By Staff Writer
April 30, 2008
As Sen. Obama has risen in the polls of late to become the Democratic front-runner, the biggest factor seems to be the increasing Democratic voter perception that Sen. Obama is somehow more electable than Sen. Clinton against John McCain. The idea (promoted willfully by many in the media) is that Sen. Obama is young, charismatic with less baggage than Sen. Clinton and that he will be able to bring the country together to beat Sen. McCain. Now certainly this could happen, but I would like to argue that despite what you hear in the mainstream media, if Sen. Obama becomes the Democratic nominee, he could in fact be less electable than Sen. Clinton for the following reasons:
THE MEDIA HAS BEEN SURPRISINGLY EASY ON SEN. OBAMA, WHICH HAS ARTIFICIALLY INFLATED HIS POLL NUMBERS
For months, Sen. Obama has received unbelievably positive coverage by the mainstream media (“MSM”). Anyone who watches cable news or reads national newspapers/magazines knows that many in the press seem to have abandoned their supposed objectivity and are virtually cheerleading for him, while Sen. Clinton has received excessive negative criticism (see CNN Segment on Pro-Obama Coverage, "Media Expert Decries Campaign Coverage," Associated Press, SNL Debate Parody 1 and SNL Debate Parody 2). In addition to his MSM promotion, Sen. Obama seems to have received the backing and/or valuable resources of much of the left-wing infrastructure in this country. But, Democrats should remember that the very media that is hyping Sen. Obama is the same media that attacked Al Gore and John Kerry while promoting George W. Bush; the same media that promoted the Iraq War; and the same media that guaranteed Sen. Clinton would lose NH. To put it bluntly, the MSM is often wrong and seldom has Democrats best interests at heart. Additionally, the right wing media has also been laying off Sen. Obama (until very recently) because they likely see him as the weaker candidate against Sen. McCain (for reasons to be discussed below).
Media calls for her to get out prematurely:
"Don't Stop Campaigning," Editorial, Washingtonpost.com, 3/30/08
SEN. OBAMA’S RECENT CAUCUS AND PRIMARY VICTORIES MAY HAVE OVERSTATED HIS ELECTABILITY
Many of Sen. Obama’s victories have come in undemocratic caucuses in Republican states (which Democrats aren’t likely to win in the general election), states with heavy African-American voting populations or states where non-Democrats are voting (who will likely vote for Sen. McCain once Sen. Obama is fully vetted by the media). Many Republicans/Independents who are voting for Sen. Obama may not even be true supporters, but could be attempting to manipulate the Democratic primary results. Sen. Clinton has done much better than Sen. Obama in most of the big states that Democrats must win in a general election (e.g., CA, NY, NJ, MA, FL, MI, OH) and has generally done well among core Democratic constituencies, including working class voters, Hispanics, women, older voters, Asians and others. Remember, that if the Democratic Party had counted FL and MI delegates (like the Republicans did) and if the Democrats had mostly utilized a winner-take-all primary system (used in the general election and in the Republican primary), Sen. Clinton would likely have been the overwhelming favorite after Super Tuesday. Despite Sen. Obama’s over-promotion by the press and the other problems already mentioned, the delegate count is still extremely close and either candidate can win the nomination (see more on Sen. Obama’s electability in Washington Post and Real Clear Politics).
Electoral Arguments /she's more electable
UNLIKE SEN. CLINTON, SEN. OBAMA HAS NOT YET BEEN FULLY VETTED AND HE MAY WITHER UNDER RIGHT WING/MEDIA ATTACKS
As previously noted, the MSM and right wing media has been relatively soft on Sen. Obama. But this will likely change if he is the Democratic nominee as the Republican attack machine and/or the rest of the media will try to tear Sen. Obama apart, as they’ve done with every other Democratic presidential candidate in the last three decades. Only Bill and Hillary Clinton have been able to withstand the onslaught. The Republican attack machine made Vice President Gore, who was intelligent, experienced and won the popular vote, look like a loser. They made Sen. Kerry, a war hero, seem like a coward. They are masters at demonizing Democrats. Carter, Dukakis, Mondale, Gore and Kerry all failed against them. Many of these Democratic nominees also had big leads over Republicans in polls until the MSM and Republican attack machine got through with them. And most of these were experienced, seasoned politicians. Sen. Obama has never run nationally against a tough Republican opponent. He’s never faced the Republican attack machine. He hasn’t been fully vetted by the media, which makes him an extremely risky choice as a nominee. Picking an unvetted new, fresh face, with a limited track record has not been a successful strategy for Democrats in the past. Democrats have run newer national candidates before who led in the polls for awhile, only to see their campaigns implode once exposed to the right wing attack machine and/or increased media scrutiny. Remember Howard Dean, Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis? Unfortunately, history shows that new, untested, and unvetted candidates often wither under such heavy Republican and media scrutiny. This election is much too important for Democrats to take such a risk (see also Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s article “Battle Tested” for further discussion of some of these points).
SEN. OBAMA HAS SEVERAL WEAKNESSES WHICH MAY BE EXPLOITED BY REPUBLICANS AND/OR THE MEDIA
I generally like Sen. Obama and acknowledge that he and Sen. Clinton share many of the same Democratic positions on many key issues, but any rational analysis of his candidacy would suggest that he has several potential weaknesses which the Republicans and/or the media will likely pounce on. Let me list a few that have already come up during the campaign:
1) Sen. Obama is relatively inexperienced in foreign and domestic policy, especially compared to Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain – Sen. Clinton has substantially more foreign and domestic policy experience than Sen. Obama. After graduating from Yale Law School, she worked as an attorney in the Watergate proceedings, she later served on the Board of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Legal Services Corporation, and she was one of the nation’s top attorneys (see also Sen. Clinton’s Early Record). Most importantly, Sen. Clinton has served as perhaps the most influential advisor and strategist to a successful Governor and President--Bill Clinton. As First Lady (of Arkansas and the United States) she worked on many crucial public policy issues, such as education, foster care, health care, women’s rights, and represented our nation to various foreign leaders in numerous countries. She has had eight years of meaningful on-the-job training of being President. Neither Sen. McCain nor Sen. Obama has this experience. She also is a successful two term Senator including serving on the influential Armed Services Committee. In contrast, Sen. Obama has only been in the Senate for three years, which includes substantial time running for President and/or writing and promoting his book. Before that he was a part-time state senator and attorney/law professor. Let me put it bluntly, the Democrats have seldom run a candidate with so little national and/or executive branch governmental experience and therefore it is a real risk for Democrats to choose Sen. Obama as their nominee. The ultra-experienced McCain will likely try to exploit this weakness in Sen. Obama’s background. Sen. Clinton would match up better against Sen. McCain in terms of experience (see "Public Divided on Whether Obama Has Necessary Experience," Gallup.com).
2) Additionally, Sen. Obama’s fellow Democratic rivals, the press and the right wing media have already identified several other potential weaknesses which will likely be exploited by the Republicans in a general election including:
- Sen. Obama’s failure to hold any policy/oversight hearings as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on European Affairs (see “Obama's European Problem,” Salon.com).
- Sen. Obama’s controversial dealings with his patron, indicted real estate developer, Tony Rezko, whose upcoming trial could prove embarrassing for Sen. Obama (see "Obama on Rezko deal: It was a mistake," Chicago Sun Times , "An Obama Patron and Friend Until Indictment," The New York Times and "FACT CHECK: Obama, His Contributor Rezko, the Slum Landlord Business," No Quarter).
- Sen. Obama’s self-described history of cocaine/drug use. George W. Bush saw his poll numbers fall when his drunk driving arrest became widely known. Sen. Obama has yet to face really serious questions in a debate or from the media about his past drug use or his views on drug policy (e.g., how he feels about people being incarcerated for cocaine use? is it fair that he gets to be President when others convicted of cocaine use may face extremely difficult job prospects? etc.). Voters may not ultimately care about this, but Democrats must accept the possibility that this issue could hurt our nominee (see "Effect of Sen. Obama's Candor Yet To Be Seen--Senator Admitted Trying Cocaine In a Memoir Published 11 Years Ago,” Washingtonpost.com).
- Sen. Obama’s religious background. As we all know by know by now, Sen. Obama’s middle name is Hussein. According to Sen. Obama, his father and step-father were born Muslim, but neither was religious (nor was his mother). Sen. Obama says he was not raised a Muslim, but grew up in a secular/agnostic household (see Obama on religion). He grew up for part of his childhood in Indonesia, a Muslim country, and attended their schools for several years. In the 1980’s, he joined the United Church of Christ and has been a Christian ever since. Still some are already using his Muslim heritage against him (see "Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties To Fuel Rumors About Him,"Washingtonpost.com and "Was Barack Obama A Muslim?" Frontpagemagazine.com). I don’t really think that Sen. Obama’s Muslim heritage should be a factor in this election, but I don’t know how it will play out, especially given that we are at war with Radical Islamic terrorists. Imagine if in WWII, a Presidential candidate was of part German heritage and spent some of his childhood in Germany attending their schools. Even if he was the most patriotic American around, I think voters might have held it against him (fairly or not). As a liberal, I don’t really care about a person’s religion or sexual orientation. I would vote for an atheist, a Muslim, a gay person, or anyone else if I thought they were the best person for the job. Unfortunately, I’ve realized after too many Republican victories that I am clearly in the minority in this country. Sen. Obama’s religious background probably shouldn’t be a factor, but it may very well be.
- “"Barack Obama's Muslim Childhood”, Daniel Pipes, Jewishworldreview.com, 4/29/08
- "Barack Obama and Israel," Ed Laskey, AmericanThinker.com, 1/16/08
"Obamacide - Obama’s Church Reprinted Hamas Manifesto," Creepingsharia.com, 3/18/08
"Obama and The Jews," Marc Zell, JersusalemPost.com, 2/21/08
- "Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama," Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times, 4/10/08
- Senator Obama's liberal record on such issues as taxes, immigration (where he seems to favor giving drivers’ licenses to illegals), gun control and more. He has been rated as the most liberal Senator by the National Journal (see "For Obama, A Taste Of What A Long Battle Would Hold," The New York Times). Moderate liberal Democrats usually perform better in national elections than those who are perceived to be more extreme liberals. Sen. Clinton seems to have a more moderate public record than Sen. Obama, which could make her more competitive in a general election against McCain.
- Sen. Obama’s membership in a controversial church (which identifies itself as “unabashedly black”) and his close relationship with its long-time pastor, who has been accused of being anti-Israel and a supporter of Farrakhan (see "Obama's Spiritual Mentor--Powerhouse Chicago Preacher Draws Attention and Plenty of Controversy," BaltimoreSun.com ).
- "Why Obama's Speech Was Unconvincing," Ed Koch, Realclearpolitics.com, 3/25/08
- "Obama's Brilliant Bad Speech," Gregory Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times, 3/24/08
- Suspicions regarding the strength of Sen. Obama’s support for Israel (see "Obama Walks A Difficult Path As He Courts Jewish Voters," International Herald Tribune).
- Michelle Obama’s periodic unwise statements. For example, she said, "Our view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House..." "Did Michelle Obama Take A Swipe at Clinton?"CNN.com. According to the Huffington Post, she also stated, “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country…" which has drawn controversy. In a Nov. 2007 interview with MSNBC, Mrs. Obama stated when confronted with Sen. Clinton’s then lead amongst African-Americans, ”…that’s not gonna hold. I'm completely confident. Black America will wake up and get it, but what we're dealing with in the black community is just the natural fear of possibility…” Some might construe these comments as racist and/or divisive speech.
- Questions regarding Sen. Obama’s patriotism. "Obama may face grilling on patriotism--No flag pin, no hand over his heart: Is he exposed?" MSNBC.com
- Charges of plagiarism and/or other problems in Sen. Obama’s speeches and writings. (see “Did Obama Take Too Much Credit,” SunTimes.com and "Obama Echoes Deval Patrick...Again," ABC News.com).
- Sen. Obama’s apparent flip-flops on several important issues, such as potentially violating his pledge to accept public financing, (see "McCain Presses Obama on Pledge About Public Funds, Washingtonpost.com) and violating his pledge to serve out his Senate term and not run for President made on Meet The Press.
- Sen. Obama’s record of missed votes in the Senate and his pattern of voting present as a State Senator (see "The Ever-'Present' Obama," Real Clear Politics).
Sen. Obama’s alleged ties to leader of Weather Underground (see "Obama's Ties to Left Come Under Scrutiny," NYSun.com and "Obama once visited 60's radicals," Ben Smith, Politico.com.
- Sen. Obama’s potential pattern of bad judgment. In addition to his possible bad judgment in his dealings with Rezko and his apparent close association with his controversial pastor, Sen. Obama has made other statements which may be used to demonstrate a pattern of bad judgment. For example, Sen. McCain has recently attacked Sen. Obama’s judgment for saying in the debates that he would pull troops out of Iraq and then potentially send them back in if al Qaeda rebuilt a base there, for saying we should unilaterally bomb Pakistan without their consent and for apparently agreeing to meet with rogue leaders like Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il without pre-conditions. He also may be questioned regarding the propriety of playing poker and basketball with lobbyists as a state senator, while criticizing others for improper relations with lobbyists (see "Obama's Complex History With Lobbyists," Washingtonpost.com).
The Republicans won’t be afraid to exploit these weaknesses and many others that haven’t been found yet against Sen. Obama, so Democratic voters should consider these issues now, before it’s too late.
DEMOCRATS ARE MORE LIKELY TO WIN WITH A PROVEN FIGHTER LIKE SEN. CLINTON WHO HAS DEMONSTRATED THE ABILITY TO PREVAIL OVER THE REPUBLICAN MACHINE/MEDIA SCRUTINY
As the past three decades have shown, the most important asset a Democratic nominee can have is the ability to take a hit and fight back successfully against Republicans. Sen. Clinton has faced the Republican smear machine with President Clinton, in many gubernatorial elections, two presidential elections and two Senate elections, and has won, again and again. Sen. Clinton has repeatedly demonstrated that she is an amazing fighter who has stood up for Democratic causes over the years, in the face of the most vicious attacks (e.g. she was called a murderer, the Devil, corrupt, etc.) and she has survived and flourished. Sen. Obama has not yet demonstrated this capability. As Ambassador Joseph Wilson (himself a victim of the right wing smear machine) wrote recently:
Theodore Roosevelt once commented, "It is not the critic whocounts: not the man
who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doerof deeds could have
done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actuallyin the arena, whose
face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strivesvaliantly, who errs and
comes up short again and again, who, at the best, knows,in the end, the triumph
of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails,at least he fails while
daring greatly." If he were around today, TR might bespeaking of the woman in
the arena. Hillary Clinton has been in that arena for ageneration. She is one of
the few to have defeated the attack machine that istoday's Republican Party and
to have emerged stronger. She is deeplyknowledgeable about governing; she made
herself into a power in the Senate; sheis respected by our military; and she
never flinches. She has never beenintimidated, not by any Republican -- not even
GENERAL ELECTION POLLING DATA IS FAIRLY MEANINGLESS AT THIS STAGE
Supporters of Sen. Obama, cite recent polls showing him slightly ahead of Sen. Clinton in hypothetical match-ups against McCain as evidence that he is more electable. For example, a recent LA Times poll found McCain leading Sen. Obama nationally 44% to 42% while McCain leads Sen. Clinton 46% to 40%. However, general election polls at this stage are usually inaccurate. The current polls have been changing by the week and are very fluid. For example, in the wake of Sen. Clinton's March 4th victories in TX, RI and OH, she has already regained her leadership position over Obama in several national polls (Gallup 3/6/08 and Rasmussen, 3/6/08). Additionally, in past elections, early polling has proved very inaccurate. For example, President Clinton was trailing George Bush (I) and Perot at one point and he eventually won. Gov. Dukakis was way ahead of George Bush (I) in the polls and he ended up losing badly in the general election. As Mark Penn points out, Senator Clinton’s support will likely rise in the polls in the general election (since she’s already been through the right wing smear machine). People will see that she is reasonable, experienced, and not the polarizing figure they’ve been told she was (as they did in her NY Senate races), whereas the largely unknown Sen. Obama’s negatives will likely rise and his poll numbers will likely fall under the scrutiny of the media and the Republican attack machine.
SEN. OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE PLAN (WHICH FAILS TO COVER ALL AMERICANS) IS LESS ATTRACTIVE THAN SEN. CLINTON’S HEALTH CARE PLAN
Senator Clinton, like Sen. Edwards, offers a superior health care plan that covers everyone and provides universal coverage, just like Medicare and Social Security. Sen. Obama’s plan does not. It is voluntary and leaves roughly 15 million people out. Sen. Clinton understands, unlike Sen. Obama, how difficult getting health care passed will be, and she has the advantage of having learned from her past experience what works and what doesn’t work. She will not have to learn on the job and make rookie mistakes. Although she is still idealistic, like Sen. Obama, through her experience she has become more pragmatic which has helped her craft a better, more workable health care plan with a greater chance of success. The main reason universal health care reform failed in the 1990’s was not due to Democrats, as Sen. Obama implies, but because of the insurance industry and Republican organized opposition which reportedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat it. Thus, Sen. Obama is wrong to blame Democrats for the failure of health care. Also, it was the Democrats, including Sen. Clinton, who helped to get the Children’s Health Insurance Program passed in the 1990’s. Sen. Clinton is a visionary leader on health care like Al Gore is on global warming. Sen. Gore fought to do something about global warming for several decades and hardly anyone listened, but finally his message is sinking in and changes are being made. Sen. Clinton has continually fought for universal coverage for years, including when it was unpopular, and she is still fighting for it now, when it is finally within our reach. She deserves Democrats’ praise, not Sen. Obama’s attacks, for her efforts.
SEN OBAMA AND SEN. CLINTON HAVE SIMILAR RECORDS ON IRAQ DESPITE SEN. OBAMA’S RHETORIC
Despite Sen. Obama’s rhetoric, his record on Iraq, once in the Senate, is nearly identical to Sen. Clinton’s and they are both in favor of bringing the troops home as soon as possible. Sen. Obama seems to be arguing that he should be President because he gave one anti-war speech as a virtually unknown state senator. As Ambassador Joseph Wilson has pointed out, Sen. Obama has falsely tried to paint Senator Clinton as pro-war because she voted for the resolution authorizing war. But, many Democrats voted for the resolution to give time for the inspectors to do their work—a reasonable position given the intelligence Senators were getting at the time. They were not voting for a pre-emptive war and said so at the time. As Bill Clinton, Joseph Wilson and others have pointed out, Sen. Obama admitted in 2004 that he didn’t know how he would have voted on the resolution if he were in the Senate and he stated that there wasn’t much difference between his position and George Bush’s position at that point. Sen. Obama never seriously attacked Sen. Kerry, Sen. Edwards or the other Democrats on this issue, only Sen. Clinton when it was politically advantageous for him. The Democrats can only win in November by rightly blaming Bush/Cheney and the Republicans for the Iraq war, not each other. As Joseph Wilson so aptly writes in “Battle Tested,” “Hillary's approach -- and that of the majority of Democrats in the Senate -- was to let the inspectors complete their work while building an international coalition. Hillary's was the road untaken. The betrayal of the American people, and of the Congress, came when President Bush refused to allow the inspections to succeed, and that betrayal is his and his party's, not the Democrats” (see also "Obama’s Hollow ‘Judgment’ and Empty Record,” Joseph Wilson).
SEN. CLINTON IS BETTER POSITIONED TO RUN ON THE SUCCESSFUL DEMOCRATIC/CLINTON RECORD THAN SEN. OBAMA
Sen. Obama has shown a strange propensity during this campaign to attack Democrats and the Clintons for many of the country’s problems. He blames Democrats for the failure to get health care passed; he blames Democrats for Iraq; he blames Democrats for failing to help the poor; he blames Democrats for partisan bickering. But most Democrats know that the main obstacle to real change in this country in the past three decades has been the Republicans, not the Democrats. If our nominee can’t convincingly make this point to the country, we won’t win. Blaming Democrats for the country’s problems, rather than Republicans is a bad general election strategy. The best way for Democrats to win in the fall is to attack Republicans and Bush/Cheney for their dismal performance over the past seven years and to run on the successes of the Clinton Presidency—the only successful Democratic Presidency of the last 30 years. Sen. Clinton was an integral part of the Clinton administration (e.g., First Lady, key advisor, campaign strategist, etc.). Sen. Clinton can best lay claim to the Clinton record of foreign policy and economic success (e.g., record budget surpluses and unprecedented job growth) and overall competence in running the government (e.g., good emergency operations, etc.). To win, Democrats must make the case that they are better at running the government than Republicans. The best way to do this is to run on the Democratic/Clinton record (not belittle it) and show how it was superior to the Bush/Cheney record. If Democrats don’t run on Bill Clinton’s policy record, they will make the same mistake Gore did in 2000 and have a very difficult time winning.
SEN. OBAMA HAS ARGUED HE HAS A BETTER CHANCE OF BRINGING DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS TOGETHER NATIONALLY, BUT THERE IS LITTLE EVIDENCE OF THIS FROM HIS NATIONAL RECORD
Sen. Obama’s record on the national scene is not very long, as noted above, and thus there is no significant record of his ability to bring Democrats and Republicans together at the national level. Sen. Clinton has a much longer track record of working with the opposition in the Senate—including with people who tried to impeach President Clinton. In the three years Sen. Obama has been in the Senate, Sen. Clinton has sponsored more bills (53) that have attracted Republican co-sponsors than Sen. Obama has (24 bills) over the same period. (See Fact Hub). Additionally, Sen. Clinton has a surprisingly strong record of attracting independents and Republicans in both of her NY Senate elections. One could argue that Sen. Clinton’s record (as opposed to rhetoric) is as good if not better than Sen. Obama’s in terms of bringing together Democrats and Republicans.
SEN. OBAMA OFFERS INSPIRING WORDS ABOUT CHANGE, SEN. CLINTON OFFERS A LONG TRACK RECORD OF MAKING CHANGE
Sen. Obama seems to argue that inspirational words are the only important ingredient to winning elections and making change. Words are very important (and Sen. Clinton has demonstrated in debate after debate that she is very good with words), but actions and accomplishments are even more important. Democrats will do better selecting a candidate that has a long and impressive track record of accomplishments in public life, rather than a relative newcomer to the scene. As described above, Sen. Clinton has a long record of public service including experience in the White House and Senate. She offers more than just rhetoric about change, for the past two decades, Sen. Clinton along with President Clinton have been leading the fight nationally (often in the face of vicious opposition) to change the Republican direction of this country. They led the fight to stop Republicans from cutting the social safety net, privatizing Social Security, gutting the environment, weakening civil rights’ laws, cutting taxes on the wealthy at the expense of the poor/middle class, dismantling public education, blocking increases in the minimum wage/earned income tax-credit, cutting services to the poor/homeless, and on and on. Sen. Clinton (and her husband) have led the fight over the years for Democratic causes (e.g., improving and expanding health care, increasing the social safety net, protecting Social Security, improving the environment/stopping global warming, improving tax fairness for the poor and middle class, raising the minimum wage and earned income tax credit, improving education, enhancing women’s and civil rights, rebuilding the economy and helping the poor and middle class). Fundamental change (e.g., civil rights, global warming recognition, the end of apartheid, the right to vote for women) takes significant time and effort by experienced and visionary leaders. Now that the country has seen the disastrous results of Republican rule with Bush/Cheney, it will be easier to get the change we need. Sen. Clinton has worked for most of her adult life as a national leader to change this country away from Republicanism towards Democratic ideals. She is the person to continue to lead that change, not someone who has for the most part been a bystander in the important Democratic fights of our times.
Despite all the media hype and meaningless polls, Sen. Clinton is likely to be more electable in a general election than Sen. Obama for all of the reasons outlined above. Voters must ask themselves, without all the media hype, who do they really think is most qualified, given their past experience, to be President right now? I believe, most Democrats, if they are honest, think it is Sen. Clinton. This begs the question. If a voter really thinks Sen. Clinton is more qualified to be President, why are they letting the media decide how they should vote? Maybe it’s time for voters to start thinking for themselves.
Recommended Articles to Read for Undecided Voters:
And if you want a good laugh---see the new Jack Nicholson ad for Hillary Clinton at Huffington Post
Additional Selected Articles (Many Utilized in Article):