Wednesday, March 12, 2008

HRC's bad week

Remember Barack Obama's bad week last week? Where he was accused of sending an advisor to tell the Canadians that he really didn't mean what he was saying on renegosiating NAFTA? [Turns out, this is a big scandal in Canada where it seems Conservative Party government officials are the sources to stories--including a similar one about Clinton's team was out there but quashed--and there is little to either campaign going back channel to praise NAFTA] Where she ran the 3 a.m. phone ad and pushed the theme that she--and John McCain--had "passed the Commander-in-Chief threshold," but Obama hadn't? Oh, and she won the popular vote in three of the four contests on March 4th--and maybe a handful of net delegates (which was erased by supers and the Texas caucuses almost immediately).

Now, it seems that it is Sen. Clinton's turn for a bad week. First, and most obvious, two large (60-40 range) losses in Wyoming and Mississippi on Saturday and Tuesday.

Those were largely expected. It seems Obama does really well in either a) lilly white states (Iowa, Vermont, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, Connecticut, etc.) or b) states with a very large African-American population (Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, D.C., Mississippi, Louisana, etc.) but not so good in states with say 20-30 percent African-Americans (Ohio, Texas, Tennesee, New York, New Jersey, etc.) Of course, there are exceptions to this pattern (Virginia, Illinios, etc.)

But there were two other big negatives for Clinton that she couldn't have expected: Gov. Spitzer's high-priced hookers and 1984 VP nominee Garaldine Farraro's racist comments. Althought perhaps the comments could have been anticipated.
"If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race," [Geraldine A. Ferraro] said [April 15, 1988, Washington Post]
And then on February 27, 2008, on FOX News' John Gibson's radio show:

FERRARO: If Barack Obama were a white man, would we be talking about this as a potential real problem for Hillary?

If he were a woman...

GIBSON: You mean if he were John Edwards?

FERRARO: If he were a woman of any color, would he be in this position that he's in, absolutely not.

GIBSON: Geraldine, are you playing the race card?

FERRARO: No, and that's the problem. Every time you say the truth - I'm the first person, John, and you know how honest I am, I am the first person who will say in 1984 if my name were Gerard instead of Geraldine, I would never have been picked as the vice presidential candidate.

There is an argument to be made that pictures of Mrs. Spitzer next to repeated philandering moralist Gov. Spitzer will remind voters of when Bill embarressed Hillary (and Chelsea, his supports, America, etc.) with his affair with a good way. People like Chris Mathews have claimed that the only reason HRC won in 2000 was people felt sorry for her about WJC's cheating. But I don't think that is why she won. And I don't think it will help her among women, since she is already getting 55-60% of women in these primaries anyway. I don't see the Spitzer story helping her with any other demographic.

At the very least, this means Sen. Cliton lost a superdelegate. New York's LG Paterson is already a super for her, and the party will not give New York another super to replace Spitzer.

That news, combined with the campaign's inability to shut Fararro up and properly denounce and/or reject the former Congresswoman, who said that if she wasn't a woman, she wouldn't have been on the ticket in 1984, means this story will last at least another day. And the Obama people will flog this story to death until Clinton does something much more dramatic than saying she disapproves of the comments or disagrees with them. Look for the Obama camp to demand Hillary return money that one of her HILLraisers (aka Ferraro raised at least $100,000 for HRC) bundled for the campaign.

This if nothing else serves as a distraction from Hillary's preferred messaging in PA: that she is "Ready on Day One" and offers "Solutions not Speeches" etc. If a Republican had said what Ferraro said, it would be treated with the same scorn as Rep. Steve King (R-IA)'s "dancing in the streets" comment. If a similarly prominant Obama supporter--like Govs. Tim Kane or Deval Patrick--had paid around $10K for hookers for years, there would be similar outrage and distraction.

I think everyone can agree--whether they love her or hate her--that Hillary is a tough fighter and can rally. No one should ever count her out. But these pieces of news, and more importantly, how the campaign handles them, will certainly not help her in PA.

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