Clinton’s Latest Tactics

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

After another huge loss to Obama in Wisconsin last night (and Hawaii, although that was to be expected since Obama lived there), it looks like the Clinton campaign is going more negative against Obama:

ABC News has learned that a group of Democratic politicos have set up a new independent 527 organization called the American Leadership Project (ALP) with the express purpose of helping Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, beat Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in Ohio, and possibly Texas and Pennsylvania as well.

Free from campaign finance rules, ALP will not be legally permitted to coordinate with the Clinton campaign, but it is clearly intended to help her.

The group is targeting through TV ads, mail, and phone communications white women under 50 in the Ohio area — specifically Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Charleston (WV), Wheeling- Steubenville, Zanesville, and Parkersburg (WV).

White men will also be a focus, and if there are any excess funds Latinos in Texas and middle class families in Pennsylvania will also be targeted.

ALP has developed three ads aimed at pushing the idea that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, is a talker and not a doer — the ads are called “If speeches could solve problems" — and they will contrast Obama and Clinton on issues of importance to middle class voters, such as the economy, health care, and the mortgage crisis.

"Our purpose is to encourage audiences to look beyond the campaign speeches and political rhetoric to specific proposals to address these core issues," says an ALP mission statement obtained by ABC News.

The plan right now is for the TV ads to never actually mention Obama — rather, the statements about rhetoric vs. reality will go after him through implication, the contrast between Clinton and Obama already being so well-known.

I don’t think this is necessarily an eeeevil underhanded tactic (it is, after all, totally legal, except that I doubt the Clinton campaign isn’t involved). 

But I don’t think it is particularly helpful.  First of all, there is a mixed message.  You can’t say, on the one hand, that Obama is nothing more than a really good rhetorical speaker, and then, with the other hand, encourage voters to compare and contrast Obama’s stance on issues with those of Hillary.  That alone is a tacit admission that Obama actually does have a stance on the issues, that he is more than just a dynamic speaker.

And where does Clinton get the confidence that people will actually prefer her positions over his, assuming that they actually do compare and contrast?  I suspect that if people actually do the comparison, they’ll see that the two are not very much different on most issues.  So then it comes back to "who can get it done" — i.e., leadership qualities.  And that’s a heavy plus in Obama’s column (according to most polls).

On a larger scale, I think part of the problem with Clinton’s going after Obama is that she is doing it in a way which echoes how McCain is going after Obama.  Now, Obama criticizes Clinton, but not in a way that is destructive to the party, nor in a way which turns people off to Democrats.  And that’s an important difference.

UPDATE:  As unsavory as that is, this is even worse:

This morning brings the news that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, has launched a new website where they are announcing how they are officially preparing to make the case that the rules of the Democratic nomination process should be changed.

Among many "facts" they declare are some accurate ones, such as the idea that superdelegates, which in true nomenclatural dexterity they now term "automatic delegates" "are expected to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and the Democratic Party."

But then comes this juicy non-fact:

"FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy."

That’s not a fact, that’s an opinion.

And it’s clear evidence (not that there was any mystery about it) that the Clinton campaign is trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

John Cole comments:

Don’t like the rules- change them. Isn’t that precisely what has been wrong with the criminal Bush administration the past eight years?

Ezra adds:

And then we get, "FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy." …

But it’s not a fact. It’s an opinion, and a wrong one at that. Indeed, you want a fact? "Clinton’s own senior adviser, Harold Ickes, voted as a member of the DNC committee to not recognize these two state delegations because they violated the rules of the primary scheduling process. Now as a Clinton campaign representative he’s making the case that they should count." There’s your fact: Hillary Clinton’s representatives helped make the very rules Hillary Clinton is now breaking.

Even more insulting is what comes beneath their "FACT" — lies, like the campaign’s contention that though Hillary Clinton was literally the only candidate on the ballot in Michigan, "she had no intrinsic advantage over her opponents other than the will of the voters." Right, and I had no intrinsic advantage finishing first out of 6 billion in the Ezra Kleinathon, even though I was the only individual on earth who competed.