5.03.2008

As Clinton plays up gas tax issue, superdelegates show discontent

Hillary Clinton better have evidence that the gas tax issue is a political winner among May 6th voters because her increasingly harsh rhetoric on the issue is creating trouble for her among the audience she needs even more than Indiana and North Carolina voters -- superdelegates.

Clinton first expressed her interest in repealing the gas tax for the summer when McCain put the idea forward, but she has now become a full-fledged advocate of the measure. And in a sure sign that she feels that the gas tax holiday is a political jewel, she is now expanding the debate beyond her battle against Obama. Her campaign announced today that she is planning on introducing legislation to implement a gas tax holiday. Clinton used very strong language to describe her rationale:

I believe it is important to get every member of Congress on the record. Do they stand with hard pressed Americans who are trying to pay their gas bills at the gas station or do they once again stand with the big oil companies. That's a vote I'm going to try to get, because I want to know where they stand and I want them to tell us - are they with us or against us?

What is particularly amusing to me is that this is practically the message Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi have been relaying... about superdelegates needing to choose between Obama and Clinton. Take out the second sentence specifying that Clinton is talking about the gas tax and she might as well be asking congressmen to announce for whom they will be voting at the convention. More seriously, that last sentence has predictably provoking something of a stir, as some are accusing Clinton of using Bush-ist terminology.

If the legislation arrived on the floor of the Senate or of the House, it would put many Democratic congressmen in a difficult situation. Most -- starting with Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama -- are opposed to this idea; but, as Clinton's insistence on pursuing it confirms, it is politically-speaking tough for vulnerable Democrats to vote against the gas tax holiday without opening themselves up to harsh attacks in their re-election races.

Clinton is thus risking alienating some uncommitted superdelegates by pushing her argument, airing new ads and introducing legislation. Colorado Representative, Senate candidate and undecided superdelegate Mark Udall blasted Clinton this afternoon in a strongly-worded press release that echoes many of the themes put forward by the Obama campaign (a clear indication that Clinton might be losing Udall's vote):

Senator Clinton claimed yesterday that I either stand with her on this proposal or stand with the oil companies. To that I say: I stand with the families of Colorado, who aren’t looking for bumper sticker fixes that don’t fix anything, but for meaningful change that brings real relief and a new direction for our energy policy. We can’t afford more Washington-style pandering while families keep getting squeezed.

It is exactly the kind of short-sighted Washington game that keeps us from getting real results to our energy problem. Experts across the ideological spectrum agree that it will increase the deficit, drain money away from Colorado roads and bridges, and hurt the environment, all without actually making prices lower for drivers.

To recap, Clinton is thus pursuing an argument that is (1) denounced with rare unanimity by the media, (2) upper-middle-class voters even further away from her, (3) at odds with the position of most Democratic leaders and (4) has the potential to alienate uncommitted superdelegates -- the very audience Clinton needs to stay put if she wants to prevent Obama from clinching the nomination.

Yet, knowing all of this, the Clinton campaign is continuing to pounce the issue; tonight, she started running running her second ad in Indiana attacking Obama for opposing the tax holiday (you can watch it here). It accuses Obama of dismissing the savings as "pennies" (with the implication that Obama cannot understand the plight of the working-class, a charge that ties back to the elitism theme) and heralds Clinton's plan to make Big Oil pay for the rising prices.

The Clinton campaign is evidently concentrating on blue-collar and middle-class voters, the groups that Obama is the weakest among. Clinton knows that her only path to the nomination is to instill doubt that Obama has the capacity to win the general election, and she will not be able to do so without increasing her lead among these groups in North Carolina and Indiana. She handily defeated Obama among white blue-collar voters in Pennsylvania -- but the margin was the same as it was in Ohio. That is good enough to win Clinton the primary, but not enough to convince superdelegates that Obama is too damaged by incidents like Wright and bittergate to beat McCain.

By the end of February, in Wisconsin and the Potomac region, Clinton's advantage among these groups of voters had eroded; but she recaptured her clear edge in the run-up to March 4th when Obama was damaged by the controversy surrounding NAFTA. Two months later, Clinton hopes another economic issue powers her through May 6th. Only then will she worry about superdelegates -- if it is not too late.

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42 Comments:

  • Ah, open the grab bag and start throwing candy bars to the trick-or-treaters!

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the official "pandering to the voters with promises of money, money, money" season has opened!

    The economists are on Obama's side. They know that the equation doesn't add up. The 30 bucks of so that Joe Average saves in the short run will not compare to the extra money he will have to shell out when the bridges are no longer passable or the potholes get so big that your car lands in the shop every two weeks.

    And the big oil companies are not about to lower their prices just because the tax will be lifted for a couple of days. They will pocket that money during that holiday, the prices will stay right where they are, and those oil giants will thank the government for giving them extra money and laugh all the way to the bank.

    The much more responsible thing to have done would be to call for a car-free weekend - and let the oil giants feel the pinch when suddenly they lose all weekend profits.

    And yes, I find the wording of the statement Bush-esque and it is most obviously aimed at Obama. She is doing thing for one reason and one reason alone: primary campaign.

    By Blogger Mark, At 03 May, 2008 03:31  

  • I agree with the first two posts. Now we'll see if the voters are dumb enough to fall for this gimmick of Hillary's. (I fear many will).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 06:49  

  • The gas tax relief has little to do with the pennies saved. It has to do with going after the oil companies with wind-fall profit taxes. Americans overwhelmingly support this tactic and it's popularity will carry it forward. Asserting that it's pandering with a mere 18.5 cents is just idiotic. McCain refuses to stand up to the oil companies and so does Obama. Obama is a corporate puppet and this issue proves it. Everybody sees that Obama is in the pocket of big oil when he stands up to protect them. The real Obama is being exposed. A corporate schill.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 06:54  

  • I'm sure if we cut the gas tax and replace it with a tax on oil companies, the oil companies and all the middlemen will pass the tax break on, cause we all know how generous and charitable the oil companies are. This tax "holiday" is an insult to every "thinking" American, which is why it will get Hillary lot's of votes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 07:32  

  • A windfall profit tax means that if a company raises revenues it only raises the tax. The previous comments are simply ignorant. The fact is that Obama supporters that can't understand this issue are stupidly supporting the oil companies. If the oil companies weren't taking out profit instead of re-investing like they claim, there wouldn't be a need for a windfall profit tax. Raising prices does not recoup this tax. Re-investing avoids it. Forcing the oil companies to re-invest creates jobs and lowers prices. "Thinking" Americans know that Obama is a corporate tool. This idiocy coming from Obamabots is not going to hide it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 08:14  

  • Reading the postings here it becomes crystal why democrats don’t win elections. Oh yes you folks would say that 2006 was a pretty good year, but then 2006 was an extraordinary example of a wave election. I will not argue the validity of the well thought and very well expressed sentiments about the so called gas tax holiday, but for such a group of smart chaps as you seem to be, you folks are extraordinarily ignorant about the American electorate, and the political process. George H.W. Bush ran all the way to the White House in 1988 on the “Pledge of Alliance” and on Willie Horton. Bill Clinton climbed on “It is the worst economy since the recession” theme. Remember Jimmy Carter “I will never lie to you”. Simple and uncomplicated. American electorate does not understand nuisance. Witness John Kerry. Folks we have what we have. Not amount of wishing will elevate the collective IQ of the country overnight. So get off you high horse and come down and listen to what the great unwashed say. Because…they will select our next president. Blogg all you want folks. Indulge n your little exercises of pseudo intellectualism. And watch Obama wage the prettiest, most intellectually challenging, and enlighten campaign….and lose by 15% point!!! This gat holiday thing is a real issue for those that do not understand the fine points of macroeconomics. The issue has to be nullified and believe me, no amount of explaining by the WS Journal or by the sages at this blogg will dispel the perception that the elitist democrats are holding a tax break for the distressed drivers in the country. I don’t want John McCain to become president on the a gimmick like that or by riding Jeremiah Wright all the way to November. But I am afraid that is what is about to happen.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 08:40  

  • 8:40 You are right. Simplify it to screw big oil and gimme my thirty cents!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 09:08  

  • A newspaper poll in a neighboring town which is heavily republican, shows 61/38 in favor. This paper's readers also favor Obama. I think Obama is out of step with his base. Gas is $4.00 here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 09:34  

  • With 15% in Ind. and 17% in NC. undecided or someone else (someone else?) it doesn't look too good for Obama in either state. (Is Zogby including other candidates or polling republicans?)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 10:09  

  • The biggest problem with the "gas tax holiday" isn't that it's a pander; it's that it's a lie because it won't lower gas prices.

    Prices are set by supply and demand. There is no more supply to add; refineries are running at capacity, so today's price is what it is because of demand.

    If the gas tax is cut and prices go down, people will use more gas which will force the price right back up to where it is now (and demand will drop to where it is now to accommodate the higher price due to the fixed supply). So cutting the gas tax won't save anyone anything. You can suspend the gas tax, but you can't suspend the laws of supply and demand.

    A pander is when one knowingly adopts bad policy in an attempt to get more votes. A lie is when you espouse a policy which you know won't do what you say it will do. This one accomplishes the feat of falling into both categories. Clinton must know that this whole idea is a sham, or at least her vaunted economic advisors must now it; yet she keeps pushing it anyway. It is, in my opinion, purposely deceptive.

    By the way, the real reason people are paying so much to drive around? It's the collective choices Americans have made for the past 25 years to drive cars that get lousy gas mileage instead of transitioning to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Until politicians have the courage to ask us to look in the mirror and take responsibility for our decisions, we're not going to make much headway on the problems that face us today. And it seems that Clinton and McCain lack that courage.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 10:17  

  • Clinton has the courage to bring back windfall profit taxes. Obama does not. If McCain supports a gas holiday, then it will be with taxation on big oil profits with Hillary's plan. Obama is a fool for being put in this position of opposing "tax cuts" regardless of how meaningless it would be. To put Clinton in with McCain is just ludicrously dishonest. I just took my RV out for a 4,000 mile drive and still saved over half the airfare. I'll still be able to pay at ten bucks a gallon. I want big oil profits reeled in and I could care less about a few cents off. Let the bill go forward so Bush can veto it. McCain will wipe the floor with Obama for opposing it if it doesn't get to that point. Use your brain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 10:32  

  • Is Zogby including other candidates or polling republicans?

    Did you try looking it up? It's not hard to find.

    Go to realclearpolitics.com, find the poll, and click on "Zogby" which takes you to the poll results; or go to Zogby.com and find the poll. At the bottom there's a link for the methodology. It says the poll sampled "Likely Democratic Primary Voters."

    Since NC and IN are both open primaries, it would seem that independents and Republicans who said they were likely Democratic primary voters were included in the survey.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 10:38  

  • Consistency is not a Clinton hallmark. She has campaigned on wanting more money for roads and infrastructure (bridges etc). The federal gas tax goes towards these very things. So how does She and her cohorts explain the contradiction. Also the federal gas tax is much smaller than state taxes. Also the states will lose out on matching federal funds and may therefore have to raise their own taxes - not good.

    But Taniel's point is very well taken. Clinton by pushing this so aggressively (not just ads but wanting congress to vote) is alienating SD's. Not the smartest thing but I think she is backed into a corner.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 03 May, 2008 10:39  

  • Clinton has the courage to bring back windfall profit taxes. Obama does not.

    That wasn't the point of my post. It was that the assertion that cutting the gas tax will lower prices and provide relief for consumers is a lie. And yet Clinton and McCain keep pushing the consumer relief aspect. They both know or should know better.

    By the way, I don't know what a "windfall profit" is. Some makes a product. People pay for it. The producer makes money. Good for them.

    I don't care about oil profits so much; I just want to stop subsidizing them. On that, Clinton and Obama agree.

    I want big oil profits reeled in and I could care less about a few cents off.

    The best way to reel in oil profits? Use less of it, instead of falsely promising to provide relief to those who made decisions to use more of it.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 10:49  

  • Mike the tax burden gets shifted to big oil under Hillary's plan which will force Bush to veto it. The highway funding will lose nothing. Your argument is moot.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 10:55  

  • Dsimon poor posturing on that one. Just tell the voters whose help you want that it's their own fault and they're screwed. You can try if you want but it sure isn't a vote getter. All of these "hard stands" on issues that are unpopular make Obama less and less electable. McCain can make promises that are completely full of crap and get more popular support. This is about winning the WH remember?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 11:00  

  • If Zogby is polling voters that are not likely Democratic primary voters, then his model is too flawed to be useful. The people who aren't voting don't count.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 11:03  

  • Folks, specially you Mike, dsimon, and Mark, you just don't get it! You are absolutely right. It is a shameless exercise of pandering and economic misinformation. It is also simple, easy to sell, and very, very effective. Just open your ears when you go to the gas pump. Not everybody is as well informed as you are. Perception reigns supreme here. If Barack lose in NC, a very unlikely possibility, lay the defeat at the feet of reverend Wright and the gas tax. If there is anything that can motivate the good old boys to come to vote, beside guns, are their beloved trucks and the fuel they put in them. Hillary last stand: an unlikely victory in NC combine with GOP wins in MS-01 and LA-06. You will hear the stampede of SDs from miles away. Many of these SDs have move to the Obama column on the believe that he will be less of a drag for them come November. If that perception change……

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 03 May, 2008 11:43  

  • If Zogby is polling voters that are not likely Democratic primary voters, then his model is too flawed to be useful.

    But they're not, at least by the responses of those polled.

    The first question asked is probably "Are you a likely Democratic primary voter?" If the person says yes, then the person is asked the rest of the questions and is included in the sample.

    As long as there aren't a substantial number of people lying about whether they're likely voters, then the poll should be valid; it doesn't matter which party they belong to as long as they represent the likely voting population. (And the problem of people lying could exist with any poll, so it wouldn't make these polls any less valid than the others.)

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 11:55  

  • 56% of Americans now think Obama shares Rev. Wright's views! That's a condemning figure!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 11:55  

  • Just tell the voters whose help you want that it's their own fault and they're screwed. You can try if you want but it sure isn't a vote getter.

    The question is whether you want to get elected to get elected or whether you want to get elected to get things done.

    Telling the voters that it's within their power to create change can be a powerful message. Telling them that we can act together to achieve great things can be inspirational.

    The truth is that we are responsible for our own situation. We live in a representative democracy, and so we are accountable not only for our individual decisions but for our national policies. And unless we get back to that basic principle, we're going to wonder every four years why "the government" didn't solve all our problems for us.

    McCain has a decent reputation because people felt he was being honest with them (some of us wondered where that person went). Because of that, some people would still vote for him even if they didn't agree with him on everything.

    Clinton has a reputation as a policy wonk, and now she adopts a proposal that no policy wonk thinks is a good idea. Yes, it may attract some voters. But others may see it as confirming the sense that she really will say anything to get elected. She already has a credibility problem; this won't help.

    And when it comes to the general election, Obama could say that McCain offered "relief" that would be bad for energy independence, bad for global warming, and wouldn't actually happen anyway. The real subsidy that would help would be one that gets us into fuel-efficient vehicles which would protect us against high gas prices, be good for energy independence, and good for fighting global warming. Obama could say we can go for the cheap fix that will make things worse, or, if we're serious, we can act together to make things better. I think that's a winner in November.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 12:22  

  • Yeah, and that's why fiction sells at the box office and documentaries are relegated to public broadcasting. Get real here, we watch PBS instead of sit-coms, but the general population doesn't have the attention span to sit through one segment of Nova. I like Obama and agree with his ideas but I'd rather win so I can put my ideas to work in an administration that listens. Getting to the WH is more important now and Obama just can't make it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 12:29  

  • 56% of Americans now think Obama shares Rev. Wright's views! That's a condemning figure!

    Come on, provide all the data. (And provide a reference while you're at it).

    The Rasmussen poll says 56% say it's at least somewhat likely that Obama shares some of Wright's controversial views. Only 26% said it was very likely, and I'd assume that the vast majority of those are people who wouldn't vote for a Democrat anyway.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 12:30  

  • dsimon-you're confirming that you'd lose the GE to "get things done" ?? Thanks but no thanks we'd rather win to get things done.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 12:32  

  • Get real here

    It is real that McCain was popular in part because people thought he wasn't a panderer. And it is real that some people who weren't turned off by Clinton before are turned off by this blatant pander. Some people may like her proposal; the question is whether those people are ones that wouldn't have voted for her anyway.

    Getting to the WH is more important now and Obama just can't make it.

    Some people say that over and over again, but never provide data to back it up. I could say the same thing about Clinton, or McCain for that matter, but my saying it wouldn't make it true.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 12:36  

  • I would appreciate it if commenters refrained from gratuitous insults and postings that contain nothing but disparaging remarks. In the interest of keeping a lively comment section in which all can participate, I will not hesitate deleting comments that go against these simple rules. Also, it could be all be much more civil if "anonymous" commenters who are regular posters identified themselves with an ID.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 03 May, 2008 12:42  

  • you're confirming that you'd lose the GE to "get things done" ?? Thanks but no thanks we'd rather win to get things done.

    No, I'm saying Democrats can win in a way that also allows them to get things done. You need to do both.

    If you win but do so in a way that makes it impossible to accomplish anything, then what's the point?

    You can fool the people into thinking you can have low gas prices, drive lousy cars, and reduce our dependence on oil. You can fool people into thinking that universal health care is free. Heck, why not even promise everyone more tax cuts if it can get votes?

    Then in four years we'll be worse off. The economy will be a wreck, and there won't be money to fund anything. People will be furious that Democrats didn't deliver, and they'll be booted right out of offices nationwide.

    I don't call that getting things done. I call that a disaster.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 12:45  

  • dsimon, if your logic was correct, we would had never elected GW Bush. But we did. Never underestimate the capacity of the American people for self-delusion and for the quick fix. You are making a reasoned argument, that I am afraid will wash like waves against the rocks of economical uncertainty that many folks are feeling now. Perception is important. I remember in 1988 the image of GHW Bush campaigning with his shirt sleeves rolled up and how that played against Michael Dukakis studious college professor looks! Guess who won? All we are saying is this: gas prices are killing a lot of people, it should be a winner issue for the democrats, and the great unwashed do not want to hear long dissertations in macroeconomics. This is what sometimes I am afraid Obama does not understand. Sometimes politics can be like trench warfare. And it is also about enacting policies. You only get to do that if you win. Glorious defeat does not enact policy!

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 03 May, 2008 13:52  

  • If the government raises the taxes on the company profits ("windfall" or not) the company just adds that cost to the product, they don't take it out of their own pocket(shareholders)In the end the consumer ALWAYS pays. It's called "the free market". But I agree simplistic gimmicks sell.Some say Obama should abandon principle and join the pandering just for votes, but that would belie what he claims to stand for.I also agree most Americans don't and can't understand anything beyond bumper sticker slogans. God help Us.

    By Anonymous MPD, At 03 May, 2008 14:30  

  • Mpd the company cannot just add cost to cover profit taxed. That is a fallacy. They can only shift to reinvestment over profit taking.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 16:10  

  • if your logic was correct, we would had never elected GW Bush. But we did.

    That's because Gore and Kerry ran a couple of the most awful campaigns I've ever seen. It wasn't because Bush pandered to every interest group that came along. As I recall, Gore's "populist" stance came across as fake and deterred some people for voting for him; he just never defined himself or had a clear message. And Kerry just didn't go after Bush's credibility until it was way too late. He also learned nothing from the Clinton campaign about responding quickly to attacks; as I recall, the Swift Boat ads ran for half a week before Kerry answered back. It's clear that neither Obama nor Clinton will make that mistake; it takes them less than 12 hours to respond to each other.

    All we are saying is this: gas prices are killing a lot of people, it should be a winner issue for the democrats

    Except that cutting the gas tax won't lower gas prices. Isn't that just a bit of a problem? What if that proposal actually passed--and then consumers saw no relief at the pump? Would it still be a winner? Or would it confirm some people's views that Democrats can't be trusted?

    If a politician is going to pander, it had better be a pander that actually works. I'd love to see Obama debate McCain on this issue because I think Obama would take McCain (who supposedly doesn't understand economics) apart--Mr. "straight talk" and "I don't pander."

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 16:21  

  • I just read that Obama was a staunch advocate for the gas tax holiday back in 2000. Does that mean he's a flip-flopper now? That doesn't look good. The RNC will make great hay with that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 16:47  

  • Anon 16:10, Is there some law I'm not aware of that keeps a company from passing on it's costs or taxes? If I make 10 dollars profit on each widget I sell and the gov. says I'll have to pay a 5%(windfall profit) tax for @, I guarantee you my widgets just went up 5%+ in price.It's not a fallacy that business passes on costs.

    By Anonymous mpd, At 03 May, 2008 17:16  

  • dsimon, an honest question here. Do you really believe that Barack can win in November? I am not being argumentative, but evidently you support his bid, and I have had serious doubts since day one. To quote from Finding Nemo of all things; "you never know when they are ready, but when they are ready you will know" LOL!! Are we ready? I assure you the GOP will run the most destructive, vicious, abrasive, racist and personal campaign in history, simply because, that is all they have. Is this a Jacky Robinson moment? Is this the man and the time? I reckon we will now in November. For our sakes O hope he is, because otherwise, a supreme court packed with Antonin Scalia clones is all we will see until the day I die. And that is the crux of the matter. You make concise and studious arguments for the candidate you support. Point in case, I am absolutely sure I will support Barack if he is nominated. On the other hand, my wife, a long life democrat has such antipathy for the man that is almost pathological. Scares me sometimes!! To me all boils down to electability. Can he win? Will the GOP turn him into a caricature like Michael Dukakis? Can he win? I just don’t know.

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 03 May, 2008 17:35  

  • MPD Taxation on profit is not a cost, period. Either you pay to pull out profit or you reinvest. If you raise more revenue, you pay more tax. The key to maintaining and growing a business is to reinvest and not pay taxes. The oil industry is shrinking by pulling out profit. Reducing capacity raises prices. Forcing reinvestment by taxing profit, grows business. Reduced refinery capacity is to blame for high gas prices. Punish profit taking to solve the problem. A three month penalty is just a threat to make permanent. It's really not that complicated.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 17:49  

  • Do you really believe that Barack can win in November?

    Yes. I believe either Obama or Clinton can win in November.

    If it's one thing Obama has shown, it's been his ability to mitigate the damage of the past two months by pointing out to voters what should be important to them and what should not. Kerry lost last time because he failed that exact test. He allowed the contest to become about his and Bush's Vietnam service. The whole thing was absurd, and instead of getting dragged down into it he should have said that the issue isn't about what happened 30 years ago (where he comes out ahead in any case) but about the last 4 years and the next 4 years. And you didn't have to go back more than 4 years to see how the Bush administration had bungled everything it touched. But Kerry let the voters get distracted. (He could also easily have justified his "I voted for it before I voted against it" line and simultaneously painted Bush as the one who didn't "support the troops" by giving people like himself a tax cut instead of paying for the war, all in a 30 second spot. Why he let it slide is an absolute mystery to me.)

    Obama is willing to call the distractions what they are. He can (and I think will) argue that when Republicans talk about Reverend Wright, it's because they don't want to talk about Iraq. When they talk about flag pins, it's because they don't want to talk about the economy. When they talk about the Weather Underground, it's because they don't want to talk about health care. These are the issues that matter to the lives of the American people, and the public favors Democrats overwhelmingly on each of them. And these are issues that require a Democrat in the White House if they're to be addressed.

    I think either Democrat should be able to make that kind of argument. And Obama has shown with his speech on race that he can take a distraction and elevate the discussion in a way few anticipated and many admired. Moreover, he won't be as easy on McCain as he has been on his fellow Democrat; he has said so himself, and I see no reason to doubt him.

    So I do believe he can win. I also believe that the problems that face us today require Americans to take responsibility for their government again. I do not believe that it will happen with McCain or Clinton, neither of whom seem to be willing to ask Americans to actually do something on the issues they say are important. And I'm not sure it would happen with Obama--but I think it might.

    However, I will support Clinton if she is the nominee because of the issues I noted above. The Clinton-McCain choice is a clear one for me. I'm just skeptical as to whether Clinton has the leadership skills to get the public thinking about the long-term problems we face, and the ability to rally the public to create the political support necessary to address them. Because if we're serious about becoming more energy independent, or fixing Social Security, or getting big money out of politics, we can't pretend that it won't require something from us.

    Apologies for the extended post, but thanks if you've read this far!

    Oh, and robert_v, thanks for your "concise and studious arguments" comment. I know that many people after a day at work, a commute, and only then limited time with their families probably don't have much appetite for dense policy discussions with the little time they have left. But I think we can still believe in the power of good ideas to make a difference. European governments decided to have extremely high taxes on gasoline because they knew it would be beneficial in the long term, and their citizens didn't vote them out of office; since they still have those taxes, there must be some public support. So with the right leadership, such things are possible.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 03 May, 2008 18:23  

  • Anon:17:49 Every tax increase on my business in the last 25+ years I've had to pass on to my customers, otherwise I'd be bankrupt.Can only speak for myself but taxes "cost" me! Anyway, I don't think our minds will meet on this but I enjoyed the civil back and forth.2 quick questions though, can you site some info on "reduced refinery" output? I was under the impression demand was the problem(China et. al)and I wasn't aware the oil industry was "shrinking"? any #s there? Thanks

    By Anonymous mpd, At 03 May, 2008 20:10  

  • anon17:49, Do you run a business? Just curious.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 May, 2008 20:14  

  • robert, Care to elaborate why your wife has such antipathy to Obama?

    By Anonymous mpd, At 03 May, 2008 20:18  

  • mpd: Well it is difficult to explain, but, my wife is an educator and has spent her adult life working with AA children, therefore a very sizeable number of her closet acquaintance are AA. When Barack became viable, most of her friends became ardent Barack supporters, which is fine. Her discomfort arises for the fact that many of her AA friend shave implied to her that if she does not support Barack then she must be a closet racist, that she does not really get it. Racism is the only explanation for not supporting a candidate that is so evidently superior. And she resent the way in which Obama has used republican right wing points to attack Hillary. I think the whole think is silly. I counter with the fact that Hillary has done pretty much the same, and that this is the nature of politics. But not to her. Right or wrong, she blames the Obama camp for this. I am telling you, no matter who wins, there will be some very sore feelings out there.

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 04 May, 2008 07:59  

  • robert_v: Admittedly without any knowledge of your and your wife's personal situation, I think what may be going on is something I've seen quite a bit of: attributing the attitudes of some fraction of a candidate's supporters to the entire campaign and even to the candidate.

    Every candidate has people who are passionate and can't see any reason except illegitimate ones for not being a supporter. Those people, even if they are not the majority of the candidate's backers, are the ones most likely to speak out (or post online). When those voices are the loudest, it's not hard for others to conclude that all of that candidate's backers have the same attitude, even though it's not true.

    But that attribution can be shown to be incorrect. We've discussed polls that say that X percent of Obama supporters would not vote for Clinton in the general election, and vice versa. But not only are those numbers probably overstated, they're a substantial minority; most supporters of each candidate say they would vote for the other against McCain. I think that result lends support for the claim that those who think the only reason not to support Obama is racism, or the only reason not to support Clinton is sexism, do not constitute the bulk of either candidate's supporters; they just may be the ones that people are hearing the most.

    I think most people think there are plenty of reasons to support or not support either candidate that have nothing to do with race or sex. But hearing only the extremists on one side, and then attributing those claims to the entire group, helps turn others into extremists on the other side. You're right that there will be sore feelings no matter who gets the nomination; I just hope that most people recognize that most supporters on both sides are not extremists and so mitigate the damage going into November.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 04 May, 2008 14:29  

  • robert, thanks for the input. interesting. We know there's racsists and sexists on all sides. It's all identity politics and it sounds like your wife identifies with Hillary more and is grasping at reasons to justify her antipathy. Perhaps. No charge for the psychoanalysis.

    By Anonymous mpd, At 04 May, 2008 15:22  

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