How To Lose An Election

If the smoke clears and it turns out that Hillary Clinton is not the Democratic party’s nominee, she will have few other people to blame but herself.

It’s enough to make one ponder as to the reason why an obviously gifted politician might dangerously over reach her way right out of the contest; one would expect better out of Hillary Clinton.  Indeed, her recent decision to go negative seems to run antithetical to a campaigh that has been run flawlessly until at least about a month or so ago.

But there it is, she promised over the weekend to not only get down in the muck and start duking it out with the number one contender of the party, but she made the distinction that she was going to attack Obama on character flaws.

It’s risky, far riskier than the obvious benefits might justify, and drawing character differences between herself and Obama may just be what sinks the U.S.S. Hillary.

But why?  That’s obvious at this point; it all began with a debate.  There were several moments that hurt the frontrunner two debates ago, but a rather silly question on awarding driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants was the big one.  For at least five minutes, Hillary Clinton found herself under attack with her opponents hitting her from all sides.  Dodd caught her from the right (saying he opposed the measure), while Obama flanked her on the left (saying he supported it), and the fabled triangulation that leaves so many with a negative impression of the former first lady was all but confirmed as she tried to tap dance her way out of an answer.

This would have eaten up a couple of news cycles and then gone away had Clinton dealt with it properly, perhaps a statement released the next day explaining that her stance was nuanced and not fairly summed up in the debate.  Instead, she tried playing the heroic victim, as well as the gender card while she continued to equivocate on the issue, changing her position at least twice more in the aftermath (the day after she came out in favor of the proposal, but then reversed that opinion a weak later when Gov. Spitzer dropped it).

While she continued to hold a strong standing in national polls, the honeymoon appeared over in Iowa, and support in New Hampshire began to wane..  It was in this maelstrom I think the potentially fatal error was made.

Given that one of the strongest parts of the Clinton campaign is the “inevitability” narrative, it is absolutely vital that she pull off wins in most of the early states, particularly Iowa and New Hampshire which will set the mood for the rest of the contest.  A loss in one or both of the states could cripple the inevitability argument.

And so we come to the decision.

Internal polling must have Hillary hurting more than the public polls are showing or the pessimists must have control of the trend analysis.  Whatever the case, keeping the contest as it has been over the past three weeks still shows Hillary going to the voters as the frontrunner.  Sure she might lose Iowa, but she could recover from that.

But instead the campaign has chosen to over react and the things this says about the state of Hillary in the race are legion.  For one, it says everything about the confidence of the frontrunner who was at one point so well placed that she didn’t even bother arguing with her competition.

Now she promises to engage in the basest of attacks, in character assassination which means she’s very worried aobut what the junior senator from Illinois is capable.  But unlike another erudite junior senator who ran for the presidency back in 2004, Senator Obama is not likely to sit still and let Hillary pummel him about the head neck and shoulders.

Indeed, the Obama campaign has set up an internet war room for real time debunking and countering of personal attacks courtesy the Clinton campaign.

In truth, the big risk here is that Hillary Clinton is attacking Obama’s strength, but that same strength is a weakness for her; polling consistently gives her mediocre at best marks for being trustworthy, honest, and personable.  As she engages in these attacks, she also stands to reinforce the negative side of the Clinton narrative, one that doesn’t play well in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But there is another risk for Clinton here.  She hamstrings herself by blatantly going on the offensive in more ways than one.  For one, it removes any need for Obama to continue the offensive as long as she does; this results in Hillary no longer being able to attack Obama on abandoning his politics of hope.

Still, Obama going more offensive had a place.  He had to prove to the voters that he had it in him to run a tough campaign.  Now, with Hillary choosing to get in there and throw some blows, Obama is going to get the chance to prove his toughness without putting at risk his own integrity as a positive politician.

It’s the political equivalent of the rope a dope, letting your opponent throw blows at you while you yourself mitigate each attack with the least amount of energy.  And this is most definitely true, especially if Hillary really wants to make this about character.  The funniest thing about most attacks Hillary could level upon Obama is that it would be nothing new.  The worst charge, drug use, Obama handled ten years ago in his first book.  The Rezko flap has come and gone, and the fact that Obama has not already had a decades long career in DC is old hat (and comes with a great line about how long resumes don’t necessarily guarantee good judgement).

Meanwhile, the negative attacks on Hillary’s part are only going to confirm the image deficiencies that she has worked so hard fighting against from the beginning.  She could have ridden the bad patch out, kept to the game plan, but the thing is, she flinched; her numbers started to lag, and the knee jerk reaction that results could kick her straight out of the race if she’s not careful.

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  1. Music News » Blog Archive » How To Lose An Election - [...] How To Lose An ElectionBy Kyle E. MooreDodd caught her from the right (saying he opposed the measure), while…

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