What Obama Must Do To Win the General Election

Political Night Train believes that we, as a nation are on the cusp of what could be the most remarkable political event in well over a century – elevating a non-white man to the Presidency.  A man that can potentially gain the same, or even greater support as a Ronald Regan.  Barack Obama has that potential, to pull together a wide range of citizen groups that transcend race, gender, age, socio-economics, and religion.  The potential non-supporters include the usual fringe groups, the far left, the truly racist (both black and white), and the uber-conservatives.  To do so, Obama must shuck some critical baggage.  First, Obama must distance himself from his long-time relationship with militant, racist black-issues only church leaders.  He can do this by giving a semi-JFK religion speech.  Obama could say he is a long-standing member of a church that has provided himself and his family with the faith, salvation, belief in God, and family values that have strengthened him and his family through the good and the bad.  Go on to say that he does not agree, nor support the secular viewpoints of the church leadership. Second, Obama must clearly separate himself from the views of the far left by saying their views are not his views, their positions are not his positions, their values are not his values.  Then he needs to speak out and denounce such blogs as moveon.org.   Third, Obama must distance himself from the Jesse Jackson’s of the world by honoring those civil rights leaders who are true bearers of MLK’s non-racist vision.

Is This The Beginning of the End for Hillary Clinton???

 A remarkable thing happened at the Iowa Caucuses, and Political Night Train believes it is the beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Dream.   Hillary Clinton went to Iowa claiming to be the front runner and with a campaign that was designed as if she were the Democratic candidate in a national election.  One could say, “How stupid, Hillary?”.  But it goes deeper than that.  It goes to the core of how the Democratic voters view the world, themselves and who they support for national office.  It is nothing less than a shift in how, and who the Democratic Party picks it’s Presidential candidate, and the old guard, represented by Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, Ann Lewis, and Mark Penn are being pushed aside.  They won’t go willingly, and will fight the good fight, but in the end they will lose.  In the process, they just might lose the 2008 Presidential election.  Here’s what Political Night Train sees as what went wrong. Hillary seemingly had everything, name recognition, Bill Clinton, a strong campaign organization, mainstream media on her side, money, famous people to trot out for support, the issues, everything.  What Hillary lacked, namely personality, experience, willingness to campaign, adoring fans, star status, Bill seemed to have in abundance.  In the end, what they both have is a dysfunctional marriage,  aging staffs  of “yes-men and yes-women”, and a penchant for looking to the past for everything they needed.  What they both lack are core values that voters can depend on day-in and day-out, values that don’t disappear with the next set of Mark Penn polling data.  Coupled with this is the fact that Hillary comes across to many voters, and apparently 70% of the Democrats as stubborn, secretive, shrill, angry, vindictive and petty.  Largely unreported is that in Iowa, 70% of the Democratic caucus goers wanted, and voted for someone other than Hillary.  Where was the “We want Bill” factor?  Apparently 70% of Iowa Democrats don’t want Bill Clinton back in the White House (hint: if elected, Hillary has no intention on letting Bill back in the White House).  It seems that all those folks wishing for Bill’s return to the White House didn’t show up at the caucus. Hillary, and her campaign are basically out of touch with large numbers of Democrats.  Hillary has surrounded herself with a cadre of women who reflect a “Golden Girls” mentality.  As Maureen Dowd says, “Hillary sees herself as owed”.  Dowd goes on to ask, Has Hillary truly changed, and grown from her mistakes? Has she learned to be less stubborn and imperious and secretive and vindictive and entitled? Or has she merely learned to mask her off-putting and self-sabotaging qualities better?  If elected, would the old Hillary pop up, dragging us back to the dysfunctional Clinton kingdom?  She is speaking in a soft, measured voice in these final days, so that, as with Daisy Buchanan, you have to lean in to listen.  But is she really different than she was in the years when she was so careless about the people around her getting hurt by the Clinton legal whirlwind that she was dubbed the Daisy Buchanan of the boomer set?   The underlying rationale for her campaign is that she is owed.  Owed for moving to Arkansas and giving up the name Rodham, (readers are reminded that as First Lady of Arkansas, Hillary initially wanted to be called Ms. Rodham, thus offending many in the state) owed for pretending to care about place settings and menus when she held the unappetizing title of first lady, (when Bill’s ‘Two for the price of one’ comment was rejected by voters, Hillary declared, ‘I might as well have stayed home and baked cookies, thus insulting all the stay-at-home moms) owed for enduring one humiliation after another at the hands of her husband (who really wants Bill trolling around the White House again, certainly not Hillary).”Some are reporting the imminent demise of the Hillary Clinton campaign, saying major donors are running scared, hedging their bets, and not returning phone calls.  Typical of Bill Clinton, he’s gone into one of his famous self-pitying “funks”.  The sooner the wheels come off, the better for all.  Hillary can go back to her Senate duties and continue to get re-elected by New Yorkers, and grow old in the job, like Ted Kennedy.  Bill, scorned by the public’s rejection of his attempt to get re-elected via Hillary, and forever branded as Impeached, can go back to doing whatever he was doing before.  With a failed bid for President, will Hillary have any use for Bill? Part of the Mark Penn-Hillary Clinton contrived strategy was to get a compressed primary schedule.  Their thinking was that with a “national” candidate, Hillary would benefit from a win in Iowa, followed by a quick dash through New Hampshire, SC, Michigan, Nevada, and capping it off with a win in Florida.  Then the unintended consequences.  The states fought over who would be first, second, etc.  The DNC, smelling a stink, punted.  Penn and Clinton triangulated, and the result was a promise of no campaigning in Michigan and Florida, with subsequent loss of those state’s delegates.  Now that strategy looks flawed. Then there is the flawed strategy of running Hillary as a national candidate, in effect, dissing all the other Democratic candidates.  Penn and Clinton were so sure everyone wanted both Clintons back that they focused only on that aspect.  This in effect dissed the primary voters.  And while Obama was stumping on his vision of change and the future, Penn and the Clintons focused on the past.  Specifically, Bill’s past.  With no record of her own (at lease none that she was willing to reveal through release of her and Bill’s papers) she ran on Bill’s record.  And Bill ran on Bill’s record, as if he was seeking a 3rd term.  Political Night Train is surprised everyone is avoiding comparing Hillary to Gore, re-inventing herself at every turn.  She has promoted herself as:  a leader, with no record of leadership accomplishments; as the front runner and owed the election; as tough as a man; as soft as a woman; a woman trying to get membership in an exclusive men’s club; a girl; experienced (the comparison is to having season tickets to the Redskins, missing a few home games, not being allowed in the locker room/aka NSC meetings, but still claiming the view qualified you to replace Coach Gibbs); a victim, being picked on by the bad boys; a mother, by trotting Chelsea out.  And who does Hillary have standing off to the side, the Golden Girls, Madeline Albright, Donna Shalala, and Ann Lewis.  In campaign stops, Hillary talks about not her accomplishments, but about Bill’s as though she is living her political life vicariously through him.  Bill just keeps talking about Bill. What can Hillary do now?  Not much.  A month ago she could have attacked Edwards rather than Obama, pulled off some of Edwards support for herself and finished 2nd rather than 3rd.  What will she do?  More of the same.  Attack Obama, the media, the voters.

Panic In the Hillary Clinton Camp

 Just as Political Night Train predicted, the Hillary Clinton campaign is sensing a terrible loss in Iowa.  Internal polls show Hillary coming in 3rd, behind Edwards.  Their “crash and burn” plan is to step up the attacks on Obama, but this will only lead to greater loss.  The key is to attack Edwards, draw off his supporters.  A second place finish in New Hampshire, where Hillary has a good organization would spell significant trouble.MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – Hillary Rodham Clinton’s backup plan if she falters in Iowa can be summed up in two words: New Hampshire.

Clinton’s Democratic team is preparing television ads here criticizing Barack Obama’s health care plan and working to build what campaigns call a firewall. If the Obama presidential campaign ignites in Iowa, she wants to be ready to cool him off in a state where her organization is strong and her support has proven durable.

This past weekend, the Clinton campaign already had volunteers going door-to-door with fliers criticizing Obama on health care, and possible TV ads against him were screened for focus groups.

Advisers to the New York senator acknowledge there’s been uneasiness as Obama has risen in national and several early state polls, including Iowa and New Hampshire. But they insist their master blueprint – emphasizing Clinton’s experience, toughness and ability to withstand Republican attacks – remains sound.

“This is ultimately going to come down to two questions for undecided voters: Which is the Democrat best positioned to win in November, and which one is best qualified to start from the very first day give the country a fresh start,” said Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa Democratic governor who serves as national co-chair of Clinton’s campaign.

Still, with the former first lady locked in a tight three-way contest in Iowa with Illinois Sen. Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, her campaign is working on two tracks: reinforcing her support there while creating a “Plan B” should she come up short in the state’s Jan. 3 leadoff caucuses.

Clinton advisers believe she can survive a loss there to Edwards, who is running well in Iowa but has smaller campaign organizations in the other early-voting states.

Edwards’ campaign, meanwhile, hopes for a repeat of the Howard Dean-Dick Gephardt scuffle in Iowa that resulted in John Kerry’s nomination four years ago. The former North Carolina senator is hanging back and hoping Clinton and Obama destroy each other.

Placing second in Iowa to the well-funded, well-organized Obama, the Clinton people acknowledge, could be a much more severe blow.

That’s why New Hampshire, which crowned Bill Clinton the “comeback kid” when he first ran for the Democratic nomination in 1992, has emerged as a prime target for his wife this time. The state holds its primary Jan. 8, just five days after the Iowa contest.

“The only thing you can do to insulate yourself is to make sure your organization is airtight and to make sure the people who are with you are with you through the end,” said Clinton’s New Hampshire director, Nick Clemons.

To that end, the Clinton campaign ordered focus groups in New Hampshire last weekend to test television ads against Obama on his health care plan, which does not mandate universal coverage as Clinton’s does. Her New Hampshire volunteers have begun going door to door with literature arguing his plan could leave as many as 15 million people uninsured.

Asked Tuesday about the Clinton campaign’s literature, Obama said he hadn’t seen it but believed it was “entirely legitimate” to compare candidates’ positions on health care and other matters.

Hinting at Clinton divisiveness, Obama said of overhauling health care, “The issue really is how are we going to get it done because there are all kinds of 10-point plans out there that are gathering dust on the shelf because no one was able to actually pull the country together to deliver.”

Voters in Iowa received a similar Clinton direct mail piece this week, signed by Vilsack. He and other Clinton strategists reject the notion that such an effort is negative.

“It’s an important distinction, not negative at all. Iowans want everyone covered,” Vilsack said in an interview.

Indeed, Clinton has toned down her sharp criticism of Obama, just days after raising questions about his character and accusing him of peddling “false hope.” Her advisers say she had needed to set the record straight after absorbing months of criticism from her rivals, but they have since concluded her barrage didn’t work.

Even so, Clinton’s tongue-lashing of Obama laid the groundwork for a story line her advisers believe will serve her well over time: that little is known about the young Illinois senator, and that his record bears considerably more scrutiny and vetting.

For her part, Clinton has a very different challenge: winning over voters who believe they know her too well.

With her long record in public life, her advisers are searching for ways to cast her as an agent of change in a political environment where voters – especially Democrats – say they are eager for a new direction. The campaign has sought to reframe the issue, painting Obama as someone who talks about change while Clinton actually makes it happen.

“You’ll see us continue to sharpen the message and illustrate that this is a very serious election,” Clinton’s lead strategist Mark Penn said. “The voters have a choice about who would make the best president, and every time it comes down to that choice, she comes out on top.”

How Hillary Beats Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire, & South Carolina

Hillary is running behind Obama in the polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.  With the “Oprah Effect” to kick in soon, Hillary runs the risk of coming in 3rd in Iowa and 2nd in New Hampshire and South Carolina.  Some polling data is showing that every time Bill Clinton speaks about himself, Hillary’s numbers go down.  But Hillary’s campaign managers, some of which loath Bill, can’t shut him up.  Bill operates as a totally independent person, outside the constraints of Hillary’s campaign.  Senior campaign managers have been highly successful in cleaning Hillary up, getting her to dress properly, makeup, hair.  They have her highly scripted, to the point that recently Chris Matthews made a special issue of pointing out how when critizing Obama, Hillary constantly looked down to read from prepared text.

So, how does Hillary beat Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina?

Hillary must go extremely negative on Edwards, now, this weekend.  If Hillary stays negative on Obama, she runs the risk of going, or seeming to go negative on Oprah, and if that happens, the bottom falls out of Hillary’s election hopes.  Hillary will have to avoid any comment on any of Oprah’s talking points, least she is accused of a cat fight.  Oprah on the other hand can say most anything she wants as she is running for nothing.  Watch Oprah carefully, she won’t criticize Hillary directly, but will agree with those who do, or will support issues that directly conflict Hillary’s positions.

By going extreme negative on Edwards, Hillary may hope to draw off some of his support to herself.  Hillary will also have to out “liberal” Edwards, which means flipping on some of her earlier positions.

Will a loss of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina be the end of Hillary?  No, she can still win the nomination, but it will tarnish her image of front runner.  In fact, she won’t be able to say others are tough on her because she is the front runner, because she won’t be.

Hear Hillary Scream, “Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh NO! It’s Oprah!”

With poll numbers dropping in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, this is NOT what Hillary wants, the “Oprah Effect”.  Political Night Train predicts Hillary loss in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina as Oprah sucks up all the oxygen, and the attention of Democratic white women.

Obama is locked in close contests in the three early states with the Democratic front-runner, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, and Winfrey, 53, is already having an effect.

Demand in South Carolina forced organizers to move her appearance from an arena that could accommodate 18,000 people to the University of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, which seats up to 80,250 people.

Democrats Pushing Hill & Huma Abedin Love Story??

But it’s not just Republicans who are pushing the story. Will Folks, a well-known blogger in South Carolina, reported yesterday that he’d “heard from sources at rival Democratic presidential campaigns who claim that they ‘know it to be true’ that Hill and Huma are romantically-involved.” I called Folks, and he said that two different Democratic campaigns had told him about the alleged affair, but neither had “presented anything remotely resembling proof.” Folks said he couldn’t identify which campaigns were spreading the story, so I called Rod Shealy, a top GOP consultant. Shealy told me he had no idea of who was talking up the story—but that the only Democrats with active staffs and organizations in South Carolina were Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson. (On an entirely separate note, Shealy had an interesting observation about Ron Paul’s stunning announcement that he had raised several million dollars in a single day. “That shows that his supporters are not just fringe loonies,” he said. “These are people with checking accounts.”)

HOT! Oprah To Stump For Obama In Iowa & New Hampshire

 TV host Oprah Winfrey is ready to join Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign stump — and will soon join the Democratic presidential candidate in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Asked in New Hampshire on Tuesday if Oprah would be campaigning with him, Obama said, “First she’s coming to Iowa.” He quickly added that “we’ll get her up here” — referring to New Hampshire. “We’re just doing it one state at a time,” he said.