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Posted by on Jun 7, 2008 in Media, Politics | 2 comments

New Media And Old Media Focused On Clinton Obama Endorsement Concession Speech

It takes a major endorsement and concession speech to raise a political story to mega-levels. And that’s what is happening to the Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton’s combination concession speech and endorsement of Democratic presumptive nominee Barack Obama.

Is it all stagecraft and new and old media hype? Hardly.

It’s what some hope will be the Democrat’s first major push to reunify a battered party at a time when Republican operatives have used the loooooong Democratic primary campaign to busily gather loads of oppo research information about Obama and Clinton — and the GOP plans to use the information ASAP by hitting the ground running. Conservative talk radio is already in full discredit and demonization mode.

“Hillary Clinton to end campaign at site of Bill Clinton’s celebrations” declares the New York Daily News headline in a story that notes:

Hillary Clinton’s last waltz from the 2008 White House race will be performed on a stage where she and Bill danced the night away to celebrate his 1992 and 1996 wins.

New York’s junior senator will gather supporters around her at noon in the National Museum Building, a scene of inaugural balls and victory galas in the Clinton-Gore era.

Clinton insiders expected her last turn in the ’08 spotlight would be upbeat as she backs Barack Obama, the rival who upset her once-inevitable march to the Oval Office.

But not totally upbeat, since the Daily News piece has a tidbit such as this:

Sources called the event fun, but there were also tears and hugs – and lingering bitterness that will take some time to heal among Clinton’s soon-to-be-unemployed foot soldiers.

“I will never forgive Obama for what he did to Hillary,” said a campaign aide who declined to be specific.

“I will vote for him, but that’s it,” said another.

The Washington Post notes that Clinton’s high-profile speech is partly to repair damage to her image incurred on Tuesday night, when many analysts and new and old media pundits felt she had refused to acknowledge Obama’s win and seemingly threw down the gauntlet by trumpeting her wins in swing states:

After a tumultuous 17-month journey, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will formally withdraw as a presidential candidate today, publicly declaring her support for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) for the first time since he secured the Democratic nomination.

Clinton drew the wrath of many Democrats when she did not acknowledge Obama’s victory in her speech on Tuesday night. Her farewell address to supporters, scheduled for noon today at the National Building Museum at Fourth and F streets NW, is intended to repair any lingering damage from the Tuesday speech and will close the door on an epic primary campaign that, after dividing Democrats, produced the first African American presumptive nominee of any major party in history.

Her statement will be watched and scrutinized down to its every punctuation mark by progressives who will want to know if she REALLY is trying to get her supporters to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain — and by conservatives who are going to point out what Clinton said about Obama before, what she says in her speech today and what she says on the campaign trial.

Writes conservative blogger Ed Morrissey:

Can she win back her supporters to Obama’s side? Perhaps the better question will be whether she can retain any credibility while doing so. She has a lot of explaining to do as to why she thinks Obama has more qualifications to be commander-in-chief other than “a speech he gave in 2002?, and where he acquired those credentials in the few short months since she made that accusation. Hillary has to also explain how Obama stopped “dangerously oversimplifying” foreign policy in a time of war.

…The problem for Hillary is that these statements stick because they have a great deal of truth in them. The RNC has a library of these comments ready for ads in the fall. Every time she hits the road for Obama, the Republicans will remind voters of Hillary’s real opinions of Barack Obama. She’ll either have to say she was lying then or come up with ridiculous rationales to pretend that Obama has overcome these gaping liabilities — and with Obama making gaffe after gaffe, those rationales will look very weak.

On the other hand, the race promises to pit the gaffe-prone Obama against the oratory-challenged McCain, whose awkward Cheshire cat grins are now close to becoming instant Saturday Night Live and Mad TV material. Imagery counts a lot in politics and when Obama’s clips are compared to McCain’s, even a library of RNC op-research may not be enough to negate the disparity — especially as unemployment numbers and gas prices zoom into the sky. (McCain needs to change his style — which would be “change you can believe in..”)

Clinton’s speech will also be watched, and analyzed, then re-analyzed for another reason: there are increasing signs that many Democratic voters truly want Clinton to run as Obama’s veep. Real Clear Politics’ blog cites a CNN poll showing Democratic sentiment in favor of this 54 to 43 percent. Additionally, the poll found 60 percent of Democratic women want Hillary as VP while only 46 percent of men do:

What to make of this? First, Obama shouldn’t be making any decisions about his running mate any time soon. By which I mean for at least a few weeks. The passions from the primary are still too hot to really get a clear sense of just what kind of candidate Obama needs. Better to let the fact of Obama’s nomination sink with the general public before making any huge decisions.

Second, I suspect with a little bit of time these numbers will go down some. Not a lot, but perhaps dip below the 50% mark. Even if they don’t, just because a majority of Democratic think Clinton should be Obama’s running mate doesn’t mean they won’t accept someone else.

But various mainstream media reporters have indicated the Obama camp is really not smitten with the idea of Clinton running as Obama’s Vice President, although it is an option. And one progressive blogger has THIS POST suggesting that “Friends of Bill” are giving all kinds of overt and covert signals to Obama that he shouldn’t invite Hillary to be on the ticket.

Why does Clinton’s speech — and the extent of her effort to try and get her supporters on board supporting Obama — matter? Because her huge block of voters are now being also actively courted by the McCain camp. The New York Times:

Now that a would-be first female president is ending her quest for the White House, the race is more about women than ever before.

With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ending her campaign for the Democratic nomination, the presumptive nominees are moving to claim her followers, especially her signature bloc, the millions of women who cast primary votes for her.

Senator Barack Obama’s campaign is positioning itself as the rightful heir to these Democratic voters. Senator John McCain’s strategists are plotting to convert them, particularly older women who are skeptical of Mr. Obama’s thin résumé. Even the Democratic National Committee chairman is avidly trying to make up for accusations that he allowed sexism in the race to pass unchallenged.

The Times piece quotes Hillary Clinton supporters who’ll both support Obama and won’t — which is not unusual. No group (including independents and moderates) is completely monolithic.

But the key to Clinton’s speech today is this. Can she win over a huge chunk or her voters to back the Obama ticket (no matter who is on it) and make the argument that on almost all issues Democrats agree more with Obama and McCain? Will she talk about Supreme Court vacancies that the next President will have to fill?

If not, some of her voters could well decide to punish the Obama ticket by not voting or voting for McCain.

Democrats tried that before in 2000 when some decided to opt for third party candidate Ralph Nader, who argued there was really no difference between the two parties — an assertion that didn’t exactly hold up in reality. But it did send a message to the Democratic party apparatus and made George Bush President.

Democrats tried it earlier in 1968. But it did send a message to the Democratic party apparatus (which later was refurbished, George McGovern got the nomination in 1972 and he lost) and made Richard Nixon President.

Republicans tried it in 2004. Many of them stayed home or crossed party lines to vote for Democrats. But it did send a message to the party apparatus (although President George Bush has ignored it) and some conservative Republicans are now upset about the weak state of their party and the Republican’s loss of control in Congress.

Sometimes the ones who wanted to punish get their wish, but they wind up being the ones who feel punished.

Will Hillary Clinton remind them of that?