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The McCain Impact on the Democrats

Following Florida's Republican primary on Tuesday night, one thing became indisputably clear: Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is now the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.

McCain's ascension to that coveted role has drawn massive coverage over the past 24 hours -- aided by endorsements from high-profile politicians like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.). But one aspect that has been largely overlooked in all of that media attention is what effect, if any, McCain's new prominence will have on the Democratic race between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.).

Democrats have long believed -- privately -- that McCain is the strongest potential Republican nominee in a general election due to his remarkable personal story and his demonstrated appeal to moderate and independent voters. Democrats desperately want the White House back in 2009; after eight years of the Bush presidency, electability is an even more powerful issue than usual.

So powerful -- in fact -- that McCain's potential strengths as a nominee came up as an issue during a Democratic debate in South Carolina on Jan. 21.

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who left the race yesterday, sought to use McCain's appeal as evidence that he alone could win back the White House for Democrats.

"It's becoming increasingly likely, I think, that John McCain is going to be the Republican nominee," Edwards said. "Now here's what we have to be thinking about. Who will be tough enough and strong enough? And who can compete against John McCain in every place in America."

What came next is important to understanding how Clinton and Obama will use McCain to make their own arguments to Democratic voters in tonight's debate in California and the campaign to come.

Clinton quickly followed Edwards' assertion that he was best equipped to beat McCain with an argument that she alone could go toe-to-toe with the Arizona Senator.

Here's what she said:

"If John is right and Senator McCain is the Republican nominee, we know that once again we will have a general election about national security. That is what will happen. I believe of any of us, I am better positioned and better able to take on John McCain or any Republican when it comes to issues about protecting and defending our country and promoting our interest in the world. And, if it is indeed the classic Republican campaign, I've been there. I've done that."

Not to be outdone, Obama quickly chimed in with his own argument about why Clinton was wrong and why he alone offered voters a real choice if McCain is the nominee.

Here's what he said:

"I want to really focus on is this issue of national security because I think you've repeated this a number of times. You are the person best prepared on national security issues on day one, and so if you are running against John McCain that you can go toe-to-toe. I fundamentally disagree with that....I believe the the way we are going to take on somebody like John McCain on national security is not that we're sort of -- we've been sort of like John McCain, but not completely, you know, we voted for the war, but we had reservations. I think it is going to be somebody who can serve a strong contrast and say 'We've got to overcome the politics of fear in this country."

Obama further sussed out that argument with a speech in Denver on Wednesday. "It's time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain is 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 talk talking to leaders we don't like," Obama said. "We need to offer the American people a clear contrast on national security, and when I am the nominee of the Democratic Party, that's exactly what I will do."

That's a lot of rhetoric to sort through, but we'll try.

Boiled down, Clinton's argument is two-fold. First, it is that her experience as first lady and then as a senator from New York have uniquely equipped her to fight McCain to a stand still on issues like the war in Iraq and the threat posed by terrorism. Second -- and more subtly -- Clinton is making the case that her ability to withstand past Republican attacks makes her the safest bet to nominate. Without directly invoking the specter of swift boating, which has become a verb in Democratic activist circles, Clinton is seeking to raise doubts about whether Obama -- a first term senator -- will be able to stand up to the attacks sure to be thrown at him.

For Obama, McCain (and Clinton) symbolize the past, while he represents the future. McCain/Clinton are more of the same, Obama is change. The fundamental premise of Obama's argument -- in the primary and the general election --is that the way to defeat Republicans is to not ape their policies but rather to provide a stark choice for the American people. Put simply: It's time for Democrats to start acting like Democrats again.

Who's right? That depends on what you think the dynamics of the general election will be. Will it be a referendum on which candidate can keep America safe? A slugfest of charges and counter-charges aimed at painting Democrats as weak on national security and unfit to lead in troubled times? Or a generational choice between an old way of doing business and a new politics of post-partisanship? A vote in which Democrats (and Independents) reject the way business has been conducted in Washington for all of recent memory.

We don't know the answer -- a common theme these days in this space. And, the poll numbers don't help all that much.

In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC survey, McCain led Clinton, 46 percent to 44 percent, in a head-to- head matchup and was tied with Obama at 42 percent. A recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll showed Clinton ahead of McCain, 46 percent to 42 percent while McCain led Obama, 42 percent to 41 percent.

What we do know is that the emergence of McCain as the likely party nominee ensures that when Democrats across the country head to their polling place on Tuesday, the Arizona senator will be in their minds. How much of an effect he will have on how voters vote and what exactly that effect will be remains to be seen. Five days and counting.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 31, 2008; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: Democratic Debate Preview: Lights Out In L.A.?


svreader, I have seen Sicko, and support gov't health care. I just don't think the best way to go about it is to require that folks pay insurance companies.

I'd rather see single payer. And if we can't get that, I don't think mandates will help. Krugman understands the policy, but politically this won't work. This is completely different than, for example, mandating auto insurance. Not everyone has to drive. Everyone does, at times, need to go to a doctor, though.

I'll support it if it's the only option we get to fix health care, but I think there are better solutions, and I think Obama's is one of them.

Posted by: rpy1 | January 31, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

svreader - Hysterical feminists don't impress me in the least. I'm not frightened of them. And that little ploy by you Cltinonites has worn more than a little thin. Retire it. Actually, no one male is frightedn of feminists, they actually disgust us. Sometimes they make us quite angry becasue they are the lamest, silliest collection of intellectual lightweights we have ever encountered. But, please keep up the posts. Every time you or one of you "Clinton gals" gets on their high horse, they prove my point and drive it home.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

mibrooks --

You're the one who sounds hysterical to me.

Everyone I've spoken to who works with Senator Clinton strikes me as a lot more rational than you do.

So strong, powerful women scare you, do they?

I think they're quite sexy.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Now you just sound hysterical....rather like....Hillary Cltinon. As for Fox, et al, I never listen or watch. I realy am a Democrat. I just can't stand divisive crooks and everything I have read and heard leads me to believe both Clinton's are both. As for her web site; been there, done that. You need to read some of the posts on the blog page there. A bunch of hysterical, angry feminists does not make Democratic males feel all warm and cozy about Ms. Clinton and that mob in control of things.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

mibrooks --

That's their right. I'm sure when they get sick and don't have any health insurance they can deal with the pain by focusing on their hatred of Senator Clinton.

Why don't you put the crackpipe down and look at her web site.

She's not the wicked witch of the west.

She's one of the most impressive thinkers of our time and the best champion the middle-class has out of any of the candidates running.

Don't believe what you hear on Rush Limbaugh or Fox.

Remember, he's on the drugs you're going to need if you get seriously ill.

Vote for Hillary.

The life you save may be your own.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

svreader - You can write about Hillary all you want, but there are A LOT of Democrats here, and many more nationally that will never vote for her. We don't trust her. And why should we? She has been involved in all sorts of underhanded business ventures, her word is meaningless (look at the primaries in Florida and Michigan!). She's toast, a certain looser that will drag down the whole Democratic Party. She's our Ron Paul. The difference is, even the most rabid conservative understands that Ron Paul would cost them dearly, while Clinton partisan's are still being delussional and think she can win, if only.... A Clinton Presidency simply isn't going to fly.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I believe Your following statement is an accurate description of the Obama position: "For Obama, McCain (and Clinton) symbolize the past, while he represents the future. McCain/Clinton are more of the same, Obama is change. The fundamental premise of Obama's argument -- in the primary and the general election --is that the way to defeat Republicans is to not ape their policies but rather to provide a stark choice for the American people. Put simply: Put simply: It's time for Democrats to start acting like Democrats again."

Obama stated in part:

"I fundamentally disagree with that....I believe the the way we are going to take on somebody like John McCain on national security is not that we're sort of -- we've been sort of like John McCain, but not completely, you know, we voted for the war, but we had reservations. I think it is going to be somebody who can serve a strong contrast and say 'We've got to overcome the politics of fear in this country."

Obama's statement seems to contradict his Kumbaya naivete about how he is going to change existing Washington politics by working to eliminate the so called partisanship that permeates old Washington(i.e., Clinton). This statement seem to be significantly more confrontational than less and is by its very nature an entirely partisan position.

Clinton, by possessing significantly more experience on foreign policy issues as well as working with the opposition in the Senate, has more clout, knowledge and bargaining positions. She is much more able to confront McCain with knowledge and power than Obama could ever hope to be able to do at this stage of his participation. He cannot match McCain in any debate or counter-attack on Iraq security and foreign policy issues; Clinton easily can. Bornstein4

Posted by: Bornstein4 | January 31, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

bsimon --

You should care what Krugman says because he's a world-famous economics professor who does this for a living and has written extensively about universal health care plans in countries around the world.

But you don't care about facts, do you?

You're part of the faith-based community aren't you?

I put my faith in Physics.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

"Most people who go bankrupt do so because of medical bills."

I'm aware of that. I agree that the system needs to be changed. I think Sen Clinton's proposal will not be the kind of change the system needs. Her plan is little more than a way to churn up more business for the insurance industry.

And, regarding Krugman, why would I give a [expletive] what he thinks?

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

bsimon --

Paul Krugman and I strongly disagree with you and Obama.

I hope your luck keeps holding out for you.

Most people who go bankrupt do so because of medical bills.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

svreader writes
"You're obviously confused about Obama's plan. It does not provide coverage for everyone. It doesn't even mandate it."

Au contraire. You're obviously confused about what I wrote. I know Obama's plan doesn't cover everyone. The people left uncovered are those that can afford to buy their own healthcare BUT CHOOSE NOT TO, and aren't covered by their employer.

That is a far preferable policy than for the Gov't to create a new office of healthcare compliance that starts checking people for insurance. What, will I have to start carrying my papers, lest I be caught without insurance?

Hillary's plan over-reaches. Its a bad proposal.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

By the way, does it strike anyone else as strange to hear a lawyer say that he's not any good with paperwork?

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

serena --

To me its part of a worrysome trend.
Obama keeps missing the central point on critical issues.

Its alright for him to say that he's disorganized and not a "detail person"

But to me, that disqualifiess him for being President of the United States.

Details matter.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

"Of course, I'd be telling a different story if I'd grown a third nut or something during that time."

Because this is such a family newspaper, bsimon, I'm going to assume that statement means you are a small shagbark hickory tree.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

*** SVReader

Clinton's healthcare plan is a mandate that everyone must sign up or get fined whereas Obama's healthcare plan is to make it "affordable" -- but for those whom cannot afford it are not required to sign up.

Therein is a slight difference, but a difference all the same. Nevertheless Congress will, in the long run, be the arbitrators so that slight difference may not matter at all.

Posted by: serena1313 | January 31, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

bsimon --

You're obviously confused about Obama's plan. It does not provide coverage for everyone. It doesn't even mandate it.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Mexican food, Mark? One of my favorite things about the Southwest...

'Thought it was interesting that Biden sat with Clinton at the State of the Union.... wonder if he was just being a gentleman or showing the flag for a future alliance?'

This is what I hope. It is good to see this debate out there...

'No more arguing about the 2002 vote, just what are you going to do now?'

yes - but what are the R's going to do? All I hear about from them is Iraq. That's hardly the end all and be all of our problems. The issue is... I'm not entirely sure I trust ANY of them with national security. And least of all those who align with the neocons/Rudy. McCain campaigning with him really disappoints me.

Posted by: drindl | January 31, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

svreader writes, of health care:
"Obama's plan is the worst."

Why? He covers the folks who can't afford their own, either 100% or subsidized, based on income. For those that can afford it, but don't get it through work, he leaves the decision up to them whether they buy their own health insurance or not. What is so horrible about that? I've been in that boat, and I rolled the dice. Turned out I won the bet: saved a couple grand on insurance premiums & didn't need any healthcare. Perhaps stupid, but considering I came out ahead financially, was it really? Of course, I'd be telling a different story if I'd grown a third nut or something during that time.

I agree that we need to change the system; but I don't think any of the candidates have offered anything that addresses the fundamental problems in the system.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

rpy1 --

Health care is Americans' #1 concern.

We can't keep paying more and getting less than every other country on earth.

Its a tragedy that every day Americans cross into Canada to buy prescription drugs because they're 1/2 the price there that they are here.

Go rent the movie "Sicko"

No country should make a citizen have to choose which one of two fingers to save after an accident because of the person's health insurance coverage.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Do you want the gov't dictating how you spend your money - and fining you when you don't? Not me, thanks. Hillary's plan is worse than single-payer.

Thank you, bsimon. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. I figure that if *I* can think of the attack ads that would be used on that sort of policy, then I'm sure other folks can, too.

Posted by: rpy1 | January 31, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

bsimon --

We spend more on health care and get less for it than any other country.

The single biggest reason is our crazy insurance system which rewards Insurance companies for denying care.

Single payer would be the best, but it's too big a jump from where we are right now.

Obama's plan is the worst.

Hillary and Edwards plans a just right.

Obama has a bad habit of missing the central point on critical issues.

Obama's not a "detail guy"

Hillary has great vision, understands complex issues, and loves detail.

Vote for Hillary Clinton.

The life you save may be your own!!!

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

"I am not completing this thought because I am going to meet my wife for Mexican."

I'm jealous Mark because it'll be good Mexican, unlike the chain stuff we have here in Ohio.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

McC is not talking about 100 years of war, as you critics know. He has a vision that includes American troops stationed in the Middle East. That vision is not inconsistent with an American role as a constructive peace maker.

I am not completing this thought because I am going to meet my wife for Mexican.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

svreader writes
"Clinton's plan covers everyone.

Obama's plan doesn't."

Another important distinction:

Hillary's plan mandates that you buy your own insurance.

Obama's doesn't.

Do you want the gov't dictating how you spend your money - and fining you when you don't? Not me, thanks. Hillary's plan is worse than single-payer.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Mark, I bet they don't spend much time on the mideast tonight. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, I think with my post about the Levin Amendment we are in agreement about HRC.

Tonight I want to hear the Ds actually tell what their plans are for the Middle East.

No more arguing about the 2002 vote, just what are you going to do now?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: Obviously I don't think Obama is anything like Bush. But if he were the nominee and he started down that same "My veep nominee is very experienced" path, I'd be perfectly happy seeing him lose.

The vice president has few official duties and "being experienced when the president isn't" is not one of them. There should not be some sort of void for the veep to fill. there is one president and that's it.

Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The Clinton's business dealings will be red meat for John McCain.

Posted by: Trumbull | January 31, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

"...and there's someone in the Whitehouse who knows what they're doing and is looking out for the needs of the middle class....We'd rather have Hillary Clinton as President."

And I'd rather have Mother Teresa as President. That's not going to happen. If she wins the nomination, HRC as President might not happen either.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

svreader said:

"Clinton Supporters don't want to sleep with Hillary...".

Perhaps more than we wnated to know about you.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Obama supporters --

We know you love Obama. That's sweet.

You know what's even sweeter? Having everyone in America covered by Universal Health Care.

Clinton's plan covers everyone.

Obama's plan doesn't.

Clinton Supporters don't want to sleep with Hillary, we just want to sleep better at night knowing that we have health care and there's someone in the Whitehouse who knows what they're doing and is looking out for the needs of the middle class.

Hillary = Health Care.
Obama = Hot Air.

We'd rather have Hillary Clinton as President.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I must weigh in. My husband and are long-time Dems. We have come to a huge decision today, Thus, which will make our party mad and the Repubs happy. If Hillary wins the nomination we have decided that we will NOT vote for her. I must state that we are Obama supporters and hope that we don't have to make that decision. If there are others out there like us we will probably put a Repub back in the WH. I live in AZ and do feel that McCain is too old, but he is probably someone we can live with. Now we won't vote for him either. We do not want to see a Bush/Clinton dynasty - it is time to turn the page on that issue. I am writing this because I want fellow Dems/women to wake up and smell the coffee. I also will not vote for Hillary just because she is a woman. Thanks

Posted by: claudiam1 | January 31, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

What DonJasper said at 5:06p.m. What was Hillary doing when Bush was pre-emptively striking Iraq? Sponsoring anti-flag burning legislation, like first amendment protest was going to be our big problem. Seriously, when was the last time anyone saw a flag burning in this country and is it really the right thing to get your panties in a bunch over, what with torture, the outing of CIA agents and missing White House emails to choose from? Enough already. Go Obama!

Posted by: SarahBB | January 31, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans shiver at the prospect of a few of their undisciplined downballot candidates straying "off the reservation" and taking pot shots at Obama that voters would perceive (again, fairly or unfairly) to be racist."

Except in TN, where it would work wonders.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Wes Clark, as reported in October, 2002:
Clark believes that a military war with Iraq could be over in as little as two weeks. He is concerned with the lack of a long-range plan for the chaos that would ensue among the Kurds, Shiites, and those factions loyal to Saddam Hussein, which Clark believes would play out on a much larger scale than what took place in Bosnia.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

spectator2 writes, of an Obama administration
"Oh goody. Let's have a reprise of Bush-Cheney."

Its a bit of a stretch, on your part, to compare Obama with Bush.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

McCain has a problem with one key base that is critical to any Republican candidate: The evangelical right. At this point, despite his position as presumptive nominee, he cannot count on them to turn out for him in the general. A professor at George Mason University whose special area of study is the "Christian right" said this morning in an NPR interview that the only thing that would unite the now-splintered evangelicals is a Hillary Clinton nomination.

Beyond that, ask any red or purple state down-ballot Democratic candidate what their worst nightmare is. He or she will tell you that it is running a race in the fall and (fairly or unfairly) having to defend Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket.

Bill Clinton, with the help of Hillary's health care debacle, devastated downballot Democrats in 1994. Hillary has the capacity (again, fairly or unfairly) to do the same in 2008.

On the other hand, despite a "subterrainian" prejudice that knocks several percentage points off of an African American candidate's vote totals, down-ballot Republicans simply cannot effectively run "against" Obama the way they can run "against" Hillary. Republicans shiver at the prospect of a few of their undisciplined downballot candidates straying "off the reservation" and taking pot shots at Obama that voters would perceive (again, fairly or unfairly) to be racist. In other words, next to Bill Richardson, Obama is the Republican's worst nightmare because injudicious opposition to him on the part of some of their partisans might have the effect of solidifying minority voters against them for another 50 years.

Another interesting dynamic in Obama's favor is his potential to attract surprisingly large numbers of . . . believe it or not, evangelicals. I won't try to expain this dynamic here, but suffice it to say that the nature of many evangelicals is to "search" for messiahs. Some significant number of them may very well see the unconventional Obama that way. Trust me on this one. You heard it here first.

Posted by: Stonecreek | January 31, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, what I did not like about HRC's position at the time was that she did not vote for the Levin Amendment, that would have allowed the prez to order invasion as part of a UN mandate, but required him to come back to the Senate if the UN balked.

I would voted for that Amendment, and having lost, I would have voted for the authorization as it passed. But in hindsight, I would have wished I had not.

Wes Clark and Bob Graham, who both wanted to get rid of Saddam at some point, raised the issue in a way that I should have understood then.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

To you who don't think HRC hasn't had much scrutiny, you have no credibility in anything you say.

For the past 16 years, from the moment she said "she could have stayed home and baked cookies", the gloves were off, take no prisoners attitude from the scumbags on the other side made mountains out of anthills.

Already Obama is sulking around, from the so-called Clinton antics which is pretty mild stuff compared to what he's going to see if he's the nominee. Let's see how he reacts when he's accused of accomplice to murder.

Posted by: ebabin | January 31, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

"Vote for me! Even though I have no experience, my vice president is very experienced!"

Agreed. But the D field richly demonstrates that experience only goes so far in attracting votes. The same demonstration was front and center for the R's in 2000.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Mark writes
"HR did not make this up last year. I do not care to be her defense attorney, but her speech on the vote contained these words:"

What I don't understand is why she didn't then call out the Bush admin on NOT letting the inspectors do their job? It took her more than 4 years to figure out that she'd been hoodwinked on the vote. And she still thinks it was the right decision to vote to approve to use force without having read the NIE first.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

"Obama ties McCain but there is more likelihood to demonize or belittle Obama than Clinton (Those who already hate her, hate her)"

Yes, but those who already hate her will bring themselves, their grandparents, their uncles and cousins out to vote against her. While the troglodytes will come out against Obama, that crowd will be more than balanced out by Obama Republicans.

Clinton Republicans don't exist.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Drindle, You make some good points... hopefully Obama's comment about Lieberman was just head-patting.

Thought it was interesting that Biden sat with Clinton at the State of the Union.... wonder if he was just being a gentleman or showing the flag for a future alliance?

Posted by: Truth_Hunter | January 31, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

judge: My point is that I don't want some neophyte who will say, "Vote for me! Even though I have no experience, my vice president is very experienced!"

We ended up with President Cheney and Puppet Bush.

Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

The democratic party leans slightly left with its left win being its most vocal group. We also live in "social bubbles". If you are anti-war, then often many of your friends, colleagues, and the media you listen to will be more likely anti-war. The country is more centrist but fear easily makes the country more center-right. The situation in Pakistan is getting worse therefore over the next year anxiety about terrorism will go up.

Obama's left wing view and anti-war stance plays well to the left but not to the center or right. If Clinton is "surrendering" then Obama will be called worse and it will stick. Saying we must not be influenced by "the politics of fear" sounds great to the left and to others in time of peace, but both the economy and war will be at play. Obama has little experience with either and when actually electing a president (not a primary candidate) I believe people will go with the safer McCain. Clinton's vote will actually be an asset in the general election because she can say she is not "soft of terrorist" but is also smart enough and flexible enough to change direction. The change direction aspect is what I believe is what is often reflected in the unhappiness over the war.

On economic policies, people will remember the Clinton years as being the first administration (in half a century) to create a surplus and therefore assume that she can get an economic team competent enough to help the economy (and yes that probably includes Bill). Even now the polls show HRC is tied or beats McCain.

Obama ties McCain but there is more likelihood to demonize or belittle Obama than Clinton (Those who already hate her, hate her).McCain's embrace of Bush will hurt him with both democrats and independents. If people look towards the general election, in a time of economic troubles and war, HRC is the better democratic candidate.

Posted by: mcfield | January 31, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, HR did not make this up last year. I do not care to be her defense attorney, but her speech on the vote contained these words:

If we get the resolution that President Bush seeks, and if Saddam complies, disarmament can proceed and the threat can be eliminated. Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition.

If we get the resolution and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise.

If we try and fail to get a resolution that simply, but forcefully, calls for Saddam's compliance with unlimited inspections, those who oppose even that will be in an indefensible position.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

My point being that yes, experience can be important (Cheney actually had lots of experience) but so can vision, perspective and intelligence. That last one leads to intense feelings of nostalgia for the 90's. And the 80's. And the 70's. And the 60' get my point.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I like McCain, but in the general he's going to take it in the teeth on Iraq.

That's a pretty bug handicap to give away to the other side at the get-go.

Easy enough to link the 9B/month in deficit spending it takes to keep Iraq going - and McCain's support for it - to claim forked tongue on matters economic.

I also think that the nation has had a belly-full of Republican Rule, and that the (R) next to McCain's name is another handicap.

Posted by: DonJasper | January 31, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Depending on which poll you are looking at Obama either polls better than McCain or is within the range of error. The more people get to know Obama the better they like him.

Eleven days ago Gallup showed Clinton 20 points ahead of Obama. Today that gap has narrowed to 6 points. He also polls, depending on which poll you are looking at, within the range of error or ahead of McCain.

Obama has proven his mettle uniting people, inspiring young and old, black and white, Asian, Native American, Latinos moderate republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives and first time voters to vote for him. Yesterday while in Denver over 10,000 people flocked to see Obama speak.

What Obama represents to America is change. In contrast once Americans hear McCain has said he is willing to keep our soldiers in Iraq for 100 years, plans perpetual war and will roll back health care, etc... they will not be so gung-ho to vote for him. He is more likely to invade Iran. I do not think that is what Americans want. Plus there is the matter of his age, 72 years old.

I think it boils down to who can inspire and motivate the country to take action:

McCain or Obama?

Posted by: serena1313 | January 31, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

""Agree that Obama has already successfully deflated the 'experience' argument once and could do it again especially if he picks up the right running mate."
Oh goody. Let's have a reprise of Bush-Cheney.
Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 05:00 PM"

How about Lincoln-Johnson? That combination was even less experienced than Bush-Darth Cheney and boy, did Lincoln ever stink things up!

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

From the headlines: Abu Laith al-Libi, one of al-Qaeda's most senior commanders, was killed in Pakistan on Monday, Western officials said today.

The officials declined to comment on whether Libi's death was related to a reported U.S. missile strike, launched from an unmanned Predator aircraft, that killed at least a dozen people Monday in Pakistan's North Waziristan region.

If the Shrillary and Obambi continue tonight to harp about how we've 'forgotten Afghanistan', then please, Anderson Cooper, remind them of todays' news. Libi's death is a major success for the U.S. military.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | January 31, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"Agree that Obama has already successfully deflated the 'experience' argument once and could do it again especially if he picks up the right running mate."

Oh goody. Let's have a reprise of Bush-Cheney.

Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"I mean for the most part, I for example do not agree with a missile defense system, but I dont think that soon-to-be-Secretary Rumsfeld is in any way out of the mainstream of American political life. And I would argue that the same would be true for the vast majority of the Bush nominees, and I give him credit for that.'

okay, nobody knew how bad rumsfeld or ashcroft would turn out to be -- but jeezus. that speech gives me pause. bush appointments were all horrendous--either lobbyists intent on destroying the very agency they headed, or incompetent cronies, or privateer/profiteers. bad judgement on obama's part, i'd say. and who would he be appointing? has he talked about that much? at one point he said something about lieberman and i though i'd retch.

one thing about Hillary, i do beleive she would bring in good people. to me, the thought of Joe Biden as Secretary of State, for instance, is very appealing.

and who would McCain bring in for State? Guiliani? If that is appealing to you, you must be longing for your 40 v*rgins in heaven. who has been his military advisors? anybody know?

Posted by: drindl | January 31, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

"To all Obama supporters --So far, your entire campaign has been based on bashing Senator Clinton."

"McCain is a centrist"

Agree that these comments are apparently derived from some parallel universe.

Obama would clearly benefit from the anti-war vote. McCain would not. HRC would be stuck somewhere in the middle. It's anyone's guess as to where she would eventually stand (on a lot of issues, not just Iraq) if she becomes the nominee. To the left of McCain, certainly.

Will McCain actively pander to the American Taliban? He certainly won't do it as successfully as Bush II did. For one, they are "once bitten twice shy" thanks to Bush II. For another, many of the talking heads on the right hate McCain and the American Taliban take their dictation. Finally, Huckabee is/was their obvious choice and he's history at least in 2008.

Debates between HRC and McCain would likely contain a lot of pyrotechnics as they would each try to take each other out of their comfort zones. Much ado about very little would be the rule.

Agree that Obama has already successfully deflated the 'experience' argument once and could do it again especially if he picks up the right running mate.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

lyle also writes
"Once again "It's the ECONOMY Stupid" will far out distance any other issue. This is where Hillary has the advantage, and will win."

I actually do agree with you there, or half agree. Yes, it is about the economy. McCain still prefers to talk about the war, and will likely continue that argument through november. But the voters are more interested in the economy.

Your argument that HRC is the better candidate for that is a matter of opinion; one with which I don't agree.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

jfrisbie1 - I don't know where you are coming from. Don't you read these forums? I'm a reliable Democratic voter who absolutely wont vote for Clinton. There are at least 20 posts from Democratic voters on the Fix forum today that all say they will vote for McCain if Clinton is the nominee. Magnify this by tens of thousands of psts all over the internet. Do you somehow think we're just kidding? That this is just something we're saying because we're temporarily angry at Clinton and we'll come around when we realize what a swell gal she is? You're simply being delussional. Clinton and her coattails are an absolutely certain defeat for Democrats. Nothing's going to change that. People, a very very large number of them Democrats, loathe her and aren't going to change their mind about her.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It was January 17, 2001, and Illinois state senator Barack Obama was on WTTW11's "Chicago Tonight." Discussing his opposition to Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft, Obama praised newly-elected President Bush's new nominee for Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. "The proof in the pudding is looking at the treatment of the other Bush nominees," Obama said. "I mean for the most part, I for example do not agree with a missile defense system, but I dont think that soon-to-be-Secretary Rumsfeld is in any way out of the mainstream of American political life. And I would argue that the same would be true for the vast majority of the Bush nominees, and I give him credit for that. "So I don't want to be pegged as being far left simply because I find certain aspects in John Ashcroft's record to be divisive or offensive," Obama continued. "I think it's legitimate for me to raise that. As I said before, if he brought before us a nominee who didn't agree with me on affirmative action and yet said that, you know, I do think that and showed a history for showing regard and concern for racial justice, if he came before us and said I oppose a woman's right to choose, or I oppose abortion, I find it religiously offensive, and yet I do respect, for example, the notion that we shouldn?t be solving these things with violence, historically, if that had been what was said, then I don't think I would object. And I think that's a fair position to take."

Posted by: ericr1970 | January 31, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Lylepink writes
"Obama and his supporters have continued the "Hillary VOTED for the WAR in IRAQ." This has been PROVEN time and time again to be FALSE"

Hillary Voted to approve the use of force in Iraq. This is true. Obama & his supporters continually harp on that vote. This is also true. Hillary has never stepped back from that vote. True. Where's the issue? It is in the common phrase - which goes all the back to the initial vote, including the 2004 election, if you remember, that the shorthand to refer to that vote is "Voting for the war." As in John Kerry saying "I voted for the war before I voted against it." Hillary now tries to rewrite that history and say she was voting for more inspectors, which is an argument she didn't make until sometime last year. IN other words, for about 5 years, she was fine with calling it a 'vote for the war'. Now that its damaging to her candidacy, she wants to appear a tad less hawkish, so gets offended when she is portrayed as having done what she did: vote for the war.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama can get many more independents in the general election, he might also grab many republicans since Mccain has problems with conservatives.

Posted by: ObamaForPrez | January 31, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Chris, the question you did not ask is who can best win over independents and moderate Republicans (anti-war)? Is it Hillary or Barack? The answer, based on how elections have been going this year, is Barack.


Posted by: Munir1 | January 31, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

lyle, I would agree with you that the economy will be the bigger issue in the GE. But saying that HRC voted for a resolution ceding Congress's power to declare war to GWB doesn't seem like a great fallback position on Iraq. The bill she voted for was the one that GWB used to go to war. All of us who were opposed to the start of the war at that time knew where it was going...

Posted by: rpy1 | January 31, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama will have a better shot at plucking independents away from McCain than HRC would. While democrats would rally behind Hilary if she secures the nomination, McCain would swamp her boat with independents--not to mention the hard core right will be more inclined to get off the couch and vote against her than they would if Obama had the nomination.

Democrats can't win being Bush lite, it is unsatisfying, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe Obama can burnish his lack of military experience with Webb on the ticket.

Posted by: jfrisbie1 | January 31, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the United States went through a period of some 30 years in which we elected mostly Senators to the White House.

Kennedy was elected directly from the Senate. Truman, Johnson and Nixon were all elected Vice President based on their service in the Senate. Most of the candidates who ran against them -- Goldwater, McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, Humphrey, Muskie, McGovern -- were Senators as well.

Governors came back into vogue as Presidential candidates after Watergate cast a pall over the claim of Washington experience. It helped the successful candidacies of Carter and then Reagan that they were former governors, able to run for President and to call upon the political networks they'd built in their home states without having to worry about holding down a full time job -- a factor that also helped Clinton and Bush, governors of states in which the governor has less to do than the governor of, say, New York or Wisconsin.

At any rate, barring a Romney comeback it looks as if we stand a good chance of elected another Senator to the White House this year. Between Clinton and Obama, it is worth noting three things.

First, either would have a huge advantage that isn't discussed as much now as it will be in a few months. The incumbent Republican President is seriously unpopular; his approval ratings have been at historic lows for longer than any other President's, longer even than Nixon's during Watergate. To win the GOP nomination McCain has had to emphasize all the areas on which he agrees with Bush, while in the general he will need to make the case that he is the change from Bush that people want. That's a thin, thin tightrope to walk.

Second, "experience" is a winning advantage only if voters believe that "inexperience" would be dangerous for some reason. To some extent this would be an advantage for either Democrat -- compared to McCain, neither Democrat has really accomplished that much in public life, and they would both benefit from the fact that voters don't care that much. Moreover McCain knows most about the areas of policy in which Obama and Clinton have been little more than observers, foreign policy and national security affairs. Once again, his experience in that area is less compelling because of his close association with the unpopular Republican President. So the marginal difference between Clinton's experience and Obama's probably won't make that much difference in the general election.

The third thing to be aware of is McCain's real greatest advantage: people like him. He is entertaining, and human, and doesn't appear to think he expects people to vote for him because of his name or what he did earlier in his career. We can see what this has produced in the GOP primaries. All the lobbyists and organized interests that have quarrelled with McCain were blasting him early in the campaign; now, with the primaries coming one after another, the media is listening to what other Republican elected officials have to say. One after another, they are all coming out for McCain -- because they like him more than they do Romney.

Granted that Romney has contributed to this situation. But it suggests that the Democrats would be very poorly advised to nominate a candidate who many Americans dislike. Sen. Obama probably won't generate the rapture in a general election campaign that he has among some Democrats, but most people who know him seem to think he's an OK guy personally. That's not true of Sen. Clinton. She has devoted admirers, for sure, but large numbers of Americans (including some who admire her husband, for whatever reason) neither like nor trust her.

Does this mean she can't win against McCain in November? No. It only means she could lose. Her biggest weakness as a candidate would be going head to head with McCain greatest strength. That's not the case with Obama, and that's why he'd be a better bet for the Democrats this year.

Posted by: jbritt3 | January 31, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: I have to agree with svreader for the most part in that Obama and his supporters have continued the "Hillary VOTED for the WAR in IRAQ." This has been PROVEN time and time again to be FALSE. National Security is not going to be the issue in the GE. Once again "It's the ECONOMY Stupid" will far out distance any other issue. This is where Hillary has the advantage, and will win.

Posted by: lylepink | January 31, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

The foremost issue that pushes me to support Obama over HRC is HRC's 'yea' vote on the 2006 Kyl-Lieberman amendment declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

This piece of legislation was widely -- and in my view correctly -- perceived as a congressional fig-leaf that would serve as a green light for military operations against Iran:

for if Iran is a terror state, the logic goes, and we are in a "war on terror", then clearly it's time for war with Iran.

This amendment was the product of the same brew of militarism, knee-jerk unilateralism, and AIPAC that gave us the Iraq war we're supposedly "winning" as our army and world standing degrade and our debts to China soar.

It was great politics, but dangerous, and stupid.

I am sure HRC knew this, but she took the politically tactical move, and supported Kyl-Lieberman.

McCain goes several steps kookier, calling for 100 years of war AND permanent tax cuts -- a debt-driven strategy that will have us following the British empire into oblivion if we're foolish enough to follow him.

Obama has opposed military adventurism from the start.

Imagine what the world would look like today if we had hit back at Afghanistan hard, captured Osama Bin Laden, and used our power to put that tormented nation on its feet.

It's not too late for American leadership a and vision to return us to our rightful place as a beacon and hope, and a pillar of justice and strength in the wider world.

That's why I'm voting for Obama.

Posted by: al75 | January 31, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

In his endorsement this afternoon, Gov. Schwarzenegger praised McCain for his positions on fighting global warming, protecting the environment and ending wasteful spending in Washington. In addition, "he has incredible credentials in national security," the governor said, while appearing with McCain and former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at a plant that manufactures solar energy products.

It's hard to see how the Ds will run against that strong of a ticket. But, maybe if Hillary cries enough times it might swing the vote.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | January 31, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

A McCain vs. Hillary race will be a landslide victory for McCain, McCain will draw conservative democrats and all most all the independents to his side. It will be a blowout victory like the one Reagan won over Mondale in 1984. I predict McCain will win close to forty states. An Obama vs. McCain race on the other hand will be classic, the young upstart vs. the old school. The future vs. the past. Obama is 46 McCain is 71. America are looking to the future not the past. I believe Obama will prevail over McCain because he will not only keep the conservative democrats on his side, he will win his share of the independent vote and pull in some moderate and conservative democrats.

Posted by: lumi21us | January 31, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

callie: Look what long Senate careers did for Dodd and Biden. Obama had to run now, considering his platform. It's hard to run on a message of change when you've been in power through all the years during which nothing was getting done. Clinton has been in power throughout the Bush years and what does she have to show for it? A laundry list of recorded votes that can be used as attack ad fodder, including the big one for the Iraq war (this is why Senators don't become Presidents). Granted Obama probably would've voted for it if he had been in the Senate at the time. But the fact is that he didn't and that IS important.

I agree that Clinton's argument that she can go "toe-to-toe" with McCain on national security is ridiculous. That's why the Democrats need a candidate who will redefine the playing field. The question isn't who can look tougher on terror, the Neocon's home turf (worked great for Kerry, an actual war hero). It's who can argue that we don't want our foreign policy to be born out of fear and paranoia anymore.

Posted by: eatmesomecookies | January 31, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

wilkins937 sums up very nicely the way most voters view the candidates. I'll vote fir Obama, but I fully expect to loose. If Clinton is the nominee, I'll vote for McCain and count on Clinton to be trounced.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

_Colin - I hope the Supreme Court decides that way, but in the Washington D.C. case (brought by *liberal gun owners*, mind you), the liberals on the court sided with the gun owners and the opposition was a Bush appointed judge - a dyed in the wool necon. I simply don't trust most conservatives and don't trust any neo-cons. And, with two sons in the military, Iraq is very high on my list of concerns. It isn't and it wont be very high on the list of conerns for most voters by the time November comes around, unless the Taliban or Al Qaida nut cases do something insane and start an offensive that kills a bunch of our troops or, even worse, attacks us again.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Let's take a look at the records here.

Obama promises "change" but what has he actually done? Nothing. He talks about taking away tax breaks from companies that outsource and the like, but did he ever in his four years in office ever offer up a proposal to do that? No, not once. Whe McCain invoked the ire of the repubs by joining the Gang of 14 to block filibusters did Obama join? No he didn't.

In fact, Obama's record is 100% liberal. If your political views are that way it is fine, but independents and Republicans who are swayed by this man need to take a hard look. He wants change alright, he wants everyone to move over to him, not him moving over to the center. John McCain is the only person left in this race who has ever ACTUALLY worked in a bi-partiisan manner.

If people, as I do, want to end this governing from the base, then McCain is clearly the superior candidate against either one of them, although he would beat HRC by a larger margin.

Posted by: wilkins937 | January 31, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Spectator2, Blarg - Edwards was a centrist with the core issues most voters are concerned with. He was viewed as such by most voters in national polls, too. His stance, in opposition to outsourcing jobs, is in line with what most voters want. He had even been endorsed by the NRA, so gun control was a non-issue. As for health care, most people would agree with Edwards and Obama, but this isn't any anyone's radar right now and will be even further off it come November. The election will be won or lost on the blue collar issues - jobs, Wall Street and corporate excesses, and gun control.

I wont argue with you about Iraq and choice and basic fairness for gays, since we likely agree on those issues, but the vast majority of the voting public either doesn't care about those or is 180 degrees opposite our belief. So, look to the blue collar issues to get an idea of who will win in November. Right now, Clinton has missed the boat and Obama is running to the left. Not a good idea!

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

svwriter writes
"Obama supporters, your entire campaign has been based on bashing Senator Clinton."

Strange. A week ago, it was all just lofty rhetoric and naive dreaming. Now you're changing your story and saying its just about bashing Clinton? Have you been paying attention? BAsed on your comment, it would appear not.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

My prediction as of today:

In a McCain vs. Clinton race - McCain wins 60 to 40.

In a McCain vs. Obama race - Obama wins 51 to 49.

Even though McCain vs. Obama is a much tighter race, it will be far less partisan and angry.

Posted by: kwpickett | January 31, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

To all Obama supporters --

So far, your entire campaign has been based on bashing Senator Clinton.

Exactly how is that going to help you against McCain?

Its also ironic that Obama talks about healing differences while running the dirtiest campaign we've seen in years.

Obama can't talk about policy, because everyone agrees he's screwed up both his health care and economic stimulus proposals.

Obama doesn't know anything about policy.

We need more than a male model as President.

Hillary Clinton knows what's broken and how to fix it.

Hillary will get you health care.

Obama will just give you hot air.

Posted by: svreader | January 31, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

MikeB -- you're right that the country wants a "centrist," but where is the "center" on an issue like Iraq? I would suggest that of the current major candidates on both sides, Obama's "we need to be as carefull getting out as we were reckless getting in" message is exactly where most of the public is. Similarly, universal health care is - as Newt used to put it - a 60/40 issue in 2008. McCain, although a decent man, is anything but in the center on most of the major issues of the day. And he's run even further to the right during this cycle. I think the contrast between Obama and McCain is a big win for Obama.

Oh, and as far as guns go I have a question for you. I suspect the Supreme Court is about to say that (1) there is an individual right to gun ownership; and (2) that right nonetheless allows for reasonable and limited regulation. If that's the case, could you accept a Democrat saying that it should be up to states to decide what constitutes appropriate regulations? Because I suspect that's what Obama's position is and will be going forward.

Ya just don't need the same gun regulations in Chicago and Oregon, which is I believe where you're from.

Posted by: _Colin | January 31, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama should be bringing up HRC's vote for the Iraq War and her subsequent refusal to say it was mistake every day.

Posted by: cjroses | January 31, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

callie: given that the country almost never elects senators as presidents to begin with, the relative experience of two senators -- as senators -- will be a non-issue.

American voters just don't care about resumes. If they did, we might be reminiscing about President Stevenson, President Humphrey, President Dole...

Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

MikeB: How was Edwards a centrist? He was the most reliably liberal of the big 3 Democratic candidates on most issues. Especially economic issues.

Hillary's argument that she can best withstand Republican attacks is particularly inane if McCain is the Republican. He's less likely to attack his opponents than any other Republican. He's too close to the Democrats to use the standard Republican attacks on issues. (Hating freedom, loving illegal immigrants, coddling terrorists instead of torturing them, etc.) And his image as a straight-talking maverick is destroyed if he focuses too much on personal attacks. So Hillary's supposed immunity to Republican attacks isn't much of an asset.

Posted by: Blarg | January 31, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

mibrooks: While one can quibble about whether McCain is, overall, a centrist (McCain himself would certainly take issue with that), he is the farthest candidate from the center on the Iraq war, marching hip to hip with Bush (maybe even to the right of Bush's hip).

And because of that, he would be giving the Dems a big fat fastball down the middle -- the ability to run those commercials showing Bush morph into McCain.

There's a reason the name Bush is never mentioned at GOP debates.

Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

As a Libertarian - Republican, I'm supporting Paul (but not if he runs in the general as a Libertarian). If it's Clinton V McCain, I'm all McCain. If it's Obama V McCain, I'm an "undecided voter". Food for thought for Dem primary voters...

Posted by: ryan.crowley | January 31, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

There is no doubt that Obama is the dems best chance to beat McCain. He consistently does better than HRC in head to heads, and is nowhere near as divisive. Republicans don't seem to hate him like they do HRC. I think an Obama v McCain match up would be (relatively) light on dirty politics.

I'm not so sure I could say the same if HRC is nominated, even though I am a democratic supporter (note I cannot vote, as I am Austrlian - I used to post as aussie view). I used to really like the Clintons, I still think Bill's presidency, for all its problems, was a good one. However he (and Hillary as she has condoned his behaviour) has lost me over the past few weeks. His totally off the wall comparison of Obama to Jesse Jackson was the last straw. Why didn't he compare him to John Edwards (or to Bill himself!) as he also won South Carolina? The way race has been injected into this contest has been disappointing. I fear that if HRC is nominated many blacks will stay home. I live in Britain right now, and Bill's reputation here has really taken a hit lately.

If this is how dirty the Clintons will fight to get the nomination then it certainly won't get any better when they are up against the republicans. If Clinton wins the white house, it will quite possibly be with less than 50% of the vote. I can't see her getting any more than that.

One thing I wanted to bring up which I have noticed in the exit polling: Obama really really struggles with catholics. I am interested in people's opinions as to why this is?? Note that this is not just an hispanic problem, from what I know New Hampshire's sizeable catholic population is not made up of many hispanics and he struggled with catholics there too. Does anyone have a take on this? It could be a problem in states with many catholics like Mass, CN, NY and NJ.

Posted by: jimoneill50 | January 31, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Another problkem for Obama -

The surviving candidates from the Democratic side are running to the left, Romney is running to the right, and McCain alone is running to the center. Like it or not, I don't think the candidates will have the luxery of voters with short memories forgetting today's stances come November. Edwards was a centrist, McCain is a centrist, the voters want a centrist as President. Get it?

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

callie, I can think of a reason. If folks decide that McCain is likely to take the military to war again, or likely to increase the numbers of casualties in Iraq, they may decide to go with an option that is talking about other alternatives.

Also, folks might think that health care is important. Obama hasn't based his campaign on the idea that he has the most experience, so it won't be a surprise when the R candidate goes after him on it.

Posted by: rpy1 | January 31, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama and HRC are both wrong. HRC is wrong that fighting on national security is going to be what is necessary, and also wrong that her "experience" getting beaten up by the GOP is helpful here. (She gained all of that "experience" for a reason, and will gain more if she is the nominee.)

Obama is wrong that "clear contrasts" are what is necessary, but then candidates farther from the center always say that.

Obama is stronger in the general, and the reason is that Hillary is so uniquely off-putting to independents and centrists, and because the Clinton-Bush years are associated with horrendous partisan conflict, of which voters are tired. Bush benefited from this in 2000 before he revealed the fundamental nature of his presidency. Obama explicitly appeals to this fatigue, as does McCain in different ways, as did Bush in 2000. Obama may do it best. That's why he would be the strongest -- and the Ds need it, because McCain is gonna be tough when the electorate is everybody and not just Rs.

Posted by: inonit | January 31, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

good disscussion going on here.

first off congrats to John McCain for winning florida. also, im sure hillary is proclaiming her win of ZERO delegates tuesday night. way to pander Ms.Clinton!

if i may be so bold to predict a McCain versus Obama general election match up?

also, this might brighten rufus's day. obama is surging, and just in time for super tuesday.

Posted by: jaymills1124 | January 31, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

This is not a rhetorical question - so could someone please answer for me why they think that this country would elect someone with about 1,000 days experience in the Senate when given the choice between Senator Obama and McCain? Senator Clinton certainly has her own hurdles to clear, but I cannot, for the life of me, think that the same country that reelected George Bush four years ago is all of a sudden going to decide to get behind someone with the same amount of senatorial experience as Claire McCaskill when the economy is tanking?

Posted by: callie216216 | January 31, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

'ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The shadowy new terrorist leader who's being blamed for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto embodies a growing threat to the U.S.-backed Pakistani government, to America's supply line to Afghanistan and to the Bush administration's hopes for tracking down Osama bin Laden and defeating al Qaida.

A few months ago, few Pakistanis and even fewer Americans had heard of Baitullah Mehsud, and there are no pictures of the face of the Pashtun-speaking tribal chief from the rugged border area with Afghanistan. But in December, he was chosen to lead the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, a nascent Islamist insurgent coalition on Pakistan's northwestern frontier that preaches a radical form of Islam and opposes nuclear-armed Pakistan's secular regime.

In his first television interview, given last week to al Jazeera, Mehsud said his armed militants sought to drive the Pakistani army out of the tribal areas. He acknowledged his links to al Qaida and voiced ambitions beyond Pakistan's borders. Al Jazeera didn't show his face.

"We pray to God to give us the ability to destroy the White House, New York and London," he told the network. "Very soon, we will be witnessing jihad's miracles." '

Kamran Bokhari, the head of Middle East research at Strategic Forecasting, a private intelligence firm based in Austin, Texas, pointed out that unlike the very loose organizational structure that al Qaida favors, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is highly centralized.

"From an operational point of view, that's deadly," Bokhari said.'

I havn't heard either MCCain or Mittens say word one about Pakistan. Both Hillary and Obama -- and Joe Biden -- have. Here we have another 'bin Ladin determined to strike inside US'. And what are doing about it? Giving Mushareff money to develop his nuclear arsenal, which will undoubted one day be in the hands of the Taliban. And allowing Mushareff to b*tchslap us around and tell us we can't intervene, even with black ops.

Iraq is far less relevant to our safety than Pakistan, which is why I will likely be voting Democratic. I'm afraid that McCain,much as I like him in many ways, is fighting the wars of the past, not the future.

Posted by: drindl | January 31, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Spectator2 - No. I admit, I really liked Edwards, still do, but any sort of analysis of the baggage born by the candidates leads one to this conclusion. Today, over on MSNBC, there is a report out about Bill Cltinon using his "stature" as a fpormer president to win uranium mining concessions for some wanting to business with the dictitorial leader of Kazakhstan -

Now, Hillary is tied into this one, too. Add to that, the money she has been receiving from outsourcing firms, from *Indian* companies, and quite a frew other irregularities with regard to her.their business practices and you can pretty much write off Ms. Clinton. McCain would walk all over her. Obama, on the other hand, has some too cute relationships with Wall Street types who also support outsourcing and guest workers. If my guess is right, the main issue in the upcoming election will be JOBS and the economy. The voting public is getting increasingly upset about "free trade" and is going to demand some genuine protectionist legislation. McCain is very open to this while Obama hasn't said anything and Clinton is positively wedded to globalization. Both Clinton and Obama have advocated to pretty extreme gun control rules in the past, too. One of the reasons Democrats avoid that issue like the plague is that they know that at least 1/3 of Democratic voters are active hunters and gun owners and being pro-gun control has cost them national elections time after time. So, either they will do a 180 or the will loose a heck of a lot of votes there, too. Make no mistake about this issue. All of those west coast Democrats, good liberals, but especially those from places like Oregon, all have "A" and "B" grades from the NRA. Something a lot of East Coast and California liberals don't recognize is how essential those ratings are. They simply cannot get elected without those sorts of grades. This hold true in national elections, too.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Agree with bsimon. Under a microscope and in comparison to McCain, HRC's arguments about superior experience fall apart. What other advantages does she have that can trump McCain's? Not foreign policy; she looks a lot like him on Iraq. McCain need only point to his time in an NVK prison to counter every other aspect of foreign policy. Fiscal arguments will end with McCain tearing her apart on the basis of experience (again). If HRC brings up the Keating 5 in the same crude, fact-challenged way she brought up Rezko to Obama I'll vote for McCain just to spite her.

McCain appears likely to be susceptible to being difficult to like. Hey, at least on that point he and HRC will tie.

Posted by: judgeccrater | January 31, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Chris writes
"Obama's argument ... is that the way to defeat Republicans is to not ape their policies but rather to provide a stark choice for the American people."

Obama is right. The Dems need to collectively grow a pair and go head to head with the GOP on the fundamental issues. Based on where we are today, it shouldn't be all that difficult to argue for a new approach on a whole host of issues.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

you got it cc. It's not that hard to stay objective but still tug at answers. You can do it. Good job :)

Way to stay objective.

Posted by: JKrishnamurti | January 31, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Senator Clinton that if John McCain is the Republican nominee, the general election will be weighted heavily upon national security. That is not a surprise given McCain's background because he knows he can win on it. If that were the case, a moderate democrat like myself, given the choice of who would best defend this country, Obama or McCain, McCain wins hands down, period!

Now, I support Hillary but if Obama is elected, he would be stupid to try and fight McCain on national security because he has no experience. He would need to focus on domestic issues.

I truly don't know who would win between Obama vs McCain. Because although I believe Obama may bring in new voters they may not be enough in purple/red states. McCain will take away moderate democrats especially in purple/blue states. Which group is bigger determines the winner of the election.

Posted by: dmoralestx | January 31, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

In order for the Republicans to hold the White House, their nominee needs to disavow many of the policies of the Bush administration. McCain has actively fought some of those policies (e.g. waterboarding) and given his history of antagonizing Bush, he is best positioned to break from the Bush era. He can't make that break until he is the nominee, though.

As an afterthought, I would wager that the polls showing massive disapproval of the war in Iraq are out of date. It certainly seems that there is now the possibility of a non-disasterous (albeit non-satisfying) exit strategy. Popular opinion, fickle as it is, may no longer be so sour on the war.

Posted by: cdlutz | January 31, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: Rick Lazio was not token resistance. Inept, maybe, but not token. I agree that her reelection bid got only token GOP resistance.

Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton is reported as saying
"And, if it is indeed the classic Republican campaign, I've been there. I've done that."

Except, she hasn't. She's run for office twice - and won both, first to become a Senator for New York State, then to retain the seat. In neither election did she face anything other than token resistance from the GOP. Once again, she is trying to claim her husband's experience as her own.

Posted by: bsimon | January 31, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Just a moment to note the D money is so much more than the R. BHO raised $32M in Jan. If HRC had numbers like that, D cash is huge.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Assuming that McCain basically clinches the nomination on Tuesday and the Democratic race is still uncertain - I think it will greatly benefit Obama. He has consistently performed better in polls versus McCain than HRC. Furthermore, HRC's poll-driven. focus group tested packaging comes off very unfavorably compared to McCain's "straight talk" image. McCain has proven appeal to independents and HRC has the highest negatives of any candidate. I think these considerations will continue weigh in Obama's favor. Should the super-delegates hold the balance of power, I would expect the electability issue to tilt them to Obama.

Posted by: jimd52 | January 31, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like sour grapes from Edwards, brooks.

Posted by: Spectator2 | January 31, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I think John Edwards is correct in his assessment. McCain will beat Ms. Clinton or Obama. Right now, my intention is to vote for Obama, but than change, based on his position on outsourcing jobs, globalization and free trade and gun control - all of which I, along with at least 1/3 of Democratic voters, am opposed to.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 31, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Obama's comment about building a "Bridge back to the 20th Century" was brillant and can also be used effectively against an old man who has been in Washington forever. Obama has this conservatives vote if the dems nominate him.

Posted by: vbhoomes | January 31, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

McCain vs. Obama will be like Dole vs. Clinton. Everyone thought that Dole would dominate Clinton, but ultimately Clinton's vigor made Dole look, frankly, old. I think Obama will do the same to McCain. He won't even have to go negative. A debate between the two will be Nixon / Kennedy redux.

McCain vs. Clinton is a different story. McCain is tolerable to moderate Democrats - he's really only hated by his base. Conversely, Clinton is hated by a large chunk of voters. I suspect McCain will get more votes vs. Clinton then he would against Obama - whether or not that will be enough for him to defeat Clinton remains to be seen.

Posted by: mkopans | January 31, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

What is it, 65% of Americans want out of Iraq? Our biggest concern is actually the economy, not security at the moment and although you are very correct that we have no idea what the end result will bring, I would still say that more are looking into Obama or Clinton, than a neocon that appears ready to wage more war and has ***no*** clue on the economy.
He (McCain) is way down on most internet indicators as well:

Plus, on that link, look at the last graph, comparing all of the main Dems and Reps and we see that John McCain is way down the rung.I will vote for Ron Paul, but surely Romney or Huckabee are better choices than McCain for the Republicans, unless they know something that we do not...

Posted by: davidmwe | January 31, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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