Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Clinton's Race-Based Tactics May Backfire

By Joe Sims

I was on the road Monday night and couldn’t watch the now famous slugfest between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. So Tuesday morning I asked a friend and an astute observer how it went. He told me, “I turned it off. Couldn’t take it.” I’m reminded of that tonight when reading about yet another Democratic Party regular taking on Bill Clinton, for his destructive and divisive role in the primaries.

CNN reported it. Here’s what they said:

“In an interview with CNN, Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and an Obama backer, said some of Clinton's recent remarks on the campaign trail were appeals based on race and gender, meant to "suppress the vote, demoralize voters and distort the record."

Harpootlian said the remarks were "reminiscent of Lee Atwater," a hard-hitting Republican strategist who worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and whose tactics were reviled by many Democrats.”

Many men and women of good heart will turn off and tune out. And there the danger lies.

President Clinton response to reporter who asked about the charge was a five-minute harangue, most of which was spent hiding behind John Lewis, Andy Young and Dolores Huerta (which itself is another story). The rest of the time, Clinton was bashing the reporters for daring to ask the question.

It made me think, what is Bill’s role, now that Senator Clinton is campaigning in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California. My suspicion is that Harpootlian has it right. To put it another way: create a colossal diversion, dominate the airways, keep Obama off focus, and turn potential voters off.

So much for the themes of unity and uplift. The Republicans strategists must be having a field day planning for the general election; the Clinton’s attack strategy proving a manual in the art of war. And who was it that thought that anyone would have difficulty running against a Black candidate and playing the race card well? The Clinton’s are proving themselves yet again past masters.

They should not however underestimate the reaction in the Black community. Many are furious, as well they should be. The Clinton’s short-term victory may be a long-term loss, if a less than enthusiastic Black electorate does not turn out to vote in November in large numbers. It could even severely damage the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile Obama is ahead in South Carolina. But they said that in New Hampshire. The numbers below were provided by the Daily Kos:

Amid stories that Clinton will refocus away from SC and look toward other states, today's Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby tracking poll released on Wednesday has Obama leading Clinton 43 percent to 25 (Edwards is at 15), pretty much matching every other recent poll including today's PPP automated poll (Obama 44, Clinton 28, Edwards 15).

Of note from Zogby:

More than half of the Democratic primary voters in South Carolina are expected to be black. Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black U.S. president, leads among African-Americans by 65 percent to 16 percent...

[Zogby] said the race in South Carolina still showed some fluidity. About 14 percent of voters in the state are undecided, and about 20 percent of voters backing a candidate say they could still change their mind.
Only one night of polling was done post-debate.

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