In a loss that surprised pollsters, Barack Obama finished three points behind Hillary Clinton in yesterday’s New Hampshire primary. The eternal optimist was not discouraged but his rose-colored glasses could pose a problem in coming months.
At his concession speech, Obama said, “We are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction. Change is what’s happening in America.”
He spoke of emerging from a “long, political darkness” and claimed “there is no problem we cannot solve, no destiny we cannot fulfill.”
Obama tried to trademarked “change” as a campaign mantle but Clinton grabbed it from him and ran with it. (Her campaign headquarters was plastered with “CHANGE” signs, and many of her supporters were waving “CHANGE” signs during her victory speech.) Nevertheless, Obama’s message of hope and change — and Clinton’s plagiarism of it — are both unexplained, and not yet credible. (How either would get the highly divided Congress to suddenly divorce itself from partisanship hasn’t been explained at all, far less credibly, by either).
After crushing Clinton in Iowa last week, but losing to her yesterday, the stakes are high for Obama in the the next few primaries. For the Democrats — now on a partially different schedule than Republicans — the next races are in Nevada (January 19) and South Carolina (January 26, a week after the Republican primary there). Neither Obama nor Clinton is likely to knock the other out before the “Tsunami Tuesday” of February 5 when 21 states vote in primaries to essentially choose the Republican and Democratic nominees. Obama displays the confidence that he can beat Clinton all the way to the nomination. But the Clinton campaign, due to be shaken up today, may find unexpected ways and means of attacking him. It’s what they do best. And attack they will.
“Obama’s record is as liberal as it is thin,” Alex Conant, a spokesman at the Republican National Committee, said in The Hill. “Given how brief his time in the U.S. Senate is, it’s really surprising how many bad votes he’s managed to accumulate.”
Obama’s unexpected surge in popularity has redefined the Democratic race and conjured major doubts for the Clinton campaign, previously thought to be “inevitable.” The New Hampshire win boosts her status but the pressure is still heavy. If Clinton loses another big contest to Obama, the Democratic race may be as unpredictable as the Republican one at least until February 5.
The Obama craze — running strong — began last year when the two year member of the U.S. Senate announced he would run for President and received a barrage of free publicity from national media outlets. An endorsement by Oprah Winfrey and heaps of Hollywood support from celebrities like Tom Hanks and Larry David launched his campaign into the spotlight. A valid shot at the Democratic nomination didn’t seem likely until last week, but since Iowa the numbers have changed dramatically. The New Hampshire loss may not affect them significantly.
Obama’s speeches, anchored in anticipation of bipartisanship, provoke doubt because of the extreme polarization that exists in America. Democrats — by shunning Republicans in Congress and being unwilling to compromise on major issues — have left themselves tied in knots. Does Obama have reason to think he’d be able to make peace between Pelosi and Reid on one hand and McConnell and Boehner on the other? Or, as seems more likely, is his rhetoric empty? Obama’s left-wing politics and views on issues like gun control, gay marriage and immigration are not apt to draw much Republican support.
And someone who has campaigned as a liberal for “change” — and would owe his election to hard-core leftist groups which would demand political payback — isn’t likely to move rightward when he achieves higher office.
Beyond Obama’s optimistic front lies inexperience and an extraordinary liberal (and paper-thin) record. According to the Almanac of American Politics, the very liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave Obama a 100% rating in 2005 and 95% in 2006. (the same ratings given Hillary Clinton).
Independent voters, on whom many elections turn, may be unaware of some of Obama’s pure liberalism. For example, Obama strongly supports socialized healthcare, entitlement programs, tax raises and is so pro-choice that in 2002, he voted against an act that would protect babies who survived late term abortions.
Shilling for his wife, Bill Clinton called Obama’s campaign a “fairy tale” and many conservatives actually agree. Obama has adopted lofty phrases like “national movement” and “hope monger” to define his candidacy but lacks the background and substance to qualify as a real contender for President of the United States. Even his wife, Michelle, admitted he was “a little naïve” during a New Hampshire speech yesterday. Despite these omissions in wisdom and experience, his campaign rolls full speed ahead.
Obama’s “sincere” approach to solving international issues with diplomacy and rhetoric appeals to voters — especially the youth. Time Magazine reported this week that in Iowa, the overall Democratic turnout jumped 90% but young Democrat voters increased 135%. And a New York Times poll of Iowa voters last week found that Obama won 35 percent of women, while Clinton won only 30 percent. However, reports from New Hampshire indicate these two categories did not pan out the same there.
Journalists in New Hampshire reported young crowds gathering to cheer for Obama. He has revitalized the youth vote, which could prove valuable in the next few races. If that is the case, many first time voters could increase turnout rates and raise numbers toward an Obama nomination. But like them, Obama is young in his trade. He lacks critical wisdom and experience only time can provide. In his speech last night he said we could “heal this nation” and “repair this world.” Great, laudable goals. The “how” is beyond him at this point.