles for some long speeches going into detail about policies.
(3) It will bolster Clinton’s image. Unlikely. She is now giving out mixed images — conciliatory, low key and thoughtful during several debates, and angry and sarcastic now on the stump.
If the idea is to get her followers to the polls, this could work.
If the idea is to peel off Obama supporters, and perhaps some of his African-American voters, it’s likely to fail since all she is doing is indirectly mocking them for connecting with his campaign style and its underlying “hope” message.
If the idea is to win over independents — who can vote in Texas — this kind of tactic is a perilous one since most polls and surveys show that independent voters more than anything want a substantive discussion of issues, rather than personal attacks.
The clip also raises the concept of someone coming across as “cool” or “hot” on the TV screen. Clinton’s backers and pro-Clinton bloggers will love the HP clip, but those who are still deciding probably won’t and it is unlikely to peel off any pro-Obama voters.
In the blogworld, skippy (who writes in lowercase) says:
mocking a fellow democratic party presidential candidate after saying that there was honor in being on the same stage as him. mocking americans who choose obama over her. mocking those who hold religious beliefs…on sunday no less. i don’t know who is advising the clinton camp…but it seems that they really don’t want the woman in the white house.
When is mocking your opponent a good thing? According to HuffPo wire service selections, when you are Barack Obama. When is it a bad thing? According to Huff Po, when you are Hillary Clinton.
But the issue here is really not how blogs or the media cover Clinton, or whether all of their posts and media reports show consistency. Blogs and news stories can only go so far in influencing the course of campaigns (and blogs matter LITTLE in deciding vote outcome — but don’t tell bloggers on the right, left and center that or they will deflate). The images people see when they see a candidate speak or see a clip of them on TV, on a blog or on You Tube are the ones that increasingly cement impressions.
The issue has increasingly become the competence and wisdom of the Clinton camp in its selection of political tactics.
It has gone from thoughtful to full-attack, to conciliatory to near-contemptuous sarcasm.
Clinton has a little more than a week to make HER best case about HERSELF, HER CANDIDACY and HER proposed policies.
Additionally, she is now running a major risk in the early 21st century political media age.
The sub context of political campaigns, if you talk to voters, is often: will this candidate WEAR well?
Do voters want to have such and such around as instant-media-access President for four years? The 2000 incarnation of Al Gore — with his frequent wardrobe changes, getting in George Bush’s face during a debate, change in persona during debates, varying makeup (in one debate looking almost like a mime) –lost that critical part of the contest in 2000. In both 2000 and 2004 many Americans decided they liked George Bush better as a person than Al Gore or John Kerry.
But given this latest episode, coupled with the earlier glimpse of husband Bill Clinton unleashed and losing her votes in South Carolina, some voters who may like Mrs. Clinton’s grasp of issues may feel that four years of the political style they are now seeing from the Clinton campaign is not exactly the post-Bush shift to a more issue-oriented form of politics that they want to see. They may think “Four years of this? How will Republicans react to this? Is there any prospect the country can move to consensus if this is how it’ll play out?”
Is it over yet? HARDLY.
Pundits’ impressions of the campaign and its impact (including this post) could wind up being all wet and Clinton could provide yet another jolt to the conventional wisdom and win big in Texas and Ohio. And then she and her campaign will be proclaimed political geniuses…
But it’s increasingly hard to see how the new, outraged-two-days-in-a-row Hillary Clinton will convince voters that are not already on her side that she should be given the Oval Office for four years.
The HP clip seems more of an audition for a MSNBC or Fox News cable talk show host than for President. FDR used ridicule, but it had style.
Sound harsh? If so, Andrew Sullivan is a bit more harsh:
How did they come this close to losing this? They had all the money, all the contacts, all the machine levers, the entire establishment, the biggest Democratic name in decades, and they’ve been forced into a humiliating death-match by a first-term black liberal with a funny name. It seems obvious to me that the Clintons blew this because they never for a second imagined they could. So they never planned to fight it. Once put in a fair contest, they turned out to be terrible campaigners, terrible politicians, bad managers, useless executives, wooden public speakers. If you’re a Democrat, that’s good to know, isn’t it? All that….about Day One and experience? In retrospect: laughable.
Whatever happens in this campaign, if it finally puts the Clintons in our rear-view mirror, it will have been worth a great deal. We’re not quite there yet, and the moment you feel any sympathy for a Clinton, they will use it to their own ends. But I’m enjoying the backward glance, however long it lasts. We’re nearly free of them. Nearly.
This means the Ohio debate will be a MUST to watch.
Clinton will clearly be going into it to zero in on what she feels are Obama’s strengths (to turn them into negatives) and weaknesses (to accentuate them) aimed with zingers (a catchy prepared line, joke or put-down) or sound bite moments (emotion, get choked up or show outrage). And his campaign — if it is smart — will be ready for him to respond and neutralize any of the above.
So it isn’t over yet — because that famous lady who tips the scales at 400 and needs to go to Jenny Craig has not yet sung.
But, increasingly, the notes coming out of the Clinton camp sound increasingly sour to all but her loyal legions of campaign supporters and openly-supporting bloggers.
She’ll already has their votes. Can these tactics change or convert any other votes?
Cartoon by Daryl Cagle, MSNBC.com