1.07.2008

Caught in a downward spiral, Clinton wants to at least stay in contact

I might have underestimated just how huge an influence the compressed calendar would have on this year's primaries. Eight days separated Iowa and New Hampshire in 2004, and while that was not enough for Howard Dean to recover from his post-"scream" collapse, he had at least gotten back on track by NH and started to slowly get back up. But with only 5 days between the two contests this year, it is clear that Barack Obama's bounce is only now getting to full strength as the news of his Iowa win was absorbed throughout the week-end. And by the time voting starts on Tuesday, Clinton will probably barely have time to make a dent on her rival's surge. Don't forget, any bounce wears off to some degree or other, but 5 days is certainly not a lot for that to happen.

This basically means that Hillary Clinton could very well be trounced come Tuesday, as New Hampshire is known to reward its conquerors with big victories (Kerry by 13% in 2004, McCain by 18% in 2000). When a candidate enjoys New Hampshire momentum, he can rise high very quickly as independents jump in on the bandwagon. (So much for New Hampshire priding itself for its political acuteness and its independent streak.) However much Obama worked for his Iowa victory, we've got to admit that this is a little bit too much power in the hands of a democratically challenged contest in one small-state. Four years Iowa alone made John Kerry the nominee, will history repeat itself and will one candidate ride unstoppable momentum out of the caucuses?

In search of any indicator they can get as to where things are heading, observers might seize tomorrow on this NYT has a devastating article about Bill Clinton's lackluster New Hampshire performance this past few days (probably unfairly to the Clinton campaign given that anti-Bill pieces have been written by all publications non-stop for the past 2 weeks, and that the article is mostly based on one campaign event that occurred hours after the Iowa results came in). The lede reads, "Former President Bill Clinton has been drawing sleepy and sometimes smallish crowds at big venues in the state that revived his presidential campaign in 1992. He entered to polite applause and rows of empty seats at the University of New Hampshire on Friday." The article goes on to acknowledge a few redeeming circumstances, but the basic message of the article -- that Bill Clinton has lost his touch and that even he is unable to help the sinking ship that his wife's campaign has become -- is sure to be picked up tomorrow by the rest of the press, giving an embarrassing news cycle for the former president 24 hours from the start of the vote.

And how bad could things get? The Politico quotes (anonymous, of course) Clinton advisers who are not only worrying about a massive loss in 48 hours but also acknowledging that South Carolina is now probably lost, as Obama's early victory(ie) ensures that the black vote gets solidly behind him there and make a Clinton come-back in SC impossible. That would be a huge development -- remember just a month ago Clinton was in control of the state's African-American vote and with that seemed unbeatable. Clinton clearly has to find a state to win sometime in January -- can her campaign expect to lose everything pre-February 5th and still get a win? Unless Clinton's puts up a firewall in Nevada, her situation will quickly resemble Giuliani's -- and she is not even allowed to campaign in Florida!

With this dire situation in mind, Clinton has chosen to go after Obama and knock him off his pedestal. She started this strategy at the debate last night by emphasizing her rival's position changes and criticizing the hope he claims to represent as empty rhetoric. She continued her attacks today (check out this summary from the NYT): "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose," she said. She also compared Obama to Bush in 2000, explaining that people took a risk then to trust a candidate just because he seemed likable -- and that the country cannot afford the same risk twice.

She has one more day to save face and at least keep in close contact with Barack Obama. Not all polls have her down by double-digits yet, and she is even ahead in the entirely post-Iowa Suffolk survey. And yes, believe it or not, there are enough undecideds left that Hillary could very well win on Tuesday night. From the same NYT article I quoted from above comes this, "At each of his stops, Mr. Obama asked how many voters were undecided, and hundreds of people raised their hands." But just as likely is that Clinton loses by a margin big enough to put her campaign in fatally serious trouble the extent of which would have been unthinkable just 4 days ago.

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3 Comments:

  • In other news, a brand new Survey USA poll out on Kentucky has some improved news for the Republicans.

    The numbers are as follows:

    46% Giuliani
    44% Clinton
    10% Undecided

    42% Romney
    48% Clinton
    10% Undecided

    53% Huckabee
    41% Clinton
    6% Undecided

    51% McCain
    41% Clinton
    7% Undecided

    47% Giuliani
    41% Obama
    12% Undecided

    43% Romney
    44% Obama
    13% Undecided

    54% Huckabee
    35% Obama
    11% Undecided

    54% McCain
    35% Obama
    11% Undecided

    The poll was conducted Jan. 4-6, 2008. Interesting to see that Hillary still runs better than Obama in this battleground southern state.

    By Anonymous Steve, At 07 January, 2008 13:10  

  • Sorry, but why is Kentucky a battleground? Or even important? Many people in Kentucky probably don't even know who Obama is, but if he keeps winning they will certainly find out.

    By Blogger Kelmer, At 07 January, 2008 15:06  

  • If Kentucky ends up being a "battleground" state, then the Republicans are completely screwed.

    By Blogger Pete Bilderback, At 07 January, 2008 16:18  

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