Skip to comments.Hillary Clinton's 'Republican' tactics backfire in battle for Pennsylvania.
Posted on 04/20/2008 2:43:57 AM PDT by lowbuck
President Bushs election guru Karl Rove tells our correspondent in Philadelphia that she has left it too late to assail Barack Obama. . .
WITH days to turn around her presidential campaign or face defeat, Hillary Clinton swung through Pennsylvania last week on a crash tour to squeeze every last vote out of the state after being outshone, outspent and outmanoeuvred by Barack Obama in a bloody campaign.
For a moment, it appeared that the Clintons would stop at nothing to block the Illinois senators ascent to the nomination Hillary once regarded as rightfully hers. Chelsea Clinton appeared on a college stage with her mother and seemed to be hinting at a shock announcement. As someone who is thinking of having my own family in the not too distant future . . . she began.
Chelsea, 28, extended the riff about her children for so long that it seemed possible she was about to declare herself engaged or perhaps even pregnant, but a campaign aide explained later that she was merely teasing Hillary who, like any mother, would love her to get on with marriage and a family.
After Hillary Clinton threw everything including the kitchen sink at Obama last week, one last wild move to boost supporters spirits would have surprised nobody because nothing, so far, has been able to prevent the Democratic presidential nomination from slipping out of her grasp in the run-up to Tuesdays Pennsylvania primary.
If it is too late for Clinton, 60, to turn the race around, she has only herself to blame, according to Karl Rove, the architect of George W Bushs two presidential election victories. Democrats regard him as the master of the art of negative campaigning.
Her problem is not the attack on Obama, it is the timing, he told The Sunday Times. She was complacent at the beginning and took him for granted.
Clinton has adopted Tom Pettys I Wont Back Down as one of her campaign songs. It blasts from giant speakers at rallies and reinforces her message that she will not be driven prematurely from the race by the young pretender. Nobody had heard of Obama, 46, when she was first lady, yet a Newsweek poll this weekend gave him a 19-point lead over the New York senator.
Democratic party leaders are itching to draw the race to a close and let Obama take on John McCain, the Republican contender, yet nobody dares to close the book on Clinton yet. Obama had the chance to finish her off during the Ohio and Texas primaries last month and fluffed it.
On Hillforce One, her campaign plane, and on her bus last week, she showed no sign of tiring of the race. She smiled and charmed her way through a succession of rallies, and still had the stamina to share a drink in the hotel bar with journalists at the end of a long day.
Her skills as a campaigner have strengthened considerably during the war of attrition with Obama. There is enormous enthusiasm for her in parts of Pennsylvania, a populous, must-win state not only for Clinton in two days time, but also for the Democrats in Novembers general election.
Outside a silver diner in a white, working-class corner of Philadelphia, fans wore T-shirts with the message, Weve got your back, Hillary, but it is not a good sign when your own admirers are on the defensive.
Clinton feels her rival is finally being properly vetted after last weeks televised debate, in which he was challenged about his relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his radical pastor, and his more casual association with Bill Ayers, a former leader of the Weather Underground, the domestic terrorist group of the 1960s and 1970s.
The debate went extremely badly for the thin-skinned Obama, who was irritated by questions he regarded as personal trivia. Voters are more likely to perceive them as important matters of character and judgment.
Yet Clinton is still waiting for a moment equivalent to Howard Deans scream after his defeat in Iowa during the 2004 presidential election, when the cheers of his supporters turned to What were we thinking? and his campaign imploded.
Clintons assault on Obamas alleged lack of patriotism and electability may be repelling as many voters as it is attracting.
She would have a better chance of winning if she had been saying these things much earlier, Rove said, although he does not rule out the possibility of victory.
Two polls last week found that more than 50% of voters considered her dishonest and untrustworthy, although Obamas unfavourable ratings have also risen from 28% to 36% in the past month and there could be more damage to come from their recent clashes.
Some loyal Democrats complain that her battery of Obama is merely laying the ground for McCain to win the White House. Shes turning me off. I used to kind of like her, said James Pender, 48, a welder among the 35,000 people who turned up to see Obama at a gigantic rally in Philadelphia on Friday night.
Obama is preparing his own final onslaught on the state, blitzing the television screens with $2m worth of advertisements in the closing days of the campaign and outspending the cash-strapped Clinton by five to one in Philadelphia, where he is hoping for a landslide to counter her strength in rural and industrial parts of the state.
Losing Pennsylvania would almost certainly be a knockout blow for Clinton but Obamas supporters believe he can scupper her chances simply by preventing her from scoring a double-digit victory.
With race and class playing such an important and divisive role in the state, the result is difficult to predict. However, Clinton needs a spectacular victory to retain any credible prospect of overtaking Obama in the total popular vote, and to persuade superdelegates the party leaders with a casting vote to break her way. Most of the traffic has been in the opposite direction and she currently has 141 fewer delegates than Obama.
The pressure is mounting on Clinton to bow out after Indiana and North Carolina have held their primaries on May 6. Superdelegates may force her hand by lining up behind Obama. So far, Clinton has refused to acknowledge the possibility of defeat. We have 10 more contests and Im going to compete in each of them as hard as I can, she told a trade union conference. She received a standing ovation for her defiance.
The danger is that she will ultimately bequeath the Democrats a wounded candidate not the new John F Kennedy, but an effete liberal known as Snobama, the 2008 version of John Kerry, the last election loser. If so, his image will have been defined not by Republicans but by a Democrat.
Rove argues that it is superficial to blame Clinton for behaving like a Republican towards Obama. Hes been countering it as best he can by saying it is unimportant and a distraction, but Americans dont care if shes doing the Republicans dirty work for them. They just want to know more about Senator Obama.
Obamas exotic background as the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya is part of his appeal, but also his mystery. He grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, a long way from the American heartland. At a rally for Clinton on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Georgia Bihlar, 59, said: She is born, bred and raised here. I first heard about Obama a year ago. I just dont trust him.
Clinton has made much of her fathers upbringing in the gritty, working-class town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Her grandfather, she tells crowds on the stump, worked in a lace mill from the age of 11 until he retired, although like Obama, she is an Ivy League-educated lawyer.
Chris Carney, a Pennsylvania congressman who has yet to declare for either candidate, said: This is probably the most stressful situation the two of them have ever been in and it gives us clues to how they will govern in the White House.
He was not impressed when Clinton accused Obama of condescension towards working-class voters after he suggested at a West Coast fundraiser that economically deprived, small-town voters cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who arent like them.
I think its a tempest in a teapot, Carney said. Its an indication that shes grasping for something here. This is a close race. The fact is shes come down from a lead of 22% in the polls to 5% or 6%.
There are still enough undecideds to swing the Pennsylvania race heavily in Clintons favour should the fallout from the attacks on Obama continue. Yet the speed with which the former first lady has gone from inevitable winner of the nomination to the brink of sudden death is extraordinary.
Rove believes she committed a fundamental error at the outset by allowing Obama to steal the mantle of change from her. After Clinton spent years as a senator building bridges with Republicans, Obama breezed in and said only he could unite red state (Republican) and blue state (Democrat) America.
She let him take her natural message from her after she had gone out of her way to work on bipartisan initiatives, Rove said. There is no evidence he has worked for bipartisan change, but she has.
In his view, Obamas hands are no cleaner than hers. The same claim could be made that he is doing the Republicans dirty work for them. Obama has been attacking her subtly, but nevertheless strongly as a symbol of the past and someone who has flip-flopped on the war in Iraq.
After taking the heat in the TV debate, Obama said Clinton was in her element when playing the cynical Washington game of tearing people down rather than lifting each other up. In turn, she accused him of being a wimp. He spent all day complaining about the hard questions he was asked.
Rove is reluctant to call Clinton the stronger Democratic candidate against McCain this autumn, but he observed: All her weaknesses are known. There will not be a lot of surprises if she is the nominee. Americans are now finding out much more about the Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers and Obamas attitude to small-town America.
An Obama adviser said he had proved his resilience last week. Yes, hes been pummelled and remarkably he is not only surviving he is doing quite well, thank you very much.
Obamas black supporters still find it hard to believe that he can win. Shehrazad Ali, 59, saw him in Philadelphia with her grandson Hassan, 7. Clinton is already pulling the rug from under his feet, she said.
Ali had some advice for Obama to help him overcome the perceived wimp factor. He might want to pick up 30lb or 40lb because we like a big man to protect us. He needs to be a little more forceful because theyre running all over him and we havent even got to the Republicans.
Hassan, in contrast, had the confidence and swagger of a new generation. Yes we can, he said, turning to show off the T-shirt with Obamas slogan on his back.
I don't think they have even started!! It looks to be a long hot summer for the DummyCrats! Pass the popcorn please!
Chelsea was last seen on a Gay Pub Crawl in Filthydelphia.
Chelsea Clinton appeared on a college stage with her mother and seemed to be hinting at a shock announcement. As someone who is thinking of having my own family in the not too distant future . . . she began.
May all her children look like Web Hubbell
Too bad we are stuck with MCLAIM
Your “about page” is a laugh a minute!!!
Only in Communist, Fascist or American Democrat Party, whenever the opposition reminds the voters of a Democrat candidate's own voting record, their own words and their own behavior, is it known as 'negative campaigning'.
Call it what it is ... 'The art of separating lies and distortion from truth and facts.'
If you look at my “about page” you will see that I live and work in Germany.
The locals don’t really understand the American political process in the best of times, but, this year they are completely confused.
I confuse them even more when I explain that the Democratic party would be about as left wing as the CSU (which is considered a very right of center conservative group down in Southern Germany!)
Did they join that bastard offshoot of the LDS ?
I don’t think Sarah has a clue as about American politics. I think Hillary will win Pennsylvania by about 12-15%. Then the real Obama will come out so that even those who do not realize he is a platitude-spewing Marxist, soon will.
What is great about this is that when they have this epiphany it will be too late. Obama has the nomination, or at least he better have it unless they want total chaos and dissolution of the party.
Now more than ever, Operation Chaos needs to bring out its forces for Hillary. She needs to stay in this race until the bitter end...this digging a deeper hole for Obama and Dean in the general election.
Yeah, you have to wonder if any of the other candidates who dropped out early are kicking themselves.
Who knew that the Dem's contest was going to be such a circus sideshow?
One of the main reasons that Hillary and Obama have progressed as far as they have is that our MSM possesses the same journalistic integrity as the BBC. However, since both H and O have no morals, or real ideas, it’s great fun watching them spar. It’s sort of watching two petty crooks firing Saturday night specials at each other - spraying bullets from a range of only a few feet - and constantly missing each other.