By Joe Sims
A kinder, gentler role is being projected for Bill Clinton after the routing Hillary Clinton received in South Carolina when her husband’s battering ram tactics backfired in Saturday’s primary. Or did they? The answer to that question will come on February 5th, as in this writer’s opinion, that was the Clinton’s target in South Carolina. However, the kindler gentler role seems only reserved for Mister. Today’s news reports that Senator Clinton is campaigning in Florida with two stops today and one tomorrow evening to “thank her supporters.” Clinton had pledged not to campaign there. Who said those guys would do anything to win? It’s stuff like this that causes people like Bob Herbert of the New York Times to ask; “What kind of people are the Clintons? What role will Bill Clinton play in a new Clinton White House? Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation’s need for healing and unifying?”
The New York Times today reported campaign staffer’s new placement of the ex-president:
“They said his role would be akin to his effort before the Iowa caucuses, when he highlighted Mrs. Clinton’s record and her policy ideas, and was used in part to build huge crowds on college campuses rather than attack Mr. Obama.”
Donna Brazille, on an ANC news program yesterday morning, joked they “send him to California” where the time difference might offset his caustic remarks, allowing damage control experts to spin another story. Mr. Clinton did it again when comparing Obama to Jessie Jackson. Wrote the Times:
“Mr. Clinton’s ability to be a distraction was evident on Sunday as reporters repeatedly asked Mrs. Clinton about her husband’s role in the campaign and his comments about Mr. Jackson, which she characterized as benign.”
It’s starting to get really ugly out there. Bob Kerry a Clinton supporter made some really ugly statements using crass anti-Muslim racism masquerading as tolerance to cast the Illinois senator in a ugly light. He repeated the claim that Obama attended a Islamic school and also that his grandmother was a Muslim. Though he apologized the damage was already done.
These are hit-and-run ideological tactics: put out a lie, damage the character and then say “oops, I’m sorry.” The same kind of thing was done with the Obama-is-a-Reaganite charge.
The Obama campaign it seems will get a big boost from today’s endorsement of Senator Ted Kennedy which may offset some of the mudslinging. Caroline Kennedy endorsed Senator Obama on Sunday: The New York Times wrote:
“The endorsement appears to support assertions that Mr. Clinton’s campaigning on behalf of his wife in South Carolina has in some ways hurt her candidacy.”
Let’s see what the polls say. However, the polling seems to one of the big losers this weekend, almost as much as Mrs. Clinton’s. Here’s what Christopher Cooper of the Wall Street Journal said about the polling:
“This has proved a tough season for statewide pollsters even by historical standards. Mrs. Clinton eked out a win in New Hampshire even though most pollsters expected her to be buried by Mr. Obama. A recent analysis of polls in that state by Survey USA found that pollsters were off by an average of 10 percentage points in the days leading up to the election. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, where Mr. Obama routed Mrs. Clinton on Saturday, Survey USA found that prognosticators did even worse, chalking up average error rates of 17 percentage points.”
And remember what I said about new strategy to narrow the Obama campaign saying it’s “too Black?”
“The Clinton strategy, in part, is to play down her South Carolina defeat by attributing it largely to the state's large African American populace and to tag Mr. Obama as a black-oriented candidate. The latest shot across the bow came over the weekend when former President Clinton, in a move that many in the Obama campaign saw as a ham-handed attempt to cast its candidate as narrowly as possible, reached back 20 years to draw comparisons to the long-shot campaign of black civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson.”
These tactics backfired in South Carolina:
"Exit polling also showed that around 60% of voters said Mr. Clinton's presence affected how they voted; of those in that category, about two-thirds voted for Mr. Obama or former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who finished a distant third.”
The next days will show how the rest of the country will react. My guess is that the unity trends on the ground will deepen. The all-peoples movement is firming up in the aftermath of Saturday’s primary. In some ways it was born again.