Playing the Electability Card

This isn't cool:But it was Penn who stated that no other Democrat is tough enough to beat back Sen. John McCain or former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

In a clear reference to Obama's lack of political experience on the national stage, Penn wrote: "Some of the commentators look at the ratings of people who have not yet been in the cross-fire, and say they might have a better chance. Recent history shows the opposite."

He then set his sights on Sen. John Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore, who also might run in 2008. "The last two Democratic presidential candidates started out with high favorable ratings and ended up on Election Day - and today - far more polarizing and disliked nationally," said the pollster, who cut his teeth on President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. Even though there is currently no candidate in the 2008 field who I back strongly enough to actually advocate on his or her behalf, there are still many things I would like to accomplish during the primary season. One of my goals is to help diffuse the Democratic obsession with electability, whichI believe is extremely damaging to the party around the country. It makes Democrats appear pandering (we will tell you what we think you want to hear in order to get elected), shiftless (we don't stand for anything except getting elected), out of touch (our ideas aren't good enough to get us elected--we have to change and move toward Republicans in order to achieve office) and dishonest (we can trick people into voting for someone based on his or her resume / demographic profile). In short, in the effort to make one Democrat look good, playing the electability card makes the whole party look bad, and more interested in power for the sake of power than power in order to do actual good.

It is sad to see the Clinton camp to play the electability card so early in the process, even if it isn't entirely surprisingly that it was DLC-nexus uber-pollster Mark Penn who did it. This is a guy who has made a name triangulating against Democrats and progressives, and whose firm has of late quite literally made a living by shilling anti-Democratic messages for pharmaceutical companies without disclosure. This is the sort of shit that has to stop, and stop now. Democrats need to be made to feel strong incentives against this sort of behavior.

That goes for people in the netroots who echo the Republican line that Clinton isn't electable, too. Not only does proclaiming Clinton unelectable do the Republican Noise Machine's bidding, it is just doubly sad to see progressives use the same tactics against the DLC-nexus that have for so long been used to weaken us. We can't win an electability war against the DLC-nexus. I mean, they invented the concept in order to destroy us. The netroots might as well try to win Democratic primaries by raking in more donations for corporate PACs as do DLC-nexus candidates. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Tags: Democrats, Electability, Hillary Clinton, President 2008 (all tags)

Comments

101 Comments

thanks for covering this

I don't even need to get into the "coolness" of attacking other democrats by name.. The strategy itself is interesting.

The talking head pundits all said going negative in the democratic primary would be a bad idea.  Some going so far to say there would be a backlash against the candidate that did that.

I'm all for contrasting and distinction on positions but calling Obama unable to survive attacks or describing opponents campaigns as stalling seems more editorializing than position issues.

Is Hillary going for the quick Kill on Obama ?  Is Hillary's strategy to get back the inevitability campaign?

My thought is she wants to seem invincible and may be trying to keep donors from giving to Obama.  I also think she knows Obama can not be on a ticket with her.  Hoping Bill will bring the black vote for her in the general.

On an aside if you force yourself to listen to Rush or Hannity they LOVE going off on Hillary.. Hillary is the reverse GOP nominee.  Nothing excites them like she does.

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 10:31AM | 0 recs
Is HIllary trying to get into Mud Slinging

so that Obama's and Edwards' Negatives approach hers?

I think that is also part of the strategy - Kind of the Lieberman approach where each press release is more negative than the last until people can't remember what's going on and HIllary's negatives, are no longer different than those  of Obama or Edwards.

when by the way will Obama define himself?

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 10:33AM | 0 recs
HRC = Lieberman in a skirt?

If she and/or her spokescritters keep reinforcing Republican bullcrap memes for their own political gain at the expense of the party and ultimately the country, that comparison will wind up to be all too apt.

by Phoenix Woman 2007-01-22 04:53PM | 0 recs
Re: HRC = Lieberman in a skirt?

But she is so bi-partisan and moderate.  She'ss take money from anyone, even Rupert Murdock.  This so remains me of McCain.  Someone attacks, smears and attempts to destroy you, then you decide to run for President and now you're hugging them.  Some people have no character and no principles.  This so describes the Clintons.  Too bad, they could have been so much more than self-serving, corporate whores. What an opportunity this family had and blew.

by dkmich 2007-01-23 01:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

This makes me very angry.  It's consistent with HRC's horrible judgment.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-22 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

I have spent two years listening to everyone telling me about how "unelectable" Hillary is.  I am smiling now that the shoe's on the other foot.

However, seriously, can we, as Democrats ALL eschew the silly electability arguments?  No one should ever say that about any Dem.  Look where that got us with the "electable" John Kerry.

Perhaps playing hardball will get people off Hillary's back on that meme as well.

by jgarcia 2007-01-22 11:43AM | 0 recs
If edwards was smart

he'd call out hillary and at the same time posture as sticking up for Obama while going after Hillary...

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

This is quite hilarious coming from a guy who has said the same thing about Obama.

I'm glad you've finally wised-up.

by Disputo 2007-01-22 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

Just because something is a problem that Clinton occasionally features doesn't make it something that isn't also featured by Obama.

This type of crap is unacceptable from any Democrat.

by Valatan 2007-01-22 01:23PM | 0 recs
It gets worse...

Penn also made other negative remarks in the same memo (quoting from Newsday, Reid J Epstein):

He then set his sights on Sen. John Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore, who also might run in 2008. "The last two Democratic presidential candidates started out with high favorable ratings and ended up on Election Day - and today - far more polarizing and disliked nationally," said the pollster, who cut his teeth on President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign.

And just to let us know what kind of hardball is in play:

Penn chalks up Clinton's poor showing in Iowa to her absence and lashed out at candidates who have made frequent stops in the state. "While some candidates have been in Iowa and New Hampshire for years, running as permanent presidential candidates, Hillary has been working hard as a senator for New York," Penn wrote.

Surely this is another dig, more personal, at Edwards.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-01-22 01:23PM | 0 recs
While I agree in principle...

...I think ignoring electability is ignoring reality. Read stories about the Iowa Caucus and notice how quickly the word pops up. It's a big factor -- often THE factor -- in many people's decision-making process.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-22 10:35AM | 0 recs
somewhat see what you're saying

but this is the FIRST workday back and she's already going negative by name.

she could have talked about her self without mentioning candidates by name.

this is how she turns people off - way too heavy handed to get the point across...

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 10:42AM | 0 recs
No question, she's going after people by name.

Her campaign has clearly demonstrated that it's no holds barred, gloves off, call it what you like. Wolfson's reaction to Edwards' speech at Riverside Church proved that.

So if the Clinton campaign is going to try to play the "electability" card (and frankly from a position of relative weakness) I think it is quite naive to assume the other campaigns will stand by and watch.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-22 10:47AM | 0 recs
she's trying to get Obama to respond

why isn't he?

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 10:53AM | 0 recs
I don't think we can assume yet that he won't...

...but the "unifier" theme he's going for with a "new kind of politics" doesn't mesh terribly well with nasty back-and-forths that Hillary's people seem eager to begin. I don't think Obama wants to get drawn into that, at least not this early in the game.

I think both Edwards and Obama would not mind at all seeing the other one get dragged into it with Hillary.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-22 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: she's trying to get Obama to respond

So far Obama is the only one who hasn't gone neg.  It's part of his campaign strategy, and indeed, part of his personality.

by Disputo 2007-01-22 12:11PM | 0 recs
by name Edwards didn't either

he said this

That is why I have spoken out against the McCain Doctrine of escalation. That's why Congress must step up and stop the president from putting more troops in harm's way.

If you're in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war - use it.

and Hillary responded with this:

"In 2004, John Edwards used to constantly brag about running a positive campaign. Today, he has unfortunately chosen to open his campaign with political attacks on Democrats who are fighting the Bush administration's Iraq policy," said Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson.
It is the first time that Clinton has slammed one of her Democratic rivals by name and comes a full year before the first presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: she's trying to get Obama to respond

Because technically he isn't running yet. I think it is OK for him to lay low until 10 February, at least in respect of these negative comments.

His staff have declined comment on this memo so far.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-01-22 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: While I agree in principle...

  Uh-huh. And how well did this "electability" horsebleep work out for us in 2004?
by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:01AM | 0 recs
Using that logic...

...that people should not consider electability because it "didn't work" last time, then they also should not consider a Northeastern senator, because that also "didn't work" last time.

I suspect the reality is that people once again will consider both, regardless of what happened last time.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-22 11:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Using that logic...

 But how do you define "electability"? Exactly what was it about John Kerry that made him the "electable" candidate? What CONCRETE traits did Kerry display that made him Mr. Electable? David Broder said he was?

 It's a phony concept. It's not based on anything quantifiable.
   

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:21AM | 0 recs
Disagree

People have certain ways of responding to candidates which can be predicted fairly well in advance. Kucinich would be unelectable, to mention one example.

Saying that "electability" isn't a real factor is denying social and psychological facts about humans. (Non-"quantifiable" facts to be sure)

by Populism2008 2007-01-22 11:31AM | 0 recs
OK, so tell me...

   ...why we should believe theories that flagged Kerry as an "electable" candidate. Where did that perception come from, given how wrong it was?
by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:37AM | 0 recs
Kerry's electability was based on

1. longest time in the senate/most government experience

which was turned against him in the "for it before I was against it" line   and

2.   war hero -

which was swiftboated and turned into a neutral attribute.

there are components that "all things being equal" give an advantage to one candidate over the other.

you can think of them - they vary from candidate to candidate as specific traits.. the most ridiculous dumbed down version is have a beer with...

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:43AM | 0 recs
So now that we know...

  ...that the most "electable" candidates can be destroyed by the noise machine, are we going to pull the plug the "electability" concept, accept that ANYBODY we throw out there is going to be demonized and insulted by the Republicans, and simply pick the best candidate, "electability" aside?

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:50AM | 0 recs
I didn't consider Kerry to be the most...

...electable. I can see why some people did.

Many people obviously consider part of "picking the best candidate" to be factoring in how likely he or she is to win, in their judgment.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-22 11:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Basic Problem w/ Electability

The basic problem with electability is that people try to figure out how others may vote and then based on their half-hazard perception of what other people may think, they vote for a candidate.  Instead, people should simply vote for the person they like and let the cards fall where they may.  It's your vote.  Base your vote what you think, not on how you think others might think.  People basing their votes on what they think will win an election leads to losses like we had in 2004.

by gunnar 2007-01-22 03:27PM | 0 recs
Not so black and white.

I don't think for most people it's as simple as that.

I think many people take electability as a factor in their decision-making process, some weight it more heavily than others. It's not as if there's no way to gather information about how likely a candidate is to be stronger or weaker. Polls obviously are one source of data, and observations of competence or incompetence in running a campaign is another source of information. To pretend that most people don't factor in an assessment of electability just seems to me to be ignoring reality.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-22 10:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Not so black and white.

I agree with your comment that people take electability into account and that we can't ignore it.  I also simplified to make my point clear.  

My problem is the reality that electability is too big a component of people's calculations in voting in primaries.  I think we would make better decisions in primaries if people voted strictly on what they personally think of a candidate, rather than their estimation of what others may think of a candidate.    

by gunnar 2007-01-23 03:19PM | 0 recs
Exactly

But Hillary is the most unelectable of our three front runners so I think that she should shut up.

Half of the country can't stand her.

A cold, aloof, charisma lacking, flip flopping, war mongering, stereotypical, anti-populist Northeastern senator. That is Hillary.

by Populism2008 2007-01-22 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Exactly

I see a bit of Rove in her actions -- attacking an opponent's strengths as a way of covering her own weakness.

by Disputo 2007-01-22 12:12PM | 0 recs
Tell us what you really feel -

LOL

by merbex 2007-01-22 12:40PM | 0 recs
Re: While I agree in principle...

 Does the word ever pop up in the coverage of the Republican caucuses?

 I mean, they've got some REAL fruitloops running over on the pug side.

 Is there an ongoing discussion about Sam Brownback's electability? Why not?

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 12:01PM | 0 recs
they annoint the next in line

e.g. reagan ran and lost to Ford.

Bush ran and lost to reagan.

McCain lost last time and seems the party favorite.

although I admit I don't worry too much about GOP primaries.. so I could miss something.

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: While I agree in principle...

We're all aware of that.  And it was the Iowa voters going through this sort of calculus that gave us the Kerry candidacy in 2004.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to repeat that same sort of thinking.

by Valatan 2007-01-22 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: While I agree in principle...
It's how "electability" is defined and who gets to be the definer and the decider.  In 2004, whoever controled the media decided that the definition of "electability" was a Vietnam war record to battle Bush's non-war record because the Dems still thought they couldn't run on big ideas.  They fell for the bait of running on "national security".  The convention was more war mongering than the Republican one.  It had a militaristic feel. Fat lot of good it did.  Bravery isn't being in a war.  Real bravery is standing up to power.  Kerry was brave to come back and fight the war.  But he never mentioned it.
 Same thing is going on again. National security. national security. The Iron Lady strikes out with a firm hand.  Blah.  Blah. Blah.  She's tough.  Why she's almost a man.  She can chew tobacco and spit it out with the best of 'em.  
by Feral Cat 2007-01-22 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

I disagree that criticizing Obama's lack of campaign experience is out of bounds. The fact that he's never run a competative general election campaign is a serious issue that Democrats should take into account.

Saying "I'm more electable because I take positions the base disagrees with" is obviously triangulating and self-defeating. But I don't think worrying about Obama's ability to take a punch falls into this category.

by dantheman 2007-01-22 10:45AM | 0 recs
tired of electability too

here's a thought worth considering though.  all of our people are electable in this environment.  the thing of it is, with hillary, her campaign people are going for a tally of 50% +1, because that's about all they could squeeze out.  in this environment that's selling the democratic message way short. an obama or edwards has the potential to win by wide margins, whereas hillary definitely does not.  this is to say, there's a lot more promise with other candidates, which could lead, in turn, to more effective governing.  this analysis rests on a lot of if's, but there is one thing that presumably people would agree on: hillary won't win by a strong majority.  if we really want to crush the GOP, we'll need a mandate in the next presidential, otherwise the blood they smell will be the same as that they sensed after the plurality victories of 92 and 96.

by beyondo98 2007-01-22 10:51AM | 0 recs
so why would hillary invite

cross-examination of her electabilit which is certainly much worse than edwards and probably worse than obama too?

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: so why would hillary invite

it's a good question, because it doesn't make much sense, does it?  it's a nice bit of messaging jiu jitsu, ala rove.  but there's no doubt that her numbers narrow the window of winnable converts.    

by beyondo98 2007-01-22 11:04AM | 0 recs
It is Rove-like.

Go directly after your opponent's strength to try to neutralize your (at least perceived) weakness.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-22 11:06AM | 0 recs
comment of the day

I sort of hinted above the her negatives are high Obama's and Edwards' are low.. so hillary can neutralize this by getting the others in the mud with her.

I didn't think about the rove-like strategy of accusing an opponent of having the same flaw as the candidate...

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: comment of the day

the jiu jitsu goes further.  namely, hillary is totally indulging in her weakness, pumping up her mommy creds by tackling healthcare and climate change as her biggest issues.  these are all interesting message choices, and it'll be interesting to see how they play out.  i have a sinking suspicion it's a whole lot of fighting-the-last-war animus that's driven these choices, and that's not a good sign.  

one thing to remember, i think, about the aura of political success is that whatever political successes a group of people or a person has had in the past mean nothing about their ability.  that is to say, mark penn might be a total charlatan, but it depends on whose lens your looking through and during what time period.  i mean, look at rove, whose had as many hagiographies as excoriations directed his way, all for the exact same set of behaviors as a political operative.

there is nothing to fear from clinton's team, just as there is nothing to fear from edwards' or obama's.  they can help around the edges, but most of the ebb and flow of politics resides firmly outside the control of any particular operative.  of this i'm certain.  we've got our champions, and they have theirs, but a voting public is a fickle tide some people might be more skilled at riding than others, but there's no way to control it.  the question then becomes, is hillary more likely to be standing atop the wave at the end of the day?  and right now, it's really just an interesting question.

by beyondo98 2007-01-22 03:57PM | 0 recs
Re: It is Rove-like.

That's it. But Edwards is naturally likeable unlike Hillary so it won't be easy.

by Populism2008 2007-01-22 11:37AM | 0 recs
she also opened the door

to talking about downticket effects.

If I worked for either campaign I'd start a press release

"in response to senator clinton's attack about the ability of other democrats to be electable.  those in glass houses should not throw stones. etc..

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

We can't win an electability war against the DLC-nexus.

Happened in Montana with a redefining to suggest contrast was key.

by Bob Brigham 2007-01-22 10:53AM | 0 recs
Its needs to be discussed

Can Edwards or Obama take an attack?  More importantly can they deliver one?

The one this this is clear about Hillary Clinton is that she will not be "swiftboated."  In fact, I think one could expect that she will go on the offensive harder and stronger than Democrat in recent memory.

People need to think about who is the best candidate to take on the Republican machine, and not just who has the best smile or the best stump speech.

by dpANDREWS 2007-01-22 10:58AM | 0 recs
people somehow forget that edwards ran for

president before and was the VP nominee..

there's hardly much new they'll dig up on him.. and I think the reporter suggested most of the hits are at obama.

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:01AM | 0 recs
For the Record

I think that Clinton, Edwards, or Obama could all get be elected.  I don't think any of them have  electability issues.  I really don't.

I do think some would put together and run a better general campaign than others.

by dpANDREWS 2007-01-22 11:00AM | 0 recs
While I am all for Democrats being tougher...

Hillary comes across as a bit of a bull in a china shop.

by KickinIt 2007-01-22 11:10AM | 0 recs
Toughness

 It's good to be tough, for sure.

 But no Democrat should ever use Republican frames and talking points to attack other Democrats. And the whole "electability" canard plays into exactly that.

The way to legitimately criticize other Democrats is  by pointing out their failure to adhere to Democratic values. Don't give the Republicans free soundbites for the general.

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:17AM | 0 recs
More earnestness and naivete from My DD

Guess what, Chris and Matt? There's a primary going on, and the candidates are going to attack each other, often in such ways that mesh with the GOP storyline, and it's hardly a tragedy. On the contrary, it's good. It's politics. What's more, it's perfectly legit to say your candidate is a better general election candidate than the others. If this bothers you, it's gonna be a long dark year for you.

I like this blog--it drips with passion and it's got some of the best commentary around--but there's a strain of puritanism that makes it look silly and less savvy that I believe it to be.

by david mizner 2007-01-22 11:13AM | 0 recs
Re: More earnestness and naivete from My DD

Sure, that's true.  But don't expect us to hold back when the candidates do something we don't like.  Electability as a meme isn't just targeted at the opposing candidates, it's targeted at the party, suggesting that we are all about winning and not about principles.

HRC can and will do what she wants.  And we will let her know what we think about her campaign.  Right now, it's offensive and arrogant, and I won't be shy about pointing this out.

Thanks for the compliments, and thanks for being part of the MyDD community.  I really feel like we've jelled a bit over the last few months in terms of a community feel.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-22 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: More earnestness and naivete from My DD

Actually I think the "electability" meme is what could and should kill Hillary. Anyone with friends or relatives south of New Jersey knows the pure white hatred this country feels towards her. She will sink us into the abyss, the entire party.

by Populism2008 2007-01-22 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: More earnestness and naivete from My DD

I agree.  That's what I said below.  She said she is the "best positioned" instead of the most impassioned.  Running on her position, not her vision.  Basically she saying "Screw you people with principles. I know the right people."  Well, they may have more money, but there are more of us out here than them.

by Feral Cat 2007-01-22 02:36PM | 0 recs
Re: More earnestness and naivete from My DD
Pardon me for being blunt, but accusing people of not being savvy when they stress simple concepts like not reinforcing Republican frames strikes as predictable as the typical DLC-nexus response to anything from the progressive movement. Whenever we disagree with them on strategic matters, we are told that we just don't understand politics enough.

But there is a lot fo theory behind what I am saying--much of it written by a Clinton advisor, Peter Daou. Refinforcing right-wing frames against Democrats may work for individual Democrats, but it is severely damaging to the party overall. You might remember that this is one of hte core reasons why Lieberman was challenged by Lamont last year. It is something we beleive in, and over which we are willing to go to the mat. It isn't just simple naivete or puratanism. The path you suggest leads the Democratic party back into the wilderness.
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-22 11:21AM | 0 recs
I understand your point, but

I make no apology for considering electability as one factor when I evaluate the candidates.

Chris, if you want 50 or more serious challenges to Republican-held House seats, you cannot ignore the fact that HRC as the front-runner is hurting our candidate recruitment. She will kill us in much of the country, even if she were not "unelectable" herself.

HRC would never be my first, second or third choice for president in a primary for a variety of reasons. The antipathy she evokes in many, many Americans, including some registered Ds, is one of them.

by desmoinesdem 2007-01-22 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: More earnestness and naivete from My DD

Amen to that, Chris.  The reason we're on this side of the Dem/GOP divide is because we believe that what our side has to offer is fundamentally better for the people of this country than what they have inflicted on us.

Given that we believe that, we believe it's an assault on the body politic to boost one Dem candidate in ways that undercut the strength of the Democratic brand.

IOW, this is important.

We have to expect that candidates will criticize one another's stands on the issues.  But they don't have to do it in ways that weaken the Democratic brand and strengthen the GOP brand.

And it's not a matter of liberal v. centrist.  Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has a more conservative voting record than any Senate Dem, including Holy Joe.  But Nelson doesn't go around attacking Dems to his left, so I don't have a big problem with him.  Even though I don't like a lot of his votes, he doesn't hurt the brand, and that's big.

by RT 2007-01-22 12:06PM | 0 recs
Play campaign manager, RT (Or Chris)

"We have to expect that candidates will criticize one another's stands on the issues.  But they don't have to do it in ways that weaken the Democratic brand and strengthen the GOP brand."

Pretend you're in charge of Hillary's campaign.
Tell me how you go after Edwards without "weakening the Democratic brand."

by david mizner 2007-01-22 12:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Play campaign manager, RT (Or Chris)

Make it clear that you have differences.  State what they are.  For each one, you say why you're right and he's wrong.

Feel free to play the experience card - remind people that his political experience is one Senate term, plus a veep campaign, while you spent 8 years in the White House before your 6+ years in the Senate.

Issues and qualifications.  Seems easy enough to me.

by RT 2007-01-22 04:27PM | 0 recs
Re: More earnestness and naivete from My DD

And accusing anyone who disagrees with you of centrism strikes me as, uh, uncool. I promise: I'm as redblooded a progressive as you are.

I don't doubt that Dems' attacks on fellow Dems often can hurt the party, especially when they correspond with GOP memes.

What I'm saying is that such attacks are inevitable, a mildly disturbing byproduct of a healthy and open political system. You may as well preach against the onset of spring.

For example, Richardson will criticize the Big Three's lack of experience, and I don't see why he shouldn't.

Hillary, in an attempt to portray Edwards's left turn as opportunistic, will say he was to the right of her when he was in the Senate, and I don't see why she shouldn't.

All three, plus Richardson and Biden, will argue that they are the best general election candidates, and I don't see why they shouldn't.

Some, if not most, of the criticism will reinforce Republican frames. It's unfortunate, perhaps, but unavoidable. Criticism should not be considered out of bounds just because it echoes GOP talking points. Politicians go after their competitors weakspots. It's what they do.

Here, I think, is the crux of our disagreement. I think a candidate should be called out if her/his attack is neither substantive nor accurate AND echoes GOP memes. In my view, Penn's statements were substantive, though not accurate. You disagree. In your view, Penn's stuff was neither accurate nor substantive AND hurt the party. In other words, our real disagreement concerns the legitimacy or lack thereof of the attack.

Okay, I've gone on long enough.

by david mizner 2007-01-22 12:25PM | 0 recs
Party < Candidate?? Negatory to that.

Because that's what you're saying: the party should tolerate it if its candidates build themselves up at the party's expense.

Now excuse the fuck out of me, but that just makes no sense at all.  Why should a party that wants to win for whatever reason, put up with that sort of nonsense?  

That our party wants to win because we'll actually do things to improve the lives of the people, and face up to the major problems this country has, makes it even more important.  But it's just as true, regardless.

by RT 2007-01-22 12:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

 Here in Maryland last fall, Comptroller (and former Governor) William Donald Scheafer had basically alienated most state Democrats with his nonstop kissing up to Bob Ehrlich (among other things, like endorsing Bush over Kerry in 2004). He was confronted with primary challenge by a REAL Democrat, Peter Franchot, and Franchot was well on his way to winning the primary in early polling.

 Then Janet Owens came in to muddly the waters. A nominal Dem and Ehrlich enabler, she injected herself into the comptroller race as the "electable" alternative to Franchot, and she actually hooked in some otherwise-knowledgeable Dems here in Frederick County. I actually heard, from the mouths of established county party leaders, that they liked Franchot and wanted to vote for him but thought Owens was more "electable", and that getting rid of Scheafer was more important. Luckily Franchot won anyway, a fact I gleefully threw in the faces of these wise party elders.

  "Electability" is the phoniest, most contrived construct in party history. Have we noticed how Republicans never use that word to describe their own, even when they've got nutballs like Brownback and Romney in their midst?

  A voting strategy designed on how other people might vote is a losers' voting strategy. Vote with your heart! It will show when you're enthusiastically pitching John Edwards to your undecided neighbor in September 2008, rather than telling your neighbor through a painted smile that really, Hillary's not so bad.

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:13AM | 0 recs
I'm heavily biased

but I'd argue that Edwards is both the most electable and except for Obama the most likeable candidate certainly when compared with Hillary..

I'm biased of course,  but the right wing LOVES bashing Hillary it's all rush and hannity are doing today..  and weirdly I don't feel like defending her necessarily.

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm heavily biased

Quit the electability meme, my friend.  It's designed to make us forget that this contest is about ideas.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-22 11:21AM | 0 recs
okay what about

likeability or perceived authenticity ?  the stupid variation of have a beer with question.

while completely subjective would you not agree that candidate specific traits not related to policy also affect  the electorate?

seriously is that worthy of any limited discussion?  (no snark or sass intended)

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:32AM | 0 recs
Generalizing 'electability' slightly...

...it still works the same.

All that's worthy of discussion, IMHO.  Obama's got charisma, no doubt about it.  When he was giving his speech at the 2004 Dem convention, I waved my wife into the room where I was watching on TV and said, "That man's going to be President someday."  And that day may very well be two years from now.

But here's the deal: I don't think we should say, "the Dems should nominate Obama because he's got charisma."  If enough Dems come under the spell of his charisma, they'll vote for him in the primaries and he'll win the nomination.

But saying we should vote for him because he's got charisma is suggesting that we know how that charisma will work on others, just the way we 'knew' how Kerry's Vietnam record would work on others.

And if I like Edwards a little more because I think I'd like to have a beer with him, or Sen. Clinton because I find strong women sexy, then that's perfectly valid.  but I shouldn't urge that we nominate Edwards or Clinton because I believe other people might want to have a beer with Edwards or find Clinton sexy.

No, we should support Obama or Edwards or Sen. Clinton or whoever for the Dem nomination because we like that candidate, not for how or why we think other people might like that candidate.

That's what 'electability' boils down to, anyway.  So it's really all the same.

by RT 2007-01-22 12:22PM | 0 recs
I did just that when I became an early

supporter of Deval Patrick.

I became a supporter 18 months before the primary- I had numerous "insiders" and "long time activists" ask me frequently why I was not supporting the donation loaded (at the time),politically connected current Attorney General -

I went with Deval because I fundamentally agreed with his stated positions and he was someone I could "enthusiastically pitch to my neighbors"

And boy did I ever - I became a precinct captain and "enthusiastically pitched Deval Patrick" to my neighbors by knocking on over 1,000 doors. It is so easy to do this for a candidate you believe in and not just one you think "has electability"

That is my litmus test - can I knock on a door for this person? Or will I only hold a sign at a visibility event?

At this moment Edwards is the knock on the door candidate for me- everyone else is a "I'll hold a sign"( with varying degrees of enthusiasm)

by merbex 2007-01-22 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: I did just that when I became an early

Now Deval Patrick is my idea of a great new face.  He's got style and substance.  I would knock on doors for him, Jim Webb and John Edwards.  Hold signs for the rest.  Love this way of putting it.

by Feral Cat 2007-01-22 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

I think Hillary is just determined to win and she has tough strategists as well as a mind of her own; and she's going to be hard on her competitors.  We are already seeing that. She is defining herself immediately as incredibly tough; as in "don't mess with me".  What choice does she have? She's a 134 pound woman, albeit one who has been through hell and back, who has to prove to the nation that she can handle national security, brutal dictators, a vicious Republican attack machine -- and also be sensitive enough to take care of children, improve schools and education, care for veterans and the elderly, and the list goes on.

If I were her, I would just travel the world with Bill and have a blast for the rest of my life, doing good work through his organization.

She wants it.  And I have a feeling she will pull it off and be a good President; at least as good a President as Bill was, if not better.

It does seem strange to see her ads on mydd and kos.  LOL

by marycontrary 2007-01-22 11:22AM | 0 recs
Toughness

There are plenty of ways that Hillary can show she's tough as nails without weakening the Democratic brand.  She can attack the GOP, for starters.  Edwards has been hammering on McCain lately, and it gets the message across: he's not going to only go after 'soft' targets.

But going easy on Republicans, while using GOP memes to attack her intraparty rivals, doesn't say she's tough - it says she's a cheap-shot artist.  And we've already got Holy Joe; we need another one like we need another four years of Bush.

by RT 2007-01-22 12:29PM | 0 recs
Silly stuff, RT

So Dems can only go after Republicans? Yeah, that's gonna (or should) happen. And you wonder why I called such thinking naive.

by david mizner 2007-01-22 12:43PM | 0 recs
Okay I'm done with this issue

100 plus dead in Iraq today.

Peace.

by david mizner 2007-01-22 12:46PM | 0 recs
Twist my words, then say 'peace'.

Troll.  I'm done with you.

by RT 2007-01-22 04:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Twist my words, then say 'peace'.

Hey, you may disagree with david, but he's definitely not a troll.

by clarkent 2007-01-22 04:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Twist my words, then say 'peace'.

I don't mind disagreeing with someone, or their disagreeing with me.  Honest disagreement happens all the time, and is no big deal.

But taking my words out of context, twisting them so that they mean something completely different just to score a rhetorical point, and then finishing off by saying 'peace' - I'll let you decide the appropriate words.

I start with the assumption that, trolls excepted, we're all on the same side here.  We're trying to work together to figure out how to advance the prospects of America's being governed by persons who are committed to a progressive agenda.  

We have disagreements on occasion about how that might best be done.  Sometimes the disagreements even get a bit heated.  But as long as we share the same goals, we have an interest in arguing honestly with one another.

If someone at a site like this isn't interested in honest debate, but instead goes for the rhetorical cheap shot, then I personally would regard him as a troll.  He's here to divide and get people pissed, not to work towards a common goal.

by RT 2007-01-23 09:30AM | 0 recs
Hillary is the establishment candidate

 These HRC attacks on grassroots-popular Democratic candidates underscore how much the ruling class has invested itself in a Hillary Clinton nomination (not necessarily her presidency). That Murdoch party for her was no accident.

 Talk Hillary out of the mix, and the Democratic field is one of the most populist in decades -- Obama, Edwards, Richardson, maybe Gore or Clark. Even Tom Vilsack has distanced himself from DLC dogma. If Hillary were not in the race, the Democratic nominee will very likely be someone who actually makes the concerns of working-class Americans a governing priority.

 The ruling class is acutely aware of this, and that's where Hillary comes in. She's a fallback position for the ruling class in case the Republican (whom they'd prefer anyway) doesn't win in 2008. Unlike Edwards or Gore or Clark or Obama, she can be trusted to not rock the boat too much, keep the wars humming nicely, not make too many waves about health care and antipoverty stuff.

 My one hope is that the netroots infrastructure has developed enough to have a serious shot at stopping her.

 

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:33AM | 0 recs
I'll agree that electabilty

shouldn't be a primary rational for a campaign, and if it is, that candidate won't go very far. You've got impress the base with passion and/or ideas.

The nice thing is that the better Dems do, and the worse the GOP does, the less notions of electability will come into play. That is, if Bush stays in the low thirties and the GOP nomination is tilting in the direction of, say Newt Gingrich, the less we'll all be talking about who could win, cause all of our candidates could.

by david mizner 2007-01-22 11:36AM | 0 recs
How can we stop her?

We must start discussing: how can we stop Hillary from winning the nomination?

One option would be a netroots primary between Edwards, Obama and some other candidate. Then we line up behind the winner to beat Hillary. I am afraid we cannot split the anti-Hillary vote.

by Populism2008 2007-01-22 11:43AM | 0 recs
An Edwards/Obama ticket


  There's no law requiring running mates to be named after the primary.

 An Edwards/Obama team would be utterly formidable.

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:44AM | 0 recs
can ActBlue start that

ticket ?  If that ticket doesn't win than Howard dean at the DNC gets the money?

count me in on that ..

anyone from Actblue reading this?

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:52AM | 0 recs
Oh, and the rightwing ranting about HRC...

  ...that's all part of the game.

  It's designed to make Hillary appear more liberal than she really is. "Geez, Rush hates her, she can't be THAT bad."

  Hillary's the ruling class's fallback for 2008.

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:46AM | 0 recs
Does the DLC/Clintons represent grassroots?

I don't think so.  Hillary is not the best candidate to carry our message forward; don't let them take over the grassroots.  These folks didn't give Gore their wholehearted support in 2000 and worked against the outsider Dean in 2004.  They tried to prevent Jon Tester in Montana and Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire from being nominated.  Any so called Democratic organization that tries to subvert the will of the grassroots to select their candidate deserves censor.  If you have a senator or representative that belongs to the DLC, I would urge you to advise them to drop their DLC membership like a bad habit.

by lobo charlie 2007-01-22 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

The sad part is... they're only mean to other Democrats and forget how to play "mean" when going against the Republicans.

by pacified 2007-01-22 11:49AM | 0 recs
That's the playbook

 I guarantee you that if Hillary wins the nomination, she will attack her Republican opponent with all the ferocity of a neutered chinchilla.

 The DLC-nexus (love that phrase) took out Howard Dean not because they were afraid he'd lose to Bush, but because they were afraid he'd actually go after him and beat him. With Kerry as the nominee, the Iraq war was effectively off the table as a campaign issue.

 The ruling class DOES NOT WANT the election to be about issues. Hillary will happily oblige. That's why they're behind her.

by Master Jack 2007-01-22 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

"We must start discussing: how can we stop Hillary from winning the nomination?"

Should do this in a clubhouse somewhere. Unless you think Hillary's team aren't reading your comments within five minutes of your posting them.

Really.

by marycontrary 2007-01-22 11:52AM | 0 recs
I think it would take an ActBlue draft Edwards

Obama ticket..
which would work just like all the other actblue draft candidates.

if that ticket is not arranged than the money goes to the DNC..

It might be the only way particularly if Obama is going to ignore hillary's hits...

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 11:55AM | 0 recs
Surprised?

It is sad to see the Clinton camp to play the electability card so early in the process,...

Surprised? Not even a little. This says a couple of things:

1. They are scared and feel behind.

2. It's all they got.

Electability is a bullshit strawman argument that is basically their only card they can play. Kerry was electable too, remember. That's all we heard early on: Dean isn't electable. Kerry is.

Well even though I find "electability" to be a complete line of crap, I'm more than happy for the Clintonistas to raise it. In my opinion electability works against Hillary in spades. She's Bill Clinton's wife! [Gnashing of teeth] She's.. A WOMAN! [Fear and panic]. The Right HATES her witha burning passion of a thousand suns!!! [the sky will fall and the earth end]. By God, SHE MUST BE UNELECTABLE!!!! Runaway, runaway!!

So go ahead and raise elecatbility in this primary. The charge will come home to roost.

by michael in chicago 2007-01-22 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

We need to start talking about how McCain, Brownback, Romney are not electable. As master Jack said Republicans never use that word.

by cheflovesbeer 2007-01-22 12:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

One thing the netroots values is partisanship directed at Republicans.  The internal squabbling and swipes at fellow Democrats, OTOH, fails pretty badly.  Negative attacks against Democrats worked quite well (or were portrayed that way) in "appealing" to a broader electorate in Iowabut this is way too early and not shielded at all.

If I were in Hillary's shoes, I'd come out swinging at Republicans, not at Obama.  I think she's got nothing to prove about toughness.

by David Kowalski 2007-01-22 12:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

Obama wants to be Hillary's VP.  Don't you guys understand what is going on?  My last comment here.  

by marycontrary 2007-01-22 01:06PM | 0 recs
You Can't Be Serious

That seems out of character for the good senator and I can't imagine HRC wanting to share the lime-light with such a popular personality.  

Who do you think HRC IS planning to tip for VP?  She must have it all  worked out by now.  Leiberman?  Sorry, just kidding... I guess Bill is out of the question, too.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-01-22 02:29PM | 0 recs
Obama unlikely Hillary's VP

there is one senator running for vp - richardson.

HIllary is considered a flaming liberal by much of the electorate.

The DC pundits don't think the world can handle both a woman and black, plus everyone will think they are liberals even though they aren't necessarily.

Orignially, I thought Hillary would need Obama due to her lack of charm and charisma but the pundits think she won't want to be the boring one.

more likely lieberman or richardson for her

by TarHeel 2007-01-22 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

It's all about voting blocks.

Bill Clinton is extremely popular in the Black community and Hillary needs those votes, which she could get from her last name.  Obama cuts, big time, into that block.

So you direct a 'dog whistle' attack aimed at funders to cut him off from money.

by ATinNM 2007-01-22 01:31PM | 0 recs
It's the Money, Isn't It?

Well, the one thing Senator Obama HAS been doing is ringing potential donors on HRC's turf. That's what this is all about, the hearts and minds of the contributors.  That is why the electability issue at this stage of the campaign.

It's all about the money and the tone of this memo leads one to believe that there may be things going on behind the scenes which HRC doesn't like one bit.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-01-22 02:35PM | 0 recs
"I'm best positioned"??

Hilary says she is the "best positioned" to help the country.  What is that position.  Seems like she is going for the full back position.  All this macho Iron Lady stuff is gonna backfire.  Position?  No, you have to have a vision.  No vision.  Once more we have the "it's all about me" campaign.  Resume over vision.

by Feral Cat 2007-01-22 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: "I'm best positioned"??

Tight end.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-01-22 10:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card
I try to limit my criticism of the Dems, doesn't always work.  I would vote for any of the Dems on the slate, I think they are all electable.  Maybe even Joe Biden.
Hillary can win in November.  But she thinks she can do it by being George Bush in 2000.  She is the inevitable victor, so everyone should just drop out, their supporters should support her, regardless of any ideological concerns.  She may well win, but Democrats don't fall in line as well as Republicans.
by jallen 2007-01-22 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

I'm having a WONDERFUL time defending and talking up Hillary to every Wingtard I meet in my family, at work, wherever. The ones I know are going crazy with fear right now. Defending and selling Hillary to wingnuts is fun.

That said, I honestly will vote for anyone but her in the primary. Just between us, I have to admit, that I'll have a real hard time voting for her in the general election too. I'll probably vote socialist or something. With a Dem congress, I think it might be time to send the DLC'rs a message. Triangulating against progressive ideas has a price.

by otto schmidlap 2007-01-22 04:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

Remember when Nader decided to do that against Al Gore.  We got this stupid war and tax giveaways to the super rich as a result.  No thanks.

by Marylander 2007-01-22 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Playing the Electability Card

It is sad to see the Clinton camp to play the electability card so early in the process, even if it isn't entirely surprisingly that it was DLC-nexus uber-pollster Mark Penn who did it.

I agree about the whole issue of electability.  They need to quit gazing in their crystal balls and start remembering this is about governing and not just winning.  As far as Clinton's campaign using it already, that's no surprise.  This is the width, depth, and breadth of the Clintons.  This is why I will not support Hillary.  She will run right and compromise the Democratic baby out with the bath water ala NAFTA, media consolidation, welfare reform for babies but not corporations, and the list goes on.  Please, no more corporate whores regardless of party, and I don't care who "predicts" their wins.  

by dkmich 2007-01-23 01:30AM | 0 recs

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