As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lessons Learned

A few unconnected thoughts:

• The post-mortems in the Obama and Clinton camps seem like they both have losing narratives. I think the Clinton one was written before she won Texas. They are fascinating, though, and they have a lot of good inside information. The message I distilled is that nobody in the Clinton campaign can stand Mark Penn (which reflects good on their judgment but not on Clinton's, since he still has a job), and Obama won't go negative because he doesn't particularly think he's good at it.

• Negative campaigning works. It just does. Obama's support was soft enough that bringing up a couple questions was enough to derail him.

• These were clearly free-media victories on Tuesday, and since it saved Clinton's butt I don't think she or her supporters can really claim that the media cost her the race. The two major factors that changed the dynamic were unquestionably the 3 AM ad, which didn't even run in Ohio and which got far more play as a news story than as an ad buy, and the NAFTA/Canada flap, which was a basic media story that evolved and was relentlessly pushed by Clinton's people. Sure, they worked the refs and the refs jumped to attention. It didn't hurt that the Republican attack machine had an interest in taking Obama down a peg, too.

• Now, none of this is to absolve Obama. He lost, and all's fair in love and politics. If Obama has a glass jaw, we need to know that right now. He had every opportunity to win and he didn't. And I do legitimately worry about his ability to win large states. His organizing strategy is obviously better in states where he can contact more people. However, big states like Ohio and Florida are going to have substantial numbers that you simply can't contact. They're going to get their information through free media and advertising. You have to be able to make the big sale in whatever way possible. Obama doesn't deserve a media free ride and neither does Clinton. He's going to have to be able to work the media in the same way Clinton has done so successfully of late. That's a real skill that a Presidential campaign needs.

• Honestly, if Obama wants to put Clinton on the defensive he should loudly suggest that Clinton won't pull out of Iraq. There's actually a lot of evidence at his disposal and there's no downside. He'd have to aver very specifically when his combat troops would go, but nothing would change the dynamic of the race more than him announcing that Clinton's basically hawkish on the war and committed to the current policy. If anything, it'll goad Clinton into saying that Obama isn't serious about foreign policy, as if seriousness equals military action by default.

• Is this good or bad for the party? Tom Watson says it's good, most others say it's bad. I'm OK with the ferocious infrastructure and organizing opportunity in Pennsylvania. I'm not OK with Obama or Clinton supporters becoming increasingly alienated and saying that they'll only vote for their candidate and nobody else. A unity ticket really might be the only way to go.

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