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Obama: One of Us Will Be President

By Alec MacGillis
LOS ANGELES -- It's on. Barack Obama reached out to Hillary Clinton in his opening statement in tonight's CNN/Politico/Los Angeles Times debate, assuring all that she was his "friend" and would be so after the campaign as well, snub or no snub. In trying to be gracious, he went slightly off his own message. It was a testimony to the Democratic Party and the country, he said, that " one of us two will end up being the next president of the United States of America." That is at odds with what he argued in a tough speech in Denver yesterday: that Clinton would have trouble running against John McCain in a general election.

"We've reached Americans of all political stripes who are more interested in turning the page than turning up the heat on our opponents," he said in Denver. "That's how Democrats will win in November and build a majority in Congress. Not by nominating a candidate who will unite the other party against us, but by choosing one who can unite this country around a movement for change."

He added in Denver: "It's time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John not by nominating someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq; who agreed with him by voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; who agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don't like; and who actually differed with him by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed."

We'll see if he brings out a version of this argument despite the initial olive branch. Or if Clinton challenges him on the Denver speech, which Clinton called an "angry screed."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 31, 2008; 8:18 PM ET
Categories:  The Debates  
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This Super Dooper Tuesday will all but confirm my belief that Hillary will be the Dem nominee and go on to win the GE for the first of her two terms. I think Barack will be the probably favorite in 2016 depending on who Hillary chooses as her VP.

Posted by: lylepink | January 31, 2008 9:21 PM | Report abuse

By the way, could somebody who took the time to notice discuss Lurlene Wallace in these pages?

Posted by: ceflynline | January 31, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

In 1968 a bunch of kids fell in love with either Bobby Kennedy or Eugene McCarthy. McCarthy could never find a way to get serious, and while Bobby was serious as a heart attack, Sirhan Sirhan was deadly serious.

When Hubert Humphrey got the nomination he truly deserved, those kids went home, or went out and rioted. Hubert almost won it anyway. Eventually many of those kids grew up, and some of them actually rejoined the Party they scuttled.

Whatmeregister suggests that this generation of kids is no better than my generation, and that Barrak is no better that Clean Gene.

I am a Hilliam backer, because I believe that she has the smarts, the depth, and the experience to accomplish 90% of the politically possible in her terms as President. Should Barrak get the nomination because of his rapport with the coming generation, I will vote for him. Should he get the nomination by alienating parts of the Clinton entourage, I will still vote for him, but be less happy in doing so.

Should Barrak now run a (ehh sort of) losing campaign, by going totally high road, and differencing himself from Hillary by the nobleness of his campaign and the brilliance of his communications, however, he can lose and still win, for both himself and his party, by making himself a coming power in the party structure, including in the Senate, where he can acquire lost of political IOU's on Hillary's tab, and build himself into the Black LBJ, and in eight years be the premier candidate to continue the Democratic legacy. Should he actually carry the nomination in THAT sort of campaign, his triumphant march on Washington will be an absolute joy to watch.

He is in the position to play Noble Statesman to ruthless advantage, and satisfy his personal ambition for the next sixteen years, first as a powerful senator, and then as a landslide President.

He only needs a bit of self control.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 31, 2008 9:04 PM | Report abuse

This is a truly watershed moment for the Democratic Party.

Posted by: diplomat111 | January 31, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who prefer to think strategically instead of (or as well as) emotionally about this election, here are a few numbers to consider:

Alabama's African American population: 26.3%

Georgia's: 29.9%

Louisiana's: 31.7%

Mississippi's: 37.1%

North Carolina's: 21.7%

South Carolina's: 29.0%

Coincidentally, of these six Southern states where blacks make up more than 20 percent of the total population, five have Republican senators up for re-election this fall: Jeff Sessions (AL), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Thad Cochran (MS), Elizabeth Dole (NC) and Lindsay Graham (SC). Mary Landrieu (LA) is the lone Democratic senator up for re-election in these 20+ percent black Deep South states.

If you look at the larger picture for a moment, you can see that we're presented with a very unique situation: Five Senate seats that under normal circumstances would be considered very safe for the GOP incumbent could be put in play if Sen. Obama becomes the Democratic nominee this fall. Obama, after all, has demonstrated an obvious ability to electrify African American voters and get them to turn out in disproportionately high numbers.

If the astounding African American Democratic turnout in South Carolina is any indication, an Obama candidacy in the general election could well present a real threat to entrenched GOP Deep-South senators. Even if the Republicans were able to successfully defend all five of these seats, it would come at the cost of using precious resources that would otherwise be poured into other hotly contested races throughout the country. Howard Dean's 50-state strategy paid off in '06 even without presidential coattails to ride. With Obama actively campaigning throughout the South, firing up the black vote, we'd at least have the possibility of picking up a few seats in the Senate, and likely the House as well.

Just for grins and giggles, here's the breakdown of Republican and Democratic House members within those six 20-percent-plus black-populace states:

Alabama: 5 GOP, 2 Dem

Georgia: 7 GOP, 6 Dem

Louisiana: 5 GOP, 2 Dem

Mississippi: 2 GOP, 2 Dem

N. Carolina: 6 GOP, 13 Dem

S. Carolina: 4 GOP, 2 Dem

As you can see, of these six states, the GOP holds a majority of House seats in nearly all of them. However, if Obama runs and motivates a large number of African American voters to go to the polls, it's pretty obvious to me that some of these GOP seats would shift from safe to competitive, and at least a couple of them would switch hands. Again, the strain on GOP coffers from having to defend so many seats assumed to be uncontestable would mean fewer resources available to pour into other races throughout the country. An Obama candidacy will put the Republicans at a significant financial disadvantage, based on the scenario I've just laid out. Strategically, if you're a Democrat and want to defend and expand your Congressional majorities in the House and Senate, voting for Obama would seem to be the only logical move.

Now switch all this around and think of what happens in those same six states if Sen. Clinton becomes the Democratic candidate. African Americans who rightly or wrongly believe the Clintons played the race card to defeat Obama decide to stay at home (again), the GOP breathes a sigh of relief that it won't have as many competitive contests and can lavish greater spending on fewer races, Southern Republicans become energized at the prospect of being able to vote against their Public Enemy Number One and turn out in droves, and the Democrats go down to defeat and very likely lose their 1-seat majority in the Senate, and perhaps the House as well.

Like I said, if you're a Democrat, voting for Obama is a no-brainer. It's the only guaranteed winning move if you want to stay the majority party. But since we Dems have always been our own worst enemies, I still give Hillary an excellent chance of getting the nomination and losing everything for us.

"I've never heard so many people during this past election campaign tell us how many things we couldn't do, how many things we couldn't compete with, how many things we couldn't dream about, and how many people we couldn't care for. Unbelievable. If there ever was anything that was part of the American Dream it's 'Yes we can' ... care, believe, dream..."
--Harry Chapin, speaking to his audience during one of his last concerts, at The Bottom Line, NYC, 1981

Posted by: whatmeregister | January 31, 2008 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Rumor has it Obama pulled Hillary's chair out and helped her sit down in a very old fashioned gentlemanly manner. Did he really do that? I missed the opening.

Posted by: mhonley | January 31, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

No screaming yet. Looks like they're both trying hard to keep it civil here...

Another debate liveblog:

Posted by: parkerfl | January 31, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

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