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Posted by on Mar 8, 2008 in Uncategorized | 15 comments

Obama’s Coattails – The Real Story Today

Senator Barack Obama’s convincing victory in the Wyoming caucuses is noteworthy for several reasons.

It’s one of the first western caucus states that Senator Hillary Clinton vigorously sought. She, Bill and Chelsea toured much of the state, and actually got there before Obama did. The demographics favored Obama, but without any polling there, nobody could assume that Obama would win so comfortably there again.

The win came after some narrow but significant losses in Ohio, Rhode Island and the primary portion of Texas. And it came after the worse press Obama has received up to now. The 61-38 victory – while not enough for the 8th pledged delegate (he needed 63% and Hillary’s campaigning may have saved her that delegate) – was in line with Obama’s pre-March 4th performance. Barack Obama has clearly regained whatever momentum he lost on March 4.

But a more important story was a special election held in the Illinois 14th Congressional District. This was Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s old district, which he gave up for some lucrative post-Congress career. In the primary, two intriguing characters emerged. The Democrat, Bill Foster, was a nuclear physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Lab. The Republican, Jim Oberweis, was a dairy magnate who had run for Governor and Senator before and lost in primaries. Neither were establishment candidates within their parties.

The Illinois 14th has been Republican as long as anybody remembers. Ronald Reagan was born in this district – Dixon – and the major highway that runs through it – Interstate 88 – is named Ronald Reagan Highway (I know there are other Ronald Reagan Highways, but this one was the first and the biggest I believe). This was a classic Chicago collar county district that gave rise to Barry Goldwater in 1964 and bolstered Ronald Reagan in 1980. This is also my father-in-law’s district, and his extremely right-wing political views seem to fit in quite nicely there.

Or at least they once did. In the last 5 or 10 years, the district has started to change. More socially liberal people from Chicago’s inner suburbs started moving out there for the cheaper real estate. Latinos moved in to Elgin, Aurora and Carpentersville. And, perhaps most importantly, old-line Lincoln Republicans in wealthy Fox River towns like Geneva and St. Charles started to feel that the Republican Party had abandoned them. Bush won here comfortably both times. But there was a sense that this district could go blue some day. Not yet, mind you, but some day.

And now today, Bill Foster, the Democrat, has taken the Illinois 14th Congressional district. This historic pickup of Speaker Hastert’s district recalls Tom Foley’s embarrassing loss in 1994.

But even more important are the national implications.

John McCain and Barack Obama stumped in this district for their respective party candidates. Both Foster and Oberweis felt that their likely 2008 standard bearers would benefit them in this close race. Barack Obama appeared in a TV ad and endorsed Bill Foster as the kind of Democrat who can work across the aisle.

If there was ever going to be a coattail election check, this would be it. And Obama and Foster came through in flying colors, picking up a symbolically important Republican House district seat.

And so we have the first evidence of something many of Barack Obama’s supporters have long argued: he is not only more electable than Hillary Clinton, but he is attractive enough that red-leaning candidates in House and Senate races would love to have him campaign with them. If Obama is going to bring the sort of change he calls for, he’ll need a different House and Senate than he has.

What he’s shown tonight in Chicago’s formerly red Republican collar counties is that he can change the map for the Democrats. This, I think, is even more significant than the Wyoming caucus victory. Not only does Obama get a new superdelegate (Foster is now a Congressman), but Obama gets some electoral proof of the power of his candidacy for the party as a whole. And I can guarantee you that the political chattering class will pay attention to this.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • GeorgeSorwell

    I appreciate everything you’ve said here. But Hillary Clinton’s “electability” is in question because of an organized attack campaign against her.

    Obama is already being subjected to the same kind of attack.

    Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa thinks Obama’s middle name matters.

    Rep. King called Obama the favorite candidate of al-Qaida.

    I imagine the political chattering class will also pay attention to this.

  • Holly_in_Cincinnati

    Sen. Obama will have no coattails because he has no coat (he’s wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes).

  • jmcdonough120

    I wrote about the Clintons hinting of the “dream team” ticket on my blog: http://swimmingfreestyle.typepad.com/
    An excerpt:
    If cynicism, political calculation, and manipulation were Olympic events, we’d be talking gold medals for the Clintons.

    How the hell can Bill and Hillary Clinton relentlessly hammer Barack Obama as nothing more than a shell, an empty vessel that lacks the substance and experience to be the president and, in the next breath and with a straight face, suggest that Obama would make a great vice presidential choice if she’s the Democratic party nominee for president?

    They really do think we’re stupid.

  • elrod

    Holly,
    Apparently the majority of voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses disagree with you.

    George,
    I actually think some of that stuff is backfiring. It pretty well crosses the threshold into racism and it makes the person saying those things look like idiots. More pernicious are underground e-mail campaigns that can’t be refuted so immediately.

  • akire

    “Apparently the majority of voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses disagree with you.”

    Actually, an interesting attempt at ‘spinning’ the poll results but your assumption is incorrect, the voters think it would be a good idea to have a double team, but have made no indication of who would take top billing – had the poll had asked whether people would be happy with a Clinton top billing, it is quite possible that the support you are trying to claim would change substantially.

  • pacatrue

    Akire, you seem to be referring to a specific poll. I took Elrod’s comments as based upon the fact that Obama has won far more states and a fair number more delegates than Clinton. What poll did you have in mind?

  • pacatrue

    Oh, before I got side-tracked, I meant to say: I’d want to see some good coat-tail riding in a state other than Illinois to prove Obama’s political abilities to assist others. (I’m not denying them at all; I’m just saying that Ill. is a special case for Obama as Ark. or NY are for Clinton.)

  • akire

    Actually pacatrue I completely stuffed that comment up and would delete it if I could. Its late, I’m tired, misread it that elrod was responding to the assertion that it was cheeky (to be euphemistic) to bash Obama and then offer him the Vice Presidency thereby trying to imply that the electorate approved. When read from that context, my response to the polls that showed increasing support in recent polls for a team ticket, makes sense. Sadly in terms of what was actually said, its idiotic. Apologies Elrod.

  • superdestroyer

    There real question is what will the U.S. be like as the Republican Party completes its collapse and the U.S. is a defacto one party state. Will the former Republican voters cross over and vote in the Democratic primary or will they decide that they will never have a say in how the government operates and thus adopt ways to avoid the government at all costs?

  • casualobserver

    A win is a win………I’ll give you guys that much. But I’m not too sure beating a guy who has lost 4 straight elections in 6 years…….and who is locally known as “the Milk Dud” gives your coattails much length.

  • rudi

    CO – The Republicans voted him in in a primary. Whatever you want to say, Oberweis is no Alan Keyes.

  • casualobserver

    True, but those Tribune writers must not get west of Halsted St. very much if they think the demographics of Aurora, Batavia, Elgin make this an “upset” victory. Drive yourself through Aurora and tell me how “red state ” this place looks to you. Nonetheless, this will be re-run on the November ballot and Foster will have a bit of a voting record. Let’s see what that dynamic brings.

  • DLS

    This was big news. The district was “GOP territory.” The election was a classic illustration of what we’re likely to see this year. Numerous GOP voters joined traditional Dem voters in voting for the Dem candidate, often out of concerns over the war and the economy, according to the NPR report on this election, and there’s no reason to doubt this given what reports such as by Pew have been telling us, in addition to what observations we all have been making or should be making. In this case, Obama was used in the Dem candidate’s campaign, which is seen as having a positive effect (in the Dem’s favor). In addition to what happens every year with other seats than the White House being contested, this year numerous Republicans are retiring, and this election gives us a hint at how well the Dems are likely to do in those other elections (some of which may also use Obama on the Dem candidate’s behalf) this year. This includes Foster vs. whomever in Nov.

    Casual Observer: the NPR report noted that the Dem targeted exurbs “where demographics are changing.”

  • StockBoySF

    “Will the former Republican voters cross over and vote in the Democratic primary or will they decide that they will never have a say in how the government operates and thus adopt ways to avoid the government at all costs?”

    Huh? That makes no sense to me…. the Republicans have been in the WH for the past 8 years and they controlled Congress for a good chuck of that time. Bush still pretty much gets what he wants from those idiot Dems in Congress who make lots of noise to prove they have different ideas than Bush, but when it comes time to actually vote they give him what he wants anyway. There are a few exceptions- but Bush just goes on to veto what he doesn’t like (and writes signing statements to eviscerate those provisions he doesn’t like of bills he does sign into law). So I have no idea where you get this ‘Republicans will “decide that they will never have a say in how the government operates” line’. That’s who has been running the government these last eight years and if voters do not like the way the country is going then they can vote for the Dems.

  • superdestroyer

    StockBoySF,

    Look at states like maryland or mass. The republicans are irrelevant as political parties. They have no effect on policy. thus, conservatives in Maryland either move (which many of them do) or they find ways to avoid the government (home schooling, private schools, tax avoidance, etc).

    As national politics begins to resemble politics in maryland, Mass, California, etc. Republicans will be unable to move so they will have to adopt government avoidance strategies such as home schooling. So the real question is what is the medical/economic/social version of home schooling? That is the future of the conservative movement.

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