2.19.2008

As race remains tight, Clinton campaign seeks stronger contrasts and accuses Obama of plagiarism

In more evidence that Obama has the potential to strike a decisive blow to the Clinton campaign in the next few weeks by depriving Hillary of a resounding win on March 4th, a new Texas poll released by SUSA shows the two candidates very close: Clinton leads 50% to 45%, a margin that would probably be too small to allow her to come out with a significant delegate lead.

However, the pollsters include a caveat in its release: "Among Hispanic voters, Clinton leads 2:1. SurveyUSA estimates that Hispanics make-up 32% of Democratic primary voters in a Primary today. If Hispanics vote in larger numbers, Clinton's lead is larger than the 5 points shown here. If Hispanics vote in smaller numbers, Obama runs stronger than these numbers show." Indeed, the ARG poll that had Obama leading the other day (the only survey to have done so) had a 25% projection; the Texas Union that had her up 8% was modeling 30% of the electorate to be Hispanic, so SUSA's is on the higher-end on the spectrum. The Hispanic turnout in 2004 was 24%, but keep in mind that the primary was not contested that year, making that contest a weak predictor of this year's.

Realizing that Texas -- and possibly Ohio -- is too close for comfort, the Clinton camp still seems unsure of what strategy it can use to counter Obama's momentum. It is now using the Wisconsin primary as a test of how effective an attack strategy would be against the Illinois Senator. They have spent most of the week drawing stronger than usual contrasts, denouncing Obama for ducking debates and stepping up the criticism that he is all talk.

Today, the Clinton campaign stepped up its criticism by accusing Obama of plagiarism. With this video circulating on YouTube showing excerpts of an older speech by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and a recent speech by Obama, Clinton aides are now suggesting that Obama's rhetorical prowess is artificial and relies on the words of others. Howard Wolfson declared that, "So if you're asking the electorate to judge you on your promises and you break them, and on your rhetoric and you lift it." Obama himself sought to quickly diffuse the controversy, admitting that he should have given Patrick credit and arguing that this is a non-issue.

This is a strange tactic on the part of the Clinton campaign. Their rationale seems to be to go after what Obama is often viewed to be the strongest on, and trying to undermine his reputation as a charismatic and genuine leader. And such a ploy could definitely work, depending on how the issue is presented in the media and how much life these questions have in them. For now, however, the fact that the only controversy is about a tie between Obama and Patrick -- an enthusiastic backer of his who is saying that he himself had suggested that Obama use those lines -- means that the story probably doesn't have legs.

Furthermore, few people think that Obama is writing his own speeches. After all, the role of speech-writers is not that secret, and most voters realize that there is someone writing the words that a candidate says. What looks so powerful in the candidate's rhetoric is not necessarily the words themselves but the delivery as well and what many see as Obama's force of conviction. In this sense, Obama's use of Patrick's words does not matter that much, even accepting the argument that Obama's plagiarism matters more than other candidates' because he is known as a brilliant speaker.

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4 Comments:

  • I don't think that number of people that know he's reading a script is very large. Many have claimed that he wrote his own books. Further, to use recycled rhetoric from such a recent campaign is pretty stupid. People are being truly inspired into supporting him and they risk their suspended disbelief being shattered. It's time he proved himself in unprepared settings where people can see him speak for himself. He won't have a writer for meeting with world leaders.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 February, 2008 08:07  

  • Indeed, this incident shouldn't matter much and, no doubt, Obama paramours will be quick to jump to his defense. But the guy banks on his rhetoric. It's what people point to when they identify his twin virtues of inspiration and authenticity. People presume that with Obama, what you see is what you get. I suspect it merits our attention, therefore, especially when you consider that he borrowed the speech from Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, who has so badly mis-mangaged his tenure as governor of Massachusetts that even Democrats are wondering what the ever saw in the guy.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 19 February, 2008 11:00  

  • Obama did write his own books. The first one came out in 1995, before he had entered the political scene at all. He also wrote his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech.

    By Blogger Ole, At 19 February, 2008 12:37  

  • I wouldn't bank on that authorship. It was already reported last night that he only wrote part of one book. I don't think we've seen the end of this issue. Give the press a few weeks and he could be cooked. One name to remember,Biden.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 February, 2008 17:51  

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