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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

US Presidential campaign: New Hampshire « Previous | |Next »
January 8, 2008

The Clintons are sure doing it tough in their comeback to take the Whitehouse for the Democrats. The opportunity is there but Hillary Clinton is going backwards in the New Hampshire polls as Obama soars on the wave of the Big Mo. It looks as if Clinton will finish in second place in the New Hampshire primary. She is not expected to do well in South Carolina.

But more than Mark Penn's bad campaign strategy imploding is going on, as the negative media passions run deep about Hillary Clinton, as this Moreland cartoon in The Times indicates:
MorelandClinton.jpg Clinton is seen as a Washington insider or a career politician who is somehow unhuman: if not a machine then a bitch or a wicked witch.
It's not just the Republicans--her political foes--- there is also a hefty media antagonism towards her. Many see her in terms of either the icy feminist harridan of popular mythology or as the regal uberbitch that the press makes her out to be.

Obama regularly uses euphemisms such as "traditional Washington politics" to convey the message that he represents a fresh start, in contrast to Clinton who, the implication goes, epitomises the old Democrat guard who would ignite the culture wars and continue the destructive confrontationism of the recent past. Even if Bill and Hillary are being positioned as part of the problem, not part of the solution, Clinton still leads the national surveys.

Update
Here's the Clinton video that is creating a buzz---Clinton tears up in a New Hampshire coffeeshop:

Hillary's tears were genuine and a change from policy prescription and the image of the cold-hearted, ruthless, and dishonest woman engaging in the politics of fear and despair. John Edwards response to the "Hillary moment" is that big boys don't cry:

I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.

Now where's that southern charm? His prospects are not that good in New Hampshire. He is widely predicted to come in third.

The US media is enamoured of the Obama narrative and juggernaut, despite Clinton now saying that she really is a change agent, despite Mark Penn's diva strategy (Hilary running as pseudo incumbent) and the poll-tested small bites of policy. Her campaign is in trouble, as she is not liked, and has allowed herself to become presented as a political product whose sell-by date has passed.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:16 AM | | Comments (20)
Comments

Comments

Gary,
Marin Kettle makes an interesting point in the op-ed in The Guardian that you linked to. He says:
And if that is right, then the 2008 election may yet be a watershed. If it takes the form of a Clinton-Giuliani contest it will simply intensify the toxic cycle of the past 40 years and all the demeaning Ann Coulter-Michael Moore stuff that it spawns. But if it takes a less traditionally partisan form, especially in the form of a now not inconceivable Obama-McCain contest, American politics may at last be able to wrench itself out of the destructive confrontationism of the recent past.
That's a very seductive political promise. The argument is that America cannot solve its problems unless it can overcome the partisanship that has wrecked its politics.

A few commenters have pointed out that Obama is a very real assassination target. It seems the exacerbation of divisions in the US must have contributed to that likelihood, so if it's true that Clinton is divisive, the country would be better off without her.

The US is in the sort of dire straits that will take very strong leadership to sort out. Internal unrest has always been a problem, but with the current economic situation it's a deeply unhappy country. It's also managed to piss the rest of the world off to a stunning degree, although the end of Bush will probably ease that a bit. For a while.

It's going to be a long year.

Lyn,
you have to feel sorry for Clinton---she really knows her policy stuff whilst Obama, the rhetorician is seen as the champion of a vast band of young and practical idealists. He has the claim on tommorrow. And, as Jonathan Alter observes in a good piece on the Clintons in Newsweek,

Democrats of all stripes now have a psychic interest in Obama's success. Even if they're not for him, they're proud of him and of themselves for being in his party. They will not appreciate efforts to take him out, which puts the Clinton campaign in an excruciating bind. The harder they hit Obama, the more they reinforce the impression that all their campaign is about is a grubby struggle to keep their power in the Democratic Party.Many Obama voters I spoke with in Iowa like Hillary personally but resent this sense of entitlement. It's as if they're wearing anti-FDR Democratic campaign buttons from 1940 reading: NO THIRD TERM.

In that sense the Clintons are part of America's past and present but not at the center of its future. Tomorrow belongs to someone else.

Gary
I saw some video footage of John McCain today--he's an old man; he's over 70.That's too old to be President surely. It does look as if he'll win New Hampshire though. What then for the Republicans? Will Huckabee win the South Carolina.If he does doesn't that mean that Huckabee, who the GOP establishment is deeply opposed to, is the frontrunner in the Republican campaign.

Gary,
Clinton's experience should be seen as an asset and I do feel sorry for her, as well as the country that looks likely to dump her.

If she loses NH she's also going to have the bandwagon effect going against her, as Democrats support the Democrat most likely to win based on the results of Iowa and New Hampshire.

It would be a pointless indulgence, but I'd like to see Pew do one of their global polls on who the rest of the world would vote for. American rhetoric doesn't go over as well anywhere else.

Lyn,
a good piece on Hillary Clinton by Rebecca Traister in Salon, which explores the female liberal intelligenstia's unease with her candidacy for President.

It is suggested here in the New York Times that:

Advisers to Mrs. Clinton said last night that they had approximately $20 million cash on hand, and that online donors had continued to send in money at a stead clip. But they said they were deeply concerned that if Mrs. Clinton suffers a loss in New Hampshire tonight of 5 percentage points or more, fundraising support for [sic]begin to dry up – especially if Mr. Obama scored a victory of more than 10 points.

Some polls are suggesting the latter possibility, whilst the exit polls are suggesting that it will be close. Obama is just ahead of Clinton.Cain is just ahead of Romney.

Gary,
On the Republican side New Hamphire has been called by the television networks for McCain; Romney is second, Huckabee third, Giuliani fourth. McCain is definitely back in the race, but he is still out of step with many elements of the old Republican Party. What now? The Republican Party today is a Sunbelt party; it is fading in the North, and fading furthest in the Northeast.

It's much much tighter on the Democrat side than was expected. The polls, pundits and politicians had all forecasted a win by Barack Obama. The US media news of the last 72 hours ran a narrative that Obama would crush Clinton in New Hampshire.

Suprisingly, Clinton is leading Obama, with Edwards a distant third with about half of the precincts counted. It appears that the Democratic Party regulars in the blue-collar, establishment Democratic towns have stuck with Clinton, whilst the women have responded to Hillary's tears. Things will even up as the returns from the precincts in the more affluent areas and college towns ( the young people and the college professors) come in.

Amazing. Clinton, the policy wonk with a good grasp of policy detail, has limited appeal in the college towns.

Nan,
That is a good piece in Salon. Thanks.

I've been watching The West Wing and even though our party system sometimes makes it difficult for representatives to truly represent the people who voted for them, I suspect that it's also had a lot to do with the more progressive nature of Australian society.

For example, with the Gough experiment we at least experienced the benefits of the original Medibank for a while. No fault divorce didn't mean the end of life as we know it. Blue Poles turned out not to be a bad investment after all.

Hillary has had to compromise far more than Julia Gillard.

It's interesting you say women have responded to Hillary's tears. A lot of the women quoted in the Salon article said they'd end up voting for her regardless, because she's a woman Democrat.

Clinton wins New Hampshire. What a surpise. They didn't expect it. It is a definite repudiation of the mainstream pundits who spent the entire weekend dumping all over her. By whom though? Michael Tomasky in the Guardian says:

I think it was mostly a rebellion by women voters against the media. Most major media outlets had written Clinton's obituary and could barely conceal their joy in doing so. And voters, especially women voters, said: not so fast.....I'm certain that's what happened in New Hampshire on Tuesday. The media got obnoxious, and the voters slapped them down. So now we've got a race.

He says that the question going forward is, did anything else happen in those 24 hours?
Did voters decide that experience wasn't so bad after all, and that maybe change was overrated? Did they start to buy the Clinton argument - not credible, in my view - that Obama is without substance?...In sum, we don't know yet whether Clinton's shocking win was just a reaction against the piling on, or a deeper embrace of her methodical arguments, or a deeper rejection of Obama's civic spiritualism? I suspect the former, but at the least as far as Clinton is concerned it has bought her time to figure all this out.

Nevada and South Carolina will provide two very different and difficult forums for Clinton. This is going to be a very tough battle between her and Obama.

Lyn,
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is quite critical of Clinton:

Certainly it was impressive that Hillary could choke up and stay on message...There was a poignancy about the moment, seeing Hillary crack with exhaustion from decades of yearning to be the principal rather than the plus-one. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing.

Doud adds that Clinton became emotional because she feared that she had reached her political midnight, when she would suddenly revert to the schoolgirl with geeky glasses and frizzy hair, smart but not the favourite. All those years in the shadow of one Natural, only to face the prospect of being eclipsed by another Natural?

Clinton is seen as 'poor little me.'

Nan,
How long will mawkish tears work, even if they're heartfelt and genuine, and/or born of exhausted frustration?

So American voters are doing the same thing Australian voters just did and defying the media? I wonder how Rupert feels about that?

Studies of British, American, Canadian and Australian news media consumption are all saying people still access traditional news media, but they recognise and resent the blatant partisanship. Now elections are showing people mean what they say in surveys.

Lyn,
the angry male pundits really wanted their Wicked Witch to have been crushed by 15 points in new Hampshire---- just as they were all hoping, predicting, and (therefore) trying to bring about.

The Reaction. More broadly, the New Hampshire Democrats -- and especially Democratic women -- were sick of the corrosive hostility and naked slant of the mainstream media (in cable television and print) against Clinton.

Lyn + Nan,
some women are not supportive of Hillary Clinton. One account for why they cannot support her. Another ---a far more negative one--- is that by Camila Paglia in Salon. Wow.

As pointed out here there are many voters, even in Democratic primaries, who want to move beyond the 1990s and have doubts about Clinton. Though she found a voice in New Hampshire that can win a primary, it's still not clear whether she has a voice that can move a nation.

On the other hand:

Obama has the problem that has confronted many idealistic reformers before him: He has a powerful appeal to the young and the well-educated, but he has yet to convince the less affluent that his crusade is for them.

Why the appeal to the well-educated? His idea of change has little content.

Ho Hum Folks,
After all that, so what do we all know and ten months to go.

Well,
for starters some candidates have started to pullout of the campaign for presidential primaries.Secondly, the media is under scrutiny for its role in Clinton bashing, predictions and imposing shallow, melodramatic narratives on the elections. Thirdly there is good humour being created.Fourthly we know that most of the attacks on Clinton came from the right-wing/establishment-media edifice.

We now know that it was the

women, and voters of modest means, who pulled Clinton back from the abyss. Women rejected Clinton in Iowa but not in New Hampshire. And the people Edwards courts were the ones Clinton connected with here. She defeated Obama soundly among voters in families earning less than $50,000 a year and among those who never attended college.

That surprises me. Does it you?

Gary,
Yes it does suprise me.I suspect it may be the result of the sincerity tears. Nothing wrong with that.
But seems as though the Democrate framework has changed with Kerry giving his support for Obama. My point is that there will be many similar ups and downs over the rest of the year.If you follow or study American crowd behaviour well enough but I am not sure how productive that is,

I have watched the footage a few times and I don't think it was faked. I think she just lost focus and had an emotional moment which happens to women sometimes and her age may factor in that too.
Hilary has perhaps a hard no nonsense I can do the job persona. Perhaps this lapse humanized her in some peoples eyes. Bush saying the wrong words and making mistakes had the same effect.
I am not sure we can call a come back something that she was 2 weeks ago expected to win easily.
Theres a long way to go.

Hillary comes off well in this style of interview
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqibBRlF3EE

Les,
maybe it was all choreographed?