Friday, April 25, 2008

Obama's Strongest Case for Electability to the Superdelegates

"Change" Will Beat McCain in the General Election, Not "Experience"

'Electability' has almost uniformly been at the bottom of the list of criteria that voters have based their choices on - so why is it at the heart of Hillary Clinton's central argument in support of herself?

Because she knows that for her, this election isn't about the pledged delegates anymore; she cannot overtake Barack Obama's lead. So her electability argument is directed squarely at the superdelegates.

And it is deeply flawed.

Caught up in shaking off the numerous kitchen sinks thrown his way, Barack Obama hasn't been able to satisfactorily respond to Clinton's notion that only she can take this thing all the way to November. He doesn't only need to formulate a response - he needs to make it the central focus of his campaign from here onwards. Fortunately, there is a very simple and very effective way to do that:

Bring back the 'change' versus 'experience' argument.

Hillary Clinton has run her campaign on her experience. Is that applicable in the primary season?

Yes - she has more 'experience' than Obama.

But what about in the general election? Will she:

(i) keep telling voters to elect the candidate with more 'experience' - clearly leading them to vote for John McCain, who trumps her easily on it; or

(ii) change her tune and start saying that 'experience' is not as important as she thought it was back during the primaries?

Everything that Hillary Clinton has used against Barack Obama in the primaries - from amount of experience needed, to answering that 3 am phone call, to 'actions, not words' and 'solutions, not speeches' - goes against her in the general election against McCain.

Think about it - by any form of measurement, John McCain has decades more of experience - whether it's military, government, or life experience. He has also probably really answered a few 3 am (give or take an hour or two) phone calls as a ranking member of the Senate Committee of Armed Services. And by working across the aisle with Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy, and Joe Lieberman, often to the chagrin of his own party members, McCain also appears to many voters, including independents and Democrats, as scoring well on 'actions' and 'solutions'.

Is Clinton going to go into the general election against John McCain touting these factors as her basis for electability? If she does, he walks all over her. If she changes her tune, she loses her credibility, instantly becoming a flip-flop artist.

On the other hand, the theme that can work against John McCain is 'change': change in foreign policy, change in the Iraq war strategy, change in the Bush tax cuts, and so on. These are the things that McCain can legitimately be challenged on and beat on the basis of - lack of judgment, blind conformity, and adherence to old-school 'Washington politics'.

The 'change' argument is the only one that will work against McCain in the general election.

And Hillary Clinton cannot make the change argument in the general election anymore. Only Barack Obama can.

Barack Obama can, holding on to the same platform of hope and change that brought him this far, go safely into the general election against McCain and draw a clear, irrefutable contrast with the other side without losing a shred of consistency or credibility.

Hillary Clinton cannot: if this is about experience, Clinton loses to McCain. If it's about change, Obama wins against him.

This is Obama's strongest argument to the superdelegates now. He ought to say it more often. Simply by using Clinton's own words against her.


Brock Townsend said...

Unless Ohio changes, then I believe McCain will beat Obama as he runs ahead of him in this most important state. On the other hand Clinton runs ahead of McCain there.

Ali A. Rizvi said...

That's the question I was trying to tackle in this post. I really think that if Obama can give the Clintons the kind of run he did, McCain will be a breeze for him, specially since McCain really hasn't been vetted like either Clinton or Obama. We don't know yet what we don't know.