Obama Mailer on Bill Clinton

7 02 2008

Talking Points Memo is reporting that the Obama campaign circulated a flier on the eve of Super Tuesday primaries that sharply criticized Bill Clinton’s presidency for weakening the Democratic party’s working majority. It specifically points to the fact that after President Clinton’s two terms the Democrats had fewer governorships, and members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

obama-attacks-clinton-flier.jpg

Strong stuff.

Now, I don’t know if this mailer was actually released by the Obama campaign. I only saw this pic on another blog, not with my own eyes.

But if it is indeed from the Obama campaign, it might be cause for concern. Drawing attention to how polarizing a figures the Clintons are may be an effective campaign strategy, though albeit an old criticism, but I am skeptical that this tactic will attract a substantial amount of support for Obama. After all, people still fond of Bill Clinton and his presidency despite his aggressive campaigning for Hillary and negative attacks against Obama. In other words, many Democratic voters still like him, even if they don’t like her. In fact, some people may even vote for her because they find the so-called “two for one option” so enticing.

More importantly, attacking a fellow popular Democratic, even if its warranted, might actually undercut Obama’s message of being an above the fray, and a visionary candidate that can unite the party and the country. Again, I don’t know if this was ever produced by the campaign itself, but its certainly worth paying attention to. And I don’t just mean whether or not the Obama campaign will own up to it, but because of what the message conveys about electability and achieving a governing majority.

During the course of his campaign, Obama has framed the discussion of electability to be about more than who will be the more successful nominee in November. He has emphasized the need to embrace a “new politics” by making the case that he can enlarge the Democratic party’s majority by attracting new voters into the process. By implication this means if he is at the top of the ticket in November, more people are willing to vote more Democrats into office nationally. The intimation here is that anti-Hillary sentiment will have a negative cascading affect on other Democrats running for office elsewhere in the country, especially those in purple or red states and districts. Obama is not alone in this criticism.

In a piece published in the New Yorker months before the 2006 mid-term elections, Jeffrey Goldberg asked two Democratic fund raisers in Missouri about how other Democratic candidates would fare elsewhere in the country if Clinton were the nominee and they said:

[W]hen asked if Clinton should be the Party’s nominee, Shields said, “That would be a hard one.” The outgoing executive director of the Greene County Democrats, Nora Walcott, was more direct. Though she said she was to the left in the Party, she feared that Clinton’s liberal credentials would alienate Missouri voters. “You’ve got to tell the people in Washington not to nominate Hillary,” she told me. “It would do so much damage to the Missouri Democratic Party.”

Not exactly flattering. On the other hand, considering that Obama just edged out Hillary Clinton, 49 to 48 percent in Missouri, on Tuesday, that assessment may or may not all that accurate. In any case, this wider larger notion of electability should be more widely debated since we are in the thick of the primary season.

We just might learn something what this word “electability” really means.

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