Curtains for Clinton

Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency had received reprieve after reprieve in New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Unable to surmount Sen. Barack Obama’s lead in the delegate count, she needed to at least keep the narrative going: "he can’t close the deal, she keeps winning races, don’t give up the ship." The voters of North Carolina and Indiana sent a clear signal last night: It is time to give up the ship. Obama gets a large share of the credit for his big win in North Carolina and the virtual tie in Indiana. He retooled his message in the past couple of weeks, refusing to get drawn into the daily sniping and negativity that characterized the campaign in Pennsylvania. He showed a steady hand when his former pastor’s nationally televised meltdown threatened to derail the campaign again. He undertook a series of more intimate campaign events, Iowa-style, that further emphasized the return of the winning campaign-style of January and February: upbeat, change-oriented, hopeful. Clinton bears more than her share of the blame for giving Obama the chance to take charge of the race again. Her proposal for a gas tax holiday stands out as the dumbest tactic of the 2008 campaign season. First, it took the media lens off Rev. Wright. Rule #1 of political campaigns: If you opponent is wrestling with an issue that registers all negatives for him and has no impact on you whatsoever, let him keep wrestling. Second, by pandering so shamelessly, Clinton permitted Obama to cast himself anew as the change agent, the candidate who understands that poll-driven quick fixes are what got America into the messes we have and only courageous political leadership will get us out of them. Looking ahead to his race with "straight-talking" John McCain, the gas tax debate positions Obama perfectly as the guy who really does tell Americans what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. Clinton may not drop out immediately, but the course for the Obama campaign is clear. They should resist any word or gesture that even hints at disrespect or condescension towards Clinton. If the Clintons try to resurrect Michigan and Florida, Obama should let Howard Dean and other party elders handle that issue. He needs to start unifying the party behind his candidacy and reaching out to the two demographics that have been the core of her support: women and blue-collar, white ethnic Catholics. In the summer of 1932, looking at ways to sway Catholic voters, Franklin Roosevelt was tutored by his campaign manager Ed Flynn on the principles in Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII’s seminal encyclical on social justice. Obama would do well to consult the remarks of Pope Benedict XVI as he reaches out to Catholics in the weeks and months ahead. On a variety of issues from immigration to the Iraq War, Obama will find in the pope’s words a language that will fit nicely with his own hopeful vision for a more enlightened, less craven politics. Quoting the pope will not be enough to win Catholic support in November. But it is a start. Michael Sean Winters
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10 years ago
I'm a conservative and don't have a horse in this race. However, Mrs. Clinton has certainly out-talked Obama on the issues. That man says absolutely nothing! Last night was more of the same, and the Democrats seem to love it. Nor does his voting record say much. No wonder people are looking at his friends and associates.
10 years ago
The fact is Obama improved among Catholics. In North Carolina, Obama nearly tied Clinton for Catholics, 48% for Obama, 51% for Clinton ( In Indiana, where many pundits had predicted Catholic margins for Hillary similar to those in Pennsylvania, Obama recorded 41% of the votes from Catholics, about a 10% improvement from his performance in Pennsylvania ( That 41% includes 42% of all Catholics who attend mass weekly or more often (a key demographic that many had argued was troublesome for Obama). The fact remains, Hillary did well with white voters and voters whose incomes are below $50,000. I think that margin drives much of the margin she holds with Catholic voters, who are more likely white and largely middle-class. In any case, Obama improved with Catholics and I look for him to continue that trend throughout the summer and fall as the negative attacks from Sen. Clinton end and voters get to know him as more than just a Jeremiah Wright congregant.


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