Friday, January 25, 2008

media narratives

There are two schools of thought on how to examine the squabbles between Obama and the Clintons. Both of which are assuredly spin. The real question is whose version of spin is prevailing in the coverage.

The first school is to say that Obama has never faced serious attacks and his reaction to the stuff the Clintons are throwing his way is a sign that he is unprepared to run in a national election against Republicans who will be far more organized against him with a candidate much better than Alan Keyes (although Ambassador Keyes is technically running for his party's nomination as well). This, the argument goes, reinforces Hillary's message that she is ready to take on the Republicans, while Obama is naive and bumbling along.

The second school says that poor little Obama is being ganged up on by the titular head of the Democratic party--the former, still beloved president--and his also popular wife and former first lady. The more Bill Clinton attacks Obama, the argument goes, the more people remember all the bad times of the Clinton presidency--the in-fighting, the leaks, the scandals, the inability to get health care reform done, and of course, the affairs. Moreover, the theory posits that the bigger the limelight Bill gets, the more people begin to worry that Hillary won't be her own president and won't be able to control him.

Both schools of thought revolve around a kernel of truth: Obama never really has faced a tough primary and won against a politician as entrenched in the party as Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton's love of campaigning and attention really could undermine Hillary's "I listened and found my own voice" rhetoric.

Amazingly enough, it seems Obama's press people are sort of winning this battle but maybe losing the overall media picture. On CNN yesterday, the screen said "the Clintons v. Obama" and the whole story was about how Obama is having to campaign against Bill in SC and Hillary nationally, and gee how tall an order it is to do that against a pol as skilled as Bill AND Hillary, who has a loyal cadre of supporters all around the country.

I saying losing the overall picture because the media have come believe--like I have, given the coverage--that Obama has to win SC big. Anything less will be a disappointment. So a win there if "narrow" will give him little bounce for the next round of campaigning. Also, the media will focus on his percentage of white voters to see if they can peg him as 2008's Jessie Jackson.

Currently, I am expecting a 8-15 point win for Obama and John Edwards to get a narrow second place over Bill Hillary Clinton in South Carolina.

On the GOP side, every poll I see shows Mitt Romney trending up, with McCain relatively stagnant and Rudy 9ui11ini and Mike Huckbee falling down. That is also my order of finish. Once again, someone has to thank Fred Thompson, but this time it is Mitt Romney, who gets most of the "Fredheads" and lucks out that the economy is suddenly the biggest issue while national security has fallen down the list a couple notches. And if I am right and Romney does win Florida, I think he is suddenly in the driver's seat to the nomination.

He is this cycles John Kerry for the Republicans--he has a little something that every part of his party can be happy with and feel ok voting for him. Plus, he has the money and the "presidential look" to win, while the rest of his rivals are essentially broke. They may be jealous of his big checkbook, but they will all fall in line if he wins Florida and then many of the Super Tuesday states.

Right now, I can't predict Super Tuesday for the Dems because it is hard to tell what sort of impact SC (and FL) will have on those states. If the impact is negligible, Obama will still be viable, but far enough away that he won't be able to catch up with her in February. If he is somehow able to narrow the gap in states like California and New York, and rack up wins in little states like Utah, then he will be at parity with her...and the next round of contests seems to favor him.

As a political junkie, I am so excited that Utah finally gets presidential campaign commercials. At the gym last night I saw an Obama one, and when I got home and watched Oprah with my wife on DVR, I got to see a Clinton one and another Obama one. If Romney wasn't LDS, I think we would have GOP ads here too. This really is the closest and most exciting primary election on both sides in my life time. Of course, as luck would have it, this is the one year I just have to sit back and watch. But at least it is quite a show.

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