The Blurring

Mark Penn, two months ago:
"In reality, when they both got to the Senate, Senator Obama's votes are exactly the same as Senator Clinton's," said Mark Penn, the senior strategist for her campaign.

"Let's not try to create false differences when we both agree it's time to de-escalate; it's time to end the war. Let's be clear, Senator Clinton thinks that. Senator Obama thinks that. Former Senator John Edwards thinks that."(...)

"As far as I can see there is very little difference in the Senate - where people actually have to cast votes - in their voting records. So this election can't really turn on these records.
I dug up this quote as a way to expand upon Matt's question from Saturday, where he asked why Clinton seemed to be gaining support within the progressive blogosphere and open left. Matt's instincts are the same as mine, that "all the campaigns are blurring their messaging," and so "if everyone is pretending to be the standard wordprocessor, why not just choose Microsoft Office?" Blurring is very much a problem other candidates are facing right now, and the Mark Penn quote shows that blurring is actually a key component of Clinton's strategy. If all of the candidates seem the same on major issues such as Iraq, then why not just choose the most stable, long-term brand? In Democratic circles, that brand is clearly Clinton.

One means of separation would be Iraq, specifically Richardson's Iraq vision of no residual forces. The difference between Richardson and other candidates on Iraq really is the difference between continuing our involvement the war in a limited form, and just ending our involvement in the war altogether. I have little doubt as to where the vast majority of the Democratic rank and file comes down on that divide. However, neither Edwards nor Obama have chosen the path of clear distinction from Clinton on Iraq, as they each want some American troops to stay in Iraq for varying reasons. The problem for Edwards and Obama is exacerbated because we don't know how many troops the Edwards and Obama plans would leave in Iraq. Even if the Edwards plan would leave fewer troops, that is not exactly a rousing claim to make on the stump: "I would probably leave slightly fewer troops in Iraq than Hillary Clinton. Maybe!" The Richardson plan is much clearer and resonates much deeper: "no residual forces." I am certain that if a Democratic candidate kept saying that line for months and got a lot of buzz for doing so, that candidate would really catch on in the polls. The Richardson distinction has a greater emotional and psychological resonance than the many bills being sponsored by Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Kucinich and Obama, and also greater than the call to action currently being pushed by Edwards. Simply put, every candidate is currently using new legislative proposals as a means to demonstrate leadership on Iraq, and Hilary Clinton is no different. Further, every candidate with a functioning campaign is using calls to action as a means of wooing supporters, and Hillary Clinton is no different. The Edwards call to action might be larger, but again, how clear is that distinction ever going to be to a rank and file Democrat? If candidates want to avoid being blurred on Iraq, the Richardson path of no residual forces seems to be the only way to go.

The blurring extends beyond Iraq. For example, when one looks at voting scorecards from major progressive groups, once again drawing a clear distinction between Clinton and anyone else is not easy. Some of this is because Edwards used to be more conservative, or that Obama has a shorter career in the Senate. Mostly, however, it is because such scorecards look at a wide range of votes, and overall Clinton has not voted too badly, especially compared to the other candidates in the field. Also, when one looks at campaign staff, whatever complaints the grassroots and netroots may have about Mark Penn are easily blurred by some of the staff on other campaigns, which are just as DLC-nexus / LieberDem as Penn. Further, calling out Clinton for her husband's history of triangulation does not work very well considering that Obama, Edwards, Richardson and even Kucinich (think Fox News) have all engaged in anti-Democratic triangulation in the recent past, too. Yet further, when one looks at grassroots, activist support, while Obama is clearly ahead, Clinton still draws larger crowds and higher number of small donors than any other non-Obama candidate.

The blurring is well under way, and it will be difficult for other candidates to reverse it now. I have long believed that in order for someone other than Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, there has to be a compelling narrative and cluster of ideas in favor of that candidate--much more so than there needs to be an argument against Clinton. After all, in a variation of what her campaign likes to say, "Democrats love her!" She has a net favorable rating of around +75% among Democrats, and also has a net favorable rating among the progressive netroots (although she is about even within the progressive blogosphere). It has been built up over a long-term, fifteen-year relationship with the Democratic rank and file, and hardened through the most vicious assaults the Republican Noise Machine has thrown at any Democrat, ever (including Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry). No candidate is going to surpass Clinton unless s/he is able to tap into something even deeper inside the collective Democratic unconscious than Hillary Clinton is able to reach.

But that dream candidate does not exit, at least for me. Edwards is the only candidate who passes the Hackett litmus test, but he lacks the scope of grassroots energy possessed by Obama, and he also lacks the Iraq distinction of Richardson. Somehow, I think that in order to beat Clinton and tap into that deep, long forgotten recess of the collective Democratic unconscious she can't reach, a candidate needs all three, and at least two, of those attributes. Until a candidate achieves at least two of those distinctions, I expect that Clinton will maintain her national lead no matter how high a number Obama posts in Q2, and no matter how many polls show Edwards performing five points better against McCain than Clinton performs. Hell, after re-reading this piece, she doesn't even sound all that bad to me, at least when compared to Edwards and Obama, and I am a perfect representative of the target anti-Clinton demographic: a youngish, highly educated, liberal, secular white dude who blogs way too much. If candidates want to defeat Clinton, they need to distinguish themselves from her in a broadly positive manner. Otherwise, the blurring will continue, and most Democrats will just choose the established brand over the upstart one.

Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Blogosphere, Chris Dodd, Democrats, Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, John Edwards, President 2008 (all tags)

Comments

70 Comments

I don't use Microsoft Office

Since I'm not an idiot, I use Open Office. Just like, since I'm not an idiot, I won't be voting for Clinton.

by Bob Brigham 2007-05-21 08:22AM | 0 recs
Obama also could've led fight for short-leash

Iraq supplemental funding, basically fighting for a version of the House bill in the Senate. This also would've fit in with his otherwise inept remarks saying Democrats should not get caught up 'playing chicken' with the troops.

I suggested this in a diary 2/3 weeks ago at dailykos and received nothing but flame from Obama partisans. Such an 'absolutely no criticism or pressure allowed' approach is not very helpful to their candidate.

But the problem for Obama, I suppose, is that he doesn't believe in short-leash funding. In other words, (like Hillary and Edwards) he's not particularly liberal on the Iraq issue.

by fairleft 2007-05-21 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama also could've led fight for short-leash

I believe Chris you are right on. Richardson should push the removaal of all troops in Iraq AND NO RESIDUAL FORCES.

Obama and Edwards need to push Clinton on the number of residual forces and the number of combat forces needed to carry out her missions. What would be the estimate of casualities in going after Alqueda AND GUARDING the border of Syria AND iRAN

OBAMA and Edwards talk about removing all combat forces. Clinton talks about ending the war and reducing american forces. SHE DOESNOT SAY SHE WOULD REMOVE ALL COMBAT FORCES

by BDM 2007-05-21 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama also could've led fight for short-leash

I believe that Barack Obama is currently doing the right thing with his "16 Votes" strategy. It's not a bad thing, is it, especially when you consider how his "issues" are consensus and community organizing, to put an emphasis on citizens putting pressure on Republicans?

This effort will likely fall short, of course, which does not mean it isn't worth trying.

Obama most recently said he "wasn't at the point" of voting to cut off funding for the war. I believe that we will see him, relatively soon, distinquish himself from Clinton by going all-out to cut off the funding.

It wouldn't surprise me.    

by the green and bold 2007-05-21 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama also could've led fight for short-leash

Before the Feingold-Reid amendment - I would have agreed with you.

However, now seeing the pathetic turnout of Democrats that voted against the bill -- I think we need alot more that 16 republicans.

by SandThroughTheEyeGlass 2007-05-21 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

I have long believed that in order for someone other than Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, there has to be a compelling narrative and cluster of ideas in favor of that candidate, even more so than there must be an argument against Clinton. - Chris Bowers

Absolutely.

In another example of successful blurring, Lieberman closed any daylight between Lamont on his signature issue of Iraq troop withdrawal during the general election, stating "If I am honored to be re-elected on Tuesday, I will work day and night, with left and right, to find a way to get our service men and women home from Iraq as soon as possible without compromising America's security."

by fafnir 2007-05-21 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

So, what do we do to find the truth behind our candidates 'follow' the money?

by SandThroughTheEyeGlass 2007-05-21 08:43AM | 0 recs
Framing An Argument

Clinton's judgment on Iraq was wrong then, what has has she done to convince you that now her judgment on Iraq will be better?

As proof of her bad judgment then, and that she cannot fairly blame Bush for misleading her (besides 23 senators were not misled and voted against the AUMF), here just weeks before the invasion of Iraq she is videoed telling a group of anti-war women that she had independently investigated the case for war and concluded that her only criticism of Bush was the manner by which he proposed to finance the war.  This is her "macacca" tape:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZcY6TGfA xE

by Arthurkc 2007-05-21 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Couple of things.

One, Clinton's blurring of the Obama/Clinton "voting records" ignores the fact that Obama wasn't in the Senate to "vote" his loud disapproval of the war -- even though he was publicly adamantly against it. This fits a "not-dishonest" Clinton pattern that obscures reality for the Clintons' benefit.

Two, Richardson is simply pandering. It is not possible to remove 145,000 soldiers, plus tanks, armor, munitions, and thousands more logistics and construction personnel, out of a country in even six months (esp one as war-torn as Iraq). Aside from the fact that Richardson's promise in and of itself is not credible, he was the Clintons' foreign policy arm for most of Clinton's tenure. Is that consistent with his (suspiciously convenient) foreign policy?

I would say a year is the shortest possible withdrawal timeframe, at a terrible cost to American credibility, higher American casualties, and so on. Obama is--gasp!--being honest about this.

Thirdly: Clinton draws larger crowds and more activist support?!

Fourthly: Hillary is the Democratic dream candidate for the GOP. This is not a bogus anti-Hillary talking point; it's the hard truth.

I am tired of the GOP being so often blessed by the Democrats' choice of a candidate. To the extent that anyone can say what someone's support ceiling is, Hillary's ceiling is 51 percent, at most. BDM's recent comment that Hillary is the GOP's silent hope was not pure Hillary-bashing, either. You don't have to believe it, let alone care, but that's how it is.

Republicans know Obama is more liberal than Hillary (significantly so). And they can still see themselves supporting him.

As I find myself saying more and more often, if the Democrats choose Hillary as their 2008 nominee, god really is on the GOP's side.

by jforshaw 2007-05-21 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

I don't support Clinton--she's my fifth choice, I think--but she's only the Republican's dream candidate if they wanna lose the general. The problem is that the open left would also lose.

by BingoL 2007-05-21 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Richardson might be pandering, but nobody with the exception of Obama and Clinton have the platform to provide the sort of nuanced plan that might be implemented. This looks to be a particular issue for Biden and Dodd. They're saying exactly how they'll solve the issue, with all the necessary codicils and compromises that a legislator needs to pass a bill. But if you want to get traction in this race, you need to be forthright and easy to understand. There are no bonus points for making your plan extra-clever.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-21 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Chris says: " ...  the difference between continuing our involvement the war in a limited form, and just ending our involvement in the war altogether. I have little doubt as to where the vast majority of the Democratic rank and file comes down on that divide."

I agree, but how strongly do we come down on the Richardson side? And what do you mean by 'rank and file,' exactly?

I'm not sure that Democrats as a whole are as strongly against 'leaving a small non-embassy residual force in Iraq under the guidance of a responsible reality-based Democratic President" as you think. Even on the foaming-at-the-mouth leftie blogosphere, that's by no means a overwhelming majority opinion.

Other than that, I agree. I think Obama or Edwards have to realize that they're not gonna win this whole thing playing cautiously. Now, Obama's backup plan, I imagine, is a VP spot: and I don't know if anyone opposes him as VP. But Edwards isn't gonna be the VP pick again, so he's the one who has to truly throw caution to the wind. (Which he's done ... a little. He's thrown caution to the gentle breeze. But there's a long way to go.) Problem is, he leads in Iowa. So it's not like his path to the nomination, while a longshot, isn't pretty damn clear.

I really wish one of the better asterisks--Dodd or Richardson--would transform himself into a perfect progressive candidate. They've got nothing to lose. Vow to end the War on Drugs. Endorse single-payer. Talk--like Richardson--about withdrawing -all- troops except for embassy protection. Elevate government services above tax cuts, and start calling taxes 'community investment funds' or 'homeland support payments.' Go wild! Toss everything in there, short of a Department of Peace ...

by BingoL 2007-05-21 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Lately Obama has been speaking out in IA and NH and urging people to contact their local Senators to vote for the timeline.

This tactic has caused a lot of anger on the GOP side (good!) and its shows that Obama is not playing things safe.

by Sam I Am 2007-05-21 09:32AM | 0 recs
No Embassy

Pull out complete by Richardson - means no embassy or if not, who will protect the US Embassy if not our own troops?

by dk2 2007-05-21 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: No Embassy

Protecting the embassy is such a small number of guards and they donot go out on combat missions.

Hillary has never said she would withdraw all combat forces in IRAQ. Edwards and Obama HAVE TO DRIVE HOME THIS ISSUE OF RESIDUAL FORCES AND MISSION AS WELL AS THE NUMBER OF SUCH FORCES TO DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES FROM HILLARY

by BDM 2007-05-21 08:47AM | 0 recs
Edwards said withdrawal

With Embassy protection, the rest in neighboring countries.

I thought Clinton wanted bases left.

by dk2 2007-05-21 08:50AM | 0 recs
CLINTON - "NO PERMANENT BASES"

Clinton - "No permanent bases"

by ChicagoDude 2007-05-21 08:57AM | 0 recs
Do you have a link to that?

Did she change that position, I thought  she wanted bases left.

This is Edwards position:

Edwards' plan for Iraq calls for Congress to:

   * Cap funding for the troops in Iraq at 100,000 troops to stop the surge and implement an immediate drawdown of 40-50,000 combat troops. Any troops beyond that level should be redeployed immediately.
    * Prohibit funding to deploy any new troops to Iraq that do not meet real readiness standards and that have not been properly trained and equipped, so American tax dollars are used to train and equip our troops, instead of escalating the war.
    * Make it clear that President Bush is conducting this war without authorization. The 2002 authorization did not give President Bush the power to use U.S. troops to police a civil war. President Bush exceeded his authority long ago, and now needs to end the war and ask Congress for new authority to manage the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence and to help Iraq achieve stability.
    * Require a complete withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq in the next 12-18 months without leaving behind any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

After withdrawal, Edwards believes that sufficient forces should remain in the region to contain the conflict and ensure that instability in Iraq does not spillover and create a regional war, a terrorist haven, or spark a genocide. In addition, Edwards believes the U.S. should step up our diplomatic efforts by engaging in direct talks with all the nations in the region, including Iran and Syria and work to bring about a political solution to the sectarian violence inside Iraq, including through a peace conference. He also believes the U.S. must intensify its efforts to train the Iraqi security forces.

http://www.johnedwards.com/news/press-re leases/20070214-iraq-plan/

by dk2 2007-05-21 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Do you have a link to that?

No, she didn't.

by Ernst 2007-05-21 09:34AM | 0 recs
Sorry for the double post.

Oh, And if you wonder why I couldn't give you a link?

It is because it's hard to provide a link that shows that somebody didn't change their minds. It's like proofing a negative.

The only way it could be proven if Hillary made constant updates that her opinions hadn't changed. And we both know it doesn't work like that. On the other hand her changing her mind would be news and thus linkable. So you could try to find out if what you think is actually correct.

by Ernst 2007-05-21 09:49AM | 0 recs
It's not the changing of the mind link that

I wanted.

It was a link that cleary shows she doesn't want bases left in iraq.

by dk2 2007-05-21 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: It's not the changing of the mind link that

Sorry. I misunderstood, and I also apologize if I sounded a bit short, that wasn't my intention.

Hillary Clinton:  No permanent bases, but continuing residual force in Iraq

we do not plan a permanent occupation or permanent bases, but there may be a continuing mission to protect America's vital interests, and to support an Iraqi government that we hope to be an ally going forward, assuming they are acting responsibly. So, the bottom line for me is that we will begin re-deploying our troops as soon as I am President, and we will do so in as expeditious a manner as possible, [leaving] as few troops as necessary with no permanent occupation, and no permanent bases.

Clinton; "No permanent bases"

by Ernst 2007-05-21 10:29AM | 0 recs
Re: CLINTON - "NO PERMANENT BASES"

Quite clearly, if US forces are going to be on call to "fight terrorists", but are "not going to be engaging in the civil war", then they are going to be based in secure bases.

Saying that the bases will be occupied for the indefinite future but not permanently is a verbal distinction without an effective difference in meaning.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 10:14AM | 0 recs
Richardson is like

Vilsack.  He is the DLC candidate who takes an antiwar position.  Buyer beware.  

by littafi 2007-05-21 09:14AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

I think that hillary wins the base.  I think that hillary wins the folks who pay attention 17 months ahead of a general election.  But I don't think it will take much to knock her down to size.  Those negatives come from some place real.  It won't be hard to tap into people's collective liberal gut and remind folks why we want a new face.  Why go after her now when she is only capturing 35%.  If she had 50% or more we would already see the negative ads but she isn't running away with this--she is just holding a 10-12% steady and solid lead.  Just wait.  

by aiko 2007-05-21 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Well blurring certainly helps Obama if the effect also carries into believing he has as much and the same experience as anyone else.

by NYFM 2007-05-21 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

I don't think that any candidate out there right now can put together a narrative so compelling as to overshadow Hillary Clinton.  The only chance I see is if Bush pushes on to war with Iran and Hillary Clinton weakly opposes Bush on that front (or fails to oppose him at all).  No one is going to stand out on the dominant issue of the day, Iraq, so either something has to change in Iraq or some other issue has to supersede Iraq, something I don't see happening.

So, I think that the key for Obama or Edwards or anyone else is to drive up Hillary Clinton's negatives among Democratic voters and make the case that she would not be a good president.  If Obama and Edwards fail to understand this political reality and act upon it, I'm not sure that I can trust either to run a good campaign in a general election or to recognize reality if they occupy the office of President of the United States.

by Anthony de Jesus 2007-05-21 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

"...The only chance I see is if Bush pushes on to war with Iran and Hillary Clinton weakly opposes Bush on that front (or fails to oppose him at all)..."

What happens if Obama also weakly opposes Bush or even fails to oppose him on say IRAN?

In otherwords, further blurring the line between what Clinton & Obama stand for.  Remembering Obama has been pretty tight with Clinton on Iraq up until recently:

Clinton: June 21, 2006 -- Floor Speech
"...nor do I believe it is a solution or a strategy to set a date certain for withdrawal without regard to the consequences..."
http://www.senate.gov/~clinton/news/stat ements/details.cfm?id=257561

Obama: June 21, 2006 -- Floor Speech
"...I do not believe that setting a date certain for the total withdrawal of U.S. troops is the best approach to achieving, in a methodical and responsible way, the three basic goals that should drive our Iraq policy.."
http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060621-fl oor_statement_of_senator_barack_obama_on _iraq_debate/index.html

And now Obama on Iran:

Obama's Haaretz Interview (May 16, '07) "...Now, he is also becoming a leader in legislating against the regime in Tehran, making it clear that the challenge of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is part of his agenda - not merely a cause that he is paying a lip service to. "Clearly," he says, "Iran made progress in its enrichment program" and this only increases a "sense of urgency." Iran will not change its behavior without pressure, Obama says. "I'm not naive" enough to believe that they will, "or optimistic" that they will do anything without more measures taken. An Obama bill, accompanied by a similar bill in the House, sponsored by N.Y. Congressman Barney Frank (Frank and Rep. Tom Lantos had a press conference earlier Wednesday) is aimed at assisting the new trend of divestment from Iran's energy sector. Provide for one measure of pressure-building...

Sound familiar --- ?  Like Clinton's AIPAC speech?
http://www.senate.gov/~clinton/news/stat ements/details.cfm?id=268474

"...If Obama and Edwards fail to understand this political reality and act upon it, I'm not sure that I can trust either to run a good campaign in a general election or to recognize reality if they occupy the office of President of the United States..."

I agree, from recent events, at least from Obama, I'm not holding up much hope.

by SandThroughTheEyeGlass 2007-05-21 09:29AM | 0 recs
SOME PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT A RESIDUAL FORCE

There is a point of view that you might want to consider, even if you don't agree.  That is, I am a 42yo male progressive who supports the idea of a residual force.  Further, I know other progressives who feel the same.

by ChicagoDude 2007-05-21 08:54AM | 0 recs
Re: SOME PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT A RESIDUAL FORCE

How large a residual force?

What would be their mission?

Do you think the american people want this force to engage in combat and take casualities?

Having fought in Vietnam, I see Clinton's plan as a continuation of the war.

by BDM 2007-05-21 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: SOME PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT A RESIDUAL FORCE

I support a residual force in the Kurdish areas of Northern Iraq.  The Kurds are a genuine pro-democracy, pro-western group and not a single American soldier has been killed in the Kurdish areas since 2003.

Someone should ask Richardson if he would stand idley by and let a Shiiite government in Baghdad gas the Kurds the way Saddam did in the 80's.

by Sam I Am 2007-05-21 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: SOME PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT A RESIDUAL FORCE

I'm also for a residual force in the Kurdish areas of Northern Iraq. I foresee huge problems with Turkey if we don't.

Turkey is extremely agitated about the support the Iraqi Kurds give to their Turkish cousins. And Without a USA presence they will likely invade. The region will then even further destabilize and peace even further away.

by Ernst 2007-05-21 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: SOME PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT A RESIDUAL FORCE

Can you provide me a link for that? Because I'm certain there have been deaths in the Kirkuk area, which has a substantial Kurdish population (hence the problem, as there have been clashes with the Arab population there).

Also, Saddam was a Sunni. The Shiites have fewer problems with the Kurds, even if they are mostly Sunni, as their problems are with the Sunni Arabs.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-21 11:18AM | 0 recs
re Kirkuk

Kirkuk is ground zero for conflict between Kurds on one hand, and all hues of Sunni on the other. "Who owns Kirkuk" was intentionally left vague because it sits atop a ton of natural gas, and both Kurds and Sunnis are basically subsidizing immigration into the city so that they can overwhelm the other in a plebiscite.

The Kurds would win with about 55%. But it's all set to become a northern Baghdad.

Outside of Kirkuk, however, it's all Kurd and all love for America.

by jforshaw 2007-05-21 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: SOME PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT A RESIDUAL FORCE
It isn't so much the policy as the unconscious contrast with other candidates and emotional connection with ending the war. But the policy is good, too.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-21 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

I don't think the base is as antiwar as you think.  

by Matt Stoller 2007-05-21 09:05AM | 0 recs
I think the American

people are more antiwar now about this war than any in our recent history, including Vietnam.  We have Generals making ads opposing the war.

by littafi 2007-05-21 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

I don't think the base is as antiwar as you think.

Oh, they are. They just aren't quite sure how to express it.

...Ike Skelton's remarks were interrupted once by applause when he stated that he had voted for the bill to set a deadline for removing our troops from Iraq...

Those who were openly against the war from the start were excoriated by the "mighty wurlitzer" and their media enablers for being "un-American". Many people who are now quietly against the war are caught between the unpleasant reality they don't like one bit (dubya's crappy war) and their fear of being labeled in the same manner as early opponents to the war.

by Michael Bersin 2007-05-21 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

A lot of us are anti-Iraq war but not pro-idiocy like removing all troops from the Middle East. Those kind of ideas smell of left wing nuttery.

by Populism2008 2007-05-21 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring
I'm note sure if you are being sarcastic or not, but if not, I'd love to see some polling on what Democrats think of residual forces in Iraq. It might actually be a good polling project.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-21 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

He could be serious. I think issues like abortion and healthcare will be just as important for the democratic base in the primaries. I think the base Iraq sentiment is more aimed against the republicans in the general then it is an internal democratic issue in the primaries.

by Ernst 2007-05-21 09:59AM | 0 recs
A new narrative

Obama more than anyone has the new story. Bill Clinton won by being a "new" Democrat in 1992 despite his obvious baggage. John Kennedy won in 1960 by being a "new" generation. Don't underestimate the hunger among Democrats and Americans in general for a new page, a fresh start, for someone who can authentically bring healing to this country. 1968 was the year of tragedy and national wounds that have yet to heal, the assassination of RFK and MLK. 1968 was the year of the failed Democratic convention, of the beginning of the end of Vietnam, and the election of Nixon. Now 40 years later a new cycle can begin in a man who encompasses black and white, immigrant and non-immigrant, African and European origin, a man of extraordinary talent and leadership potential. We do not need any more dynasties and America will reject the imposition of a Clinton dynasty on top of a Bush dynasty. There is a great fatigue in the land so I reject this Clinton talk and the analysis about blurring. Hillary has reached her ceiling.

by cmpnwtr 2007-05-21 09:07AM | 0 recs
Obama is

not new.  He is black.  Other than that, nothing really new.  The same old "hero" story who will disappoint.

Already his crowds are thinning in Iowa.

We need real change.  

by littafi 2007-05-21 09:12AM | 0 recs
Nice spin

Obama is gaining on both Edwards and Clinton in Iowa. Fact as opposed to opinion.

by Populism2008 2007-05-21 09:32AM | 0 recs
LOL!

What you say is "fact," and what I say is "opinion."  Right.  Keep dreaming as Obama fades.  

The novelty has worn off.  

by littafi 2007-05-21 07:16PM | 0 recs
Again with the dynasties!

Dynasties run from one generation to the next. From father to son, Like the Bushes, Tafts, Kennedy's, and countless others, or even from Uncle to Nephew like the Roosevelts.

Dynasties are about inherited contacts, wealth and power. They remove a part of the quality control. With an inherited powerbase the son or nephew all start at at a high level untested, without having to pay their dues. Sometimes that works out wonderful. some of our best presidents were from dynasties.

But sometimes the results are terrible, and people whose limited talents normally wouldn't have allowed them to rise so high bleep thing up beyond belief.

Hillary doesn't have that problem because she helped build that powerbase. Her and Bill were always a two-for. She inherited no powerbase, she earned it.

by Ernst 2007-05-21 10:12AM | 0 recs
No Blurring for me.

Edwards clearly is the candidate who will make real change.

by littafi 2007-05-21 09:09AM | 0 recs
No residual force


One means of separation would be Iraq, specifically Richardson's Iraq vision of no residual forces. The difference between Richardson and other candidates on Iraq really is the difference between continuing our involvement the war in a limited form, and just ending our involvement in the war altogether. I have little doubt as to where the vast majority of the Democratic rank and file comes down on that divide. However, neither Edwards nor Obama have chosen the path of clear distinction from Clinton on Iraq, as they each want some American troops to stay in Iraq for varying reasons. The problem for Edwards and Obama is exacerbated because we don't know how many troops the Edwards and Obama plans would leave in Iraq. Even if the Edwards plan would leave fewer troops, that is not exactly a rousing claim to make on the stump: "I would probably leave slightly fewer troops in Iraq than Hillary Clinton. Maybe!" The Richardson plan is much clearer and resonates much deeper: "no residual forces." I am certain that if a Democratic candidate kept saying that line for months and got a lot of buzz for doing so, that candidate would really catch on in the polls. The Richardson distinction has a greater emotional and psychological resonance than the many bills being sponsored by Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Kucinich and Obama, and also greater than the call to action currently being pushed by Edwards. Simply put, every candidate currently in Congress is using new legislation and calls to action as a means to demonstrate leadership on Iraq, and Hilary Clinton is no different. Further, every candidate with a functioning campaign is using calls to action as a means of wooing supporters, and Hillary Clinton is no different. The Edwards call to action might be larger, but again, how clear is that distinction ever going to be to a rank and file Democrat? If candidates want to avoid being blurred on Iraq, the Richardson path of no residual forces seems to be the only way to go.

My trouble is that I think they're purposely blurring their position because they all intend to stick to the original plan of permanent occupation by about 50,000 soldiers, and no sovereign Iraq government.  I agree that Richardson makes the strongest sound bite statement, but if you listen to the details, the no residual forces rests on security arrangements made by Turkey, Syria Iran and Saudi Arabia.  This collection of actors will not come to terms easily or quickly, and if the US leaves, there is no national defense in Iraq. No air. No armor. No logistics.

This is a very profound problem, and just as nobody is talking about the bases or the enormous embassy, nobody wants to discuss a stable solution, because there isn't one.  This is a replay of Nixon in 1968, saying that he would get the US out of vietnam, but without losing the war.  

The reasons that the US is still in Iraq, and, ftm, Bush is still in office, is that the Congress has not, and will not, face up to the facts on the ground.   There is no mission objective beyond body counts, no metric for success, nothing to win.

The voters know that, but the politicians won't face it.  

So, yeah, it's good for Clinton if the rest of the candidates won't confront this issue directly and clearly.  But I think we need to realize that the reason they won't is that they don't want to make promises they aren't going to keep.

The only way out is now.  The only ones who can get us out are the Republicans on the Hill.  That's where the pressure needs to be applied.

by jayackroyd 2007-05-21 09:12AM | 0 recs
Hillary can't make the sale where it counts.

Hillary is allegedly "in to win" but when she finishes second or third in Iowa, the media focus on her high negatives and weakness in general election matchups will be devastating.

Winning, combined with a focus on strength in the battleground states, puts Edwards over the top.  

by MeanBoneII 2007-05-21 09:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Hillary can't make the sale where it counts.

Just a guess but the media pressure may well be on the third place finisher, particularly if Edwards is the winner.  That's the loser in the loser's bracket, e.g. the one going home.

Iowa is not a representative state.  Both Obama and Clinton should do much better elsewhere.  This whole model, BTW, corresponds nicely to the Survivor or American Idol thing:  who gets voted off the island or the show this week.  

by David Kowalski 2007-05-21 09:47AM | 0 recs
If Richardson finishes ahead of ...

... any first tier candidate in Iowa, it will be a very hard hit against that candidate, but it would be a harder blow for Hillary than for Obama.

This is another reason why Obama in a statistical tie for second in Iowa, with a headline number ahead of Hillary's, is so interesting in a horse race sense. It opens the possibility that Richardson finishes third ahead of Hillary in Iowa.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: If Richardson finishes ahead of ...

If they are in a statistical tie he could also just as easy finish ahead of Obama. The results would be similar catastrophic. Or he could even finish ahead of both.

Richardson only has to finish ahead of one of the first tier to put a serious dent in his/her abitions and to catapult himself to "contender" status. I do think he already has to have some decent numbers in other states before the caucus as well, otherwise the frontloading will blunt his momentum.

by Ernst 2007-05-21 11:32AM | 0 recs
Re: If Richardson finishes ahead of ...

Yes, but I expect him to focus on Nevada and New Hampshire, and perhaps a bit in southern Florida, and leave South Carolina and Michigan pretty much alone.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Simpler, shorter recipe for candidates: I'm not George W. Bush.

by Michael Bersin 2007-05-21 09:20AM | 0 recs
Agree to a point

I think Obama should use a strategy where he

1. Highlight the distinction between him and Hillary on the war.

2. Highlight Hillary's electability problems and the disaster that she would be for the Democratic party.

3. Try to win over Edwards-supporters by using a bit more partisan rhetoric and by showing that he is the only one who can beat Hillary.

4. Does everything he can to make the youth turn out and vote.

I'm still rather convinced that Obama will win this in the end. Hillary is just too unlikeable and divisive.

by Populism2008 2007-05-21 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Agree to a point

Wait a minute, a black man highlighting "Hillary's electability problems." A bit of a joke really.

by superetendar 2007-05-21 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Agree to a point

Okay, this really cracked me up. I hadn't really thougt about it like that before.  

by Kingstongirl 2007-05-21 03:27PM | 0 recs
This is something for Edwards to clarify

as they each want some American troops to stay in Iraq for varying reasons

Edwards has not said that he wants American troops to stay in Iraq, he has made protection from American troops a pre-requisite for Americans remaining in Iraq in a humanitarian role.

In terms of electoral politics, it would make all the sense in the world to extend that and say, "and given the situation in Iraq, it does not make sense for Americans to remain behind playing a humanitarian role. We will simply have to pick up a larger humanitarian role elsewhere, so that some of our allies can play that humanitarian role in Iraq".

However, in terms of policy, this really is something that should be determined in the peace conference.

So the question raised by this post is whether Edwards should abandon the superior policy position in order to adopt a position that has a distinction which is easier to communicate to voters.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: This is something for Edwards to clarify

Err- Get a "This Week" transcript from 3 weeks ago when Edwards was on, he definitely fudged this answer when George asked him about residual troops. He started off with saying "remove all troops" but then said if things arent perfect he would put troops in.

He's also quoted in Time mag. as saying "You'd probably have to leave combat troops in the areas where combat was the greatest,"

That doesnt sound like he wants to remove all the troops. Unfortuntately, thats what he's been marketing, but if this is brought up, it would look really bad on Edwards.

by sepulvedaj3 2007-05-21 11:05AM | 0 recs
As I noted in the comment, politics and policy ...

... are in conflict ... it is bad policy to unequivocally say that troops should be withdrawn no matter what the circumstances and no matter who it is asking for them to be on the ground ... but good politics, definitely.

Richardson obviously went for the good politics, because without some ability to draw clear distinctions, he is dead in the water, and on so many issues ... like trade ... he and Clinton would be in lock step. So he adopts the clearest distinction from Clinton's Iraq policy, and raises the ante on almost every plank in Edwards New Energy Economy plan.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Your only looking at blurring from HRC's point of view because they have been aggressive in doing it early to mute her 2002 Iraq War vote (a clear vulnerability).   Obama can also blur some of his vulnerabilities with her and we'll see that down the road.  And maybe their making a mistake, maybe people this time don't want a stable long term brand.

by mboehm 2007-05-21 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Hell, after re-reading this piece, she doesn't even sound all that bad too me, at least when compared to Edwards and Obama, and I am a perfect representative of the target anti-Clinton demographic: a highly educated, liberal, secular white dude who blogs way too much.

Aaah there's hope for you yet!

:P

by Ernst 2007-05-21 10:15AM | 0 recs
Trade. There is no difficulty unblurring ...

... the distinction with Hillary on trade, because she is very firmly associated in the public mind in states where trade is important ... including Michigan, which looks increasinly likely to be a pre-Tsunami Tuesday state.

Of course, that's for after Labor Day.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The Blurring

Hmm, let me see if I get this right.  When Edwards and Hillary were in the senate, they both voted for the war and their voting records were similar.  Now that Edwards is OUT of the Senate and no longer voting, he has a much more populist platform and is also the loudest of the top 3 on getting out of Iraq.  Obama, BEFORE becoming a member of the senate, was anti-Iraq invasion, but since joining Hillary in the Senate, has an almost identical voting record with Hillary on Iraq and other issues. Obama shied away from the Feingold Bill when it was initially offered, even though it was the most aggressive about ending the war in Iraq.  He wanted,"a responsible way to end the war".  In fact if we look at each of their plans (top 3) on Iraq they are similar.  We want to pin the blurring on Hillary, like she is confusing the record, but when Edwards and Obama has had to vote, they vote like Hillary.

by Kingstongirl 2007-05-21 10:30AM | 0 recs
When Hillary and Edwards were in the ...

... Senate, Hillary was quite definitely staunchly pro bogus-free-trade-agreement, and after fighting to get improved terms in free trade agreements in the first half of his term, by the last half of his term, by his last two years, Edwards was voting against the majority of free trade agreements he was presented with.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 11:47AM | 0 recs
When ideologies blur, electability is king

With effective attacks by Obama or Edwards it will kill her, just as electability killed Dean.

by Cyt 2007-05-21 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: When ideologies blur, electability is king

I doubt going negative will help the others. Obama is particularly screwed because of his initial stance on campainging on how above the frey he was. Any negative campainging by Obama will send a have a backlash. Edwards is in a position for some negative campaigning, but he would have to do it against both Obama and Hillary, and thats risky too.

by sepulvedaj3 2007-05-21 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: When ideologies blur, electability is king

If he did he could very well end up opening the field for one of the minor candidates.

Going negative is always something you must do as the last resort. It's hard to do right, and easy for the others to turn around and use against yourself without having a backlash.

by Ernst 2007-05-21 11:12AM | 0 recs
There is no way that Edwards will go ...

... negative this year as long as Obama is still rising and Hillary is still stangant or sagging. Going negative against Hillary would simply deliver supporters to Obama, and going negative against Obama will simply give new life to Hillary when Edwards wants her campaign to remain in the doldrums for as long as possible.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-21 11:27AM | 0 recs
Wes Clark
For my money he meets the three criteria you cite above -- though on Iraq I realize that's debatable, and may hinge more on his credibility as someone who can do the best possible with a horrific situation. I know, I know -- he's not running, and may not step in. He seems to have hung back partly to retain some credibility to oppose war with Iran, partly for strategic considerations (let the field shake out and then - if the need is there - shake it up), and partly for reasons that he has quite deliberately kept quiet. But if he does, I suspect that since 04 he's learned enough, made enough connections, and laid some stealth groundwork to make his entry effective. Otherwise I'm rooting for Edwards to break out. But for the moment -- call it projection, wishful thinking, or informed speculation as will -- I'm laying odds that Clark does enter the race. And if he does, I'm looking for him to do it bold, crazy kinda way, sortof (though surely not quite exactly) like Zack Exley might advise him to do.
by stevelu 2007-05-21 11:52AM | 0 recs

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