Most Underrated Political Play of the Night

I hate being cliche and unoriginal, but you simply can’t look at last night and not recognize it for the truly historic event that it was. We get few nights like these in politics. These are the nights that are indelibly marked in history books, where we see the best and the worst of those few people that we call our nation’s leaders.

Indeed, the excitement among political junkies over last night was on par in many ways with a general election night; a good general election night.

It’s definitely worth mentioning some of the most memorable political plays of the night as well.

Topping the list of worst possible political plays ever had to have been John McCain’s speech. Just the decision to have one was itself a terrible call. After a year and a half of Obama and Clinton going after each other, their supporters as emotional and invested, if not more, than the candidates themselves, trying to butt in on all the fanfare would have required uncommon political presence. And this would have been if the Democrats were only in the mediocre to good range.

That McCain opted to give a prebuttal essentially set himself up for the contrast that has already begun, and will likely be addressed throughout the day. And that contrast is terribly unkind to John McCain.

McCain delivered a flat speech, Obama delivered what Mark Halperin is calling,ONE OF THE BEST WRITTEN/DELIVERED OBAMA SPEECHES OF THE CAMPAIGN.” McCain’s speech was delivered to 200 seemingly flat and off key supporters with a yucky green background that, to me at least, looked like one of those green screens that weathermen stand in front of. Obama delivered his speech to the backdrop of a crowd of thousands of seriously fired up supporters.

There’s simply no political good for McCain to reap from that comparison, and likely his team is going to spend the next newscycle or so hoping not too many people notice.

The Double Edged play of the night goes to Hillary Clinton’s non-concession speech. As I said last night, I kinda liked it, but I’m seemingly in the minority. A whole lot of people took offense to it, and even I wasn’t thrilled with the popular vote stuff she put out last night.

For all the talk of unity, Clinton’s got a shortening time span before stunts like that will permanently damage her political well being.

But while it’s easy for Obama supporters to get up in arms, let’s not forget that this is also a woman who is facing down some SERIOUS campaign debt, and for as long as is physically possible, she’s going to keep tapping her donors to try and shrink that debt down. Also, as has also been noted elsewhere, this may be an attempt to strong arm her way into the second slot on the ticket. But we’re going to talk about that a little bit later on.

The Moxie play of the night: Obama kicking off his general election campaign at the XCel arena in St. Paul Minnesota; the very same venue that will be home to the Republican National Convention in August. The significance of this is lost on few; he’s marking his territory. Or, as a commentor on another blog put it (and I really wish I could remember where so I could give credit where credit is most definitely due), “im in ur base, killin’ ur d00dz!!!11!!”

I swear, if I were the candidate and not Obama, I would have peed in the corners when no one was looking, you know, just to make sure the symbolism was solid. But, I guess that’s why I’ll never be the guy on stage giving stump speeches.

But the Underrated Political Play of the Night goes to Obama, and him declaring himself the Democratic nominee. Nothing new here, nothing people don’t already know, and definitely nothing that hadn’t been reported upon ad nauseum for hours prior to the statement, but that he himself made it should not be overlooked.

First, we must understand the progression of the threats that defection voters posed. In the beginning, Obama supporters were the biggest worry. This because he was pulling people from outside the party who wouldn’t necessarily be loyal to the Democratic ticket, and he was pulling the typically underrepresented youth vote as well.

Then the polling started to indicate that Clinton supporters might just prove to have the greater defection threat on their side, polling that was backed up by a vocal minority a high profile protest at the RBC. It is this population of possible defectors that remains as Senator Clinton’s last remaining bit of leverage.

By contrast, for all the talk that Obama supporters would defect should Clinton become the nominee, that wasn’t validated in the polling. I’ve had two theories on this. The first being that defection numbers from both sides were excessive in the first place; many of these voters would have a grieving period and come back to the ticket. The second theory being that, well, it’s just easier to be magnanimous in victory than defeat.

What the announcement did last night, though, was give Obama supporters something that Clinton supporters had all along; a sense of entitlement. As an Obama supporter from the very beginning, let me tell you, for the longest time I was preparing myself for the day when I would have to support Hillary Clinton. Not until Iowa did anyone think Obama would go the distance, and to be honest, many of us didn’t actually come to the realization that he could really beat Clinton until he started building up all those wins after Super Tuesday.

So, many of us started off not necessarily sure whether our candidate would pull it off or not. Then, even after Obama mathematically sealed the deal at the end of February, he has consistantly been careful not to declare all out victory, even when pundits and his most vocal supporters did so on his behalf.

For the last few months of the campaign, Obama has done well to not give his supporters the idea that he and we were guaranteed the nomination. But last night, when he declared victory, that was a pretty powerful message to his supporters that, “It’s ours now.”

The significance of this is that while he can’t remove Clinton’s defection leverage, I think that single move last night created his own.

(edited by DrGail)

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