Posted by: coloradokiwi | March 21, 2008

Their strengths are their weaknesses? Hoo boy.

I’d love to post on all the crazy and amazing political stories in the next few days, but even in my usual state of procrastination and distractions, I can’t give any of that the time it deserves. Anyway it will be good to wait awhile to see how some of this shakes out. To whit:

All three candidates have hit fairly significant obstacles this week, all of which go to the core of their respective purported strengths. Obama, the man of judgment, has been taken to task on his judgment for his long time relationship with Rev. Wright. Clinton, the woman of experience, has this week released documents of her itinerary and activities as First Lady, which calls into question her experience: she didn’t have a security clearance or take part in high level meetings, her tasks while abroad were mainly social, and there is no evidence linking her to the health care programs that she claims she helped work on. McCain, the man of foreign policy and military credentials, managed in a speech while in Iraq to repeatedly mixed up Sunni and Shia and to state that Iran was helping to train Al Qaeda, which is not remotely true.

None of these are minor glitches. While Obama’s speech was brilliant, moving, intelligent, thought-provoking, honest, forthright, etc. etc., I don’t think he successfully answered the base question that the righties are pushing, which weighs on people’s minds: okay, so did you ever pull Rev. Wright aside and ask him to knock it off? Of course from my point of view, this is a storm in a teacup. Some religious nut ranting in a sermon, raising some legit critiques about America as well as some batshit crazy inflammatory idiocy, doesn’t really influence my opinion of Obama one way or the other, really. But I’m not your average (white, working class, moderately to poorly informed) voter. Barack has met this scandal head on, but it will not leave him in the general.

Hillary’s big selling point is her experience. If her claims of experience (which I always thought were slightly overblown) don’t hold any water, then what’s her main draw? She and Obama have nearly identical policies on all the major issues, and he’s clearly gotten her beat on charisma (not that it should matter, but alas it does in our vapid political landscape). But to be honest I’m not going to dwell too much on Hillary, because barring a major superdelegate defection, she will not get the nomination: she won’t be able to catch Barack on pledged delegates, she almost certainly can’t catch him on the popular vote, and that’s even including the slim possibility that MI and FL will have do-overs. The Wright controversy is in a way manna from heaven for her, but even then….

McCain looked and sounded like a doddering old fool in confusing the situation in Iraq. He has by far the easiest task in overcoming his major gaffe for two reasons: 1. Let’s face it, the built-in animosity toward Hillary, and the hydrophobic reactions to Wright have kind of buried the McCain story for now; 2. He can pass off his gaffe as a mis-statement which, while maybe or maybe not true (and potentially no less troubling—this is how Reagan looked toward the end of his term, and we know what happened with him), is easier to believe than either of the excuses/explanations likely to come from the Democrats.

IF Barack survives this, which is to say, if he doesn’t lose as badly as estimated in Pennsylvania, and he still takes North Carolina, and particularly if he takes Indiana, he will still be the nominee. This scandal will still be with him, obviously, and the unfortunate reality is that he’ll lose a few million votes over it. But can he take the fight to McCain? Will he be able to press McCain, and will he be able to hang with McCain in the polls long enough in order to be within striking distance (or even ahead) by the time the debates come along in the autumn? From the Denver convention to that time, there will be a lot of time where he’s hit repeatedly by the right in every possible way, and they will try to push the Wright issue as much as possible, in every possible way. Barack’s main chances now hinge on whether he’s able to shift the conversation, and hit back at McCain (and for now Hillary, obviously). IF he can do this, and he’ll probably need some help from the MSM, he’ll be in pretty good shape. If not, if he’s constantly having to play defense, and constantly having to talk about his weaknesses, then….well, he might not be quite the “magic negro” we may have hoped he would be.

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