Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Maybe There's Something to that 50 State Strategy

Recently Time magazine had an article discussing the Obama campaign's decision to move staff members and volunteers out of North Dakota and into Minnesota and Wisconsin. While this seems like a prudent move on his part, there are some strange questions percolating in the mind of this young Democrat.

#1) Why does the media seem to think that this is news-worthy? I mean, I'm not necessarily surprised that Barack would move workers away from North Dakota, but honestly, the fact that he is no longer implementing a "50 State Strategy" warrants its own article? The fact that he had staff workers in these blood-red states should have made more news at the outset. Some people may think that this is hubris on Obama's part, "He doesn't just want to win, he wants to win everywhere" etc. Having looked at the way he has run his campaign up till now, I tend to give him a little more credit. Instead of trying to win a state like North Dakota of Montana (where the polls were surprisingly close up until recently) he was (and still) is trying to set the groundwork for his grass-roots organization. Maybe he can't win ND or MT this year, but there is always midterm elections to think about as well as re-election. I tend to think of this as forward thinking rather than idiotic if it is a bit idealistic.

#2) There is a certain trend to Obama's campaign that is a tad disconcerting to me. I may have written about this earlier, but I think it is worth repeating. Barack had a tendency to appeal to everyone, everywhere when it isn't exactly practical. The first example of this that I noticed was in the Pennsylvania primary that he lost to Hillary in April. He was out in Scranton, driving through Amish country, criss-crossing the eastern half of the state and apparently staying away from Philly like the plague. I know he doesn't want to be seen as the "urban" candidate, but honestly, it pays to encourage your base. Now I don't think anyone will ever know how many votes he drummed up for himself in rural PA, but I do think he really could have spent the time and energy in and around Philly and made sure turnout was through the roof. Interestingly, however, he seems to be doing well in Pennsylvania these days despite losing to Hillary. Perhaps this has something to do with him introducing himself to the rest of the state while he was confident that the Philly area would come through both in the primary and in the general election. For those of us who are so terrified of a McCain/Palin administration (and more importantly to me a McCain appointed Supreme Court), we are a bit nervous that his strategy will backfire.

Part of me wants to believe that Barack knows what he's doing and will prevail while another practical part of me wants to share a little quote from the West Wing. "You only need one." Referring to that one vote that puts you over your rival. So while Time magazine and many others may think it was foolish to invest time and energy in traditionally red states, it may profit in the end. As tempting as it might be to move every volunteer from the country to Ohio and Florida, Obama won't run his campaign that way. For one thing, he will need to campaign with the Udalls in NM and CO if he wants to significantly increase his majority in the Senate, but he also has other things to think about. Red states aren't going to magically turn purple just because Bush is wildly unpopular. The thing is, you have to start campaigning there. Even if Obama is just planting the seeds that will be reaped by successive generations of Democrats, it's a start. You won't get anywhere by ignoring half the states in the Union when it comes to National office and I think Barack is genius for seeing that fact. Maybe all his talk about hope for the future isn't strictly rhetorical after all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hillary's Next Step

For many Democrats, Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama was devastating. As the party moves to heal itself and prepare to take on the McCain/Palin ultra-conservative agenda, many of Sen. Clinton's supporters are pushing for a new role for their favorite lady. Four main options were put forward and some remain viable despite long odds and some difficult obstacles. Primarily Clinton supporters pushed hard for her nomination as Vice President. Obviously with Sen. Obama's choice of Joe Biden, that option has been removed from the table. Now that the White House is unavailable the options are becoming more and more creative.

During the long Democratic Primary campaign there was sporadic talk of a President Hillary Clinton nominating her husband for a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Speculation never really took off because the media (and Hillary's campaign) were suddenly focusing on the practical need to win the nomination in the first place. Now Hillary supporters are pushing for Clinton (the Senator, not the President) to be named as the next Associate (or by some extremely unlikely fluke Chief) Justice of the Supreme Court. While Republicans would surely oppose a pro-choice Clinton on their precious court, there is some belief that she would be approved by the Senate. Because Democrats are most likely going to pick up 4+ seats and expand their majorities, it probably wouldn't be too hard to imagine her succeeding. Still, one thing remains unclear in my mind. Supreme Court Justices wield considerable power, but Hillary does not seem like a good fit for the last branch of government of which she has not been a part. Justices are typically reserved and stay out of the public spotlight. By definition they keep strange schedules and do not work often and are strictly (at least in theory) non-partisan. Hillary is strongly partisan and that is what we love about her. It's not that she can't work across the aisle, because she can, but her strong suit is simply that, her strength. She's a fighter (as she made abundantly clear during the primaries) and makes a compelling point which may be lost on much of the populace who do not routinely read Supreme Court rulings. While it would certainly make history to be named the first female Chief Justice of the United States, there is also the obstacle of John Roberts. He's not ancient and while he has had some health scares recently, there is no indication that he will be vacating his seat in the near future. That may be something that Hillary is unwilling to wait for. Lastly, all of this is contingent on Obama choosing Hillary for the role. Because she is in her 60s and because he may want someone who has a slightly longer staying power, he may be tempted to pick a younger wo/man. But Clinton supporters and curious bloggers will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Secondly and slightly more feasibly is a new PUMA craze. Hillary Rodham Clinton for Senate Majority Leader. While I think Hillary is much more suited for this role than as a Supreme Court Justice, it also has major hang-ups. First let me say that I think many Democrats agree that Harry Reid hasn't exactly done a bang up job as Majority Leader. His poll numbers in Nevada should prove that. While Hillary would be under criticism as the leading voice of Senate Democrats, I think that is a role at which she would be perfectly adept. She has the tenacity, the grit and determination to stand up to Republicans like Mitch McConnell and those are the fights that she is best at tackling. Rather than feign non-partisanship, embrace her partisan nature and attack those Republicans like only Hillary can do. She would do a fantastic job advocating for President Obama's policies and she is smart enough to make the political choices that would advance the party agenda without shrinking away from a confrontation. The obstacles are similar to those listed above, namely: No Vacancy. Perhaps is Harry Reid loses his bid for re-election in 2010 Hillary would have a better chance, but now it seems like a longshot. She certainly doesn't want to be seen as attacking other Democrats for her own political gain, and Harry Reid doesn't look like he's going anywhere anytime soon. The other difficulty is that while Hillary is certainly popular (and has the 18 million vote stat that she isn't shy about tossing around in conversation) she doesn't have the seniority of other Senators who would also like a chance at Reid's job. Chuck Schumer, her fellow New Yorker, for example, and Dick Durbin, who serves with Barack Obama, would both be in line in front of Hillary. Who knows whether or not she has the clout within the Senate to win the secret ballot for Majority Leader, but if she does, she would be the first woman to hold such a role and she would certainly do it justice.

The last and certainly most viable option would be a place in Barack Obama's cabinet. As Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services or even (although it is a stretch) as Secretary of State. Each of these would give greater heft (as if she needed it) for another run for the White House in 2016. Like Majority Leader, I think Hillary would be ideally suited for any number of cabinet positions, but the question remains, Does she even want one? There's no telling whether or not she's interested in leaving the Senate at all and may simply continue there, becoming the next Ted Kennedy. If she did choose to take part in the Obama Administration, it would certainly give her the opportunity to craft policy, which is something she is skilled at doing. Again, only time will tell.

The last option is possible, but contingent on a big decision. If David Paterson decides to run for re-election Hillary would certainly not run against another African American for Governor of New York, but should he decide not to, Hillary could battle Cuomo for the Democratic nomination and move to Albany. Again, all of these questions are fun to ponder, but really mean nothing for today. Only Hillary knows what she's angling for in the months and years to come, but I for one am interested to see where she goes from here.