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Count Florida So I Can Be Vice PresidentSenator Hillary Clinton has hinted that she will keep her fight going until the convention, placating potential Florida and Michigan voters and in turn, bolstering her populist stance for a shot at VP.  

On the same day that the Obama camp is whispering to the press that he has moved on and has begun his search for a running mate, Clinton has declared publicly that she is willing to stay in as long as it takes.  Under the guise of counting Florida and Michigan’s primary votes, she is keeping herself relevant in the race and claiming, in no uncertain terms, that Obama is thinking prematurely about Veep candidates before her campaign has drawn its last breath.

You may think differently, but I’m still sold on the idea that Hillary’s camp is making these statements to preserve the overture that she is the only candidate that can begin the healing of the Dems if her name is next to Obama’s on the ballot.  Her immediate shift in messaging, on the same day as Obama’s ‘confidential search’ for a V.P. got underway is what clues us in on her thought process.

On the other side of the Democratic primary fight (you know, the one with the ‘potential nominee’ attacking the ‘presumptive nominee’?) Senator Barack Obama is now taking Sen. John McCain to task on ethics lapses. In so doing, Obama is also tipping his hand on what his strategy is going to look like in the fall.

Employing the Karl Rove tactic whereby a candidate should attack his opponents on issues where they are strong, Obama is going to attempt to get some miles out of questioning McCain’s (seemingly) stellar ethics record. The junior Senator from Illinois is calling McCain out for having lobbyists on his campaign staff, being caught for it and ultimately (and embarassingly) dismissing them.

And though I think that it is good strategy for Obama, and it fits well with his overarching message about McCain being ‘politics as usual’, I have to give credit to McCain’s staffers in their response to these charges. Mr. Obama, they said, still has not disclosed whether his campaign associates might also be lobbyists, which should raise questions about what the Senator might be hiding.

Kudos to you, McCain camp. You’ve properly dismissed the baggage you would carry into the General Election, admitted to it, let yourself be attacked on it but still maintained the moral high ground by essentially saying ‘if we’re willing to fire our lobbyists, why isn’t Obama doing the same thing?’

I hate to admit it. I like what Obama did here, but I like the McCain response better. The Obama strategists and messaging folks might take a good lesson out of this exchange – before you attack, you’d better be able to defend against a similar counter-attack.  

 

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I\'m the NomineeSen. Barack Obama has gained what could be the equivalent of the nomination, but at the high cost of dragging Hillary Clinton with him. Though she is not an outright Obama-nay-sayer anymore, she is still very much a part of this race and it is to her that a lot of attention is still focused.

Not that it’s a bad thing. The Obama-Clinton-2008-knock-down-drag-out-fight has registered thousands of new Democrats and has stirred up so much favorability for party this year that pundits are now predicting Dems to shatter records for unseating Congressional GOP incumbents. I’m still not sold on that latter point, but no one can deny the anti-Republican rhetoric that even some of the most conservative folks in America are using these days.

It’s not a good time be in any party other than the one with a gentleman named Barack Obama at it’s helm. And, just so there’s no confusion, I’m prepared to say that he is comfortably in control for until Election Day – though I doubt that I’m going out on much of a limb here. However, I am in the minority when I say that there will still be a role for Hillary Clinton in this new administration, and one that I believe can still involve her being called the first Madame Vice President.

If we’re going to talk about people who most deserve the Vice Presidency, no one should discount her from the list. She’s made the only electoral gains in states that Barack Obama must carry in the General Election and is the most prominent Democrat on everyone’s mind right now. She can also raise money by the boatload, her husband is a peerless force both inside and outside the party and she has had over a year in which she has softened her image in the eyes of the American public.

That being said, there is a general rule in politics that all presidential nominees follow: choose a running mate that cannot hurt you. He/she doesn’t have to help you, they just can’t hurt you. This is the consideration that all potential Vice Presidential candidates must receive and the metric by which all presidential candidates must use to justify their pick. If they hope to win, of course.

I honestly don’t see how Hillary Clinton, fighting on the undercard, has the potential to seriously hurt Obama’s chances.  Given all that she has proven in this race, she’s more of an asset to him than any other person out there.

The bottom line is that if there is a for a history making ticket, it’s right now. Obama would be an absolute fool for not considering her, especially for all that she brings to the table.

…And now a note about the latest Delegate Tracker.  It has been updated to reflect Obama’s majoirty of pledged delgates post-Kentucky/Oregon. However, NBC News has Obama leading in Delegates and Superdelegates and has added Sen. Edwards’ delegates to Obama’s totals. It doesn’t appear that the other news organizations have done this, thus the ‘zero’ under the NBC column. Enjoy.

thinkmatter\'s Delegate Tracker - updated May 21st

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It Ain\'t Over YetSen. Hillary Clinton is positioning herself to be successful, relevant and powerful –  except not as President of the United States, but maybe as Vice President.

Reviewing what has happened in the past few weeks and months of this campaign, followers of current events will notice a pattern of positive reporting around the Democratic Party and the growing prospects of a Democratic win in November. You will also notice that the negative press around Clinton has not survived despite her continual, and somewhat intractable, campaign for the presidency.

In short, she has weathered the storm of criticism quite well. Sure, she lost Edwards. And even if she loses the rest of the primaries or bows out of the race, she will still be able to claim ‘gatekeeper’ status in this 2008 Election. Dare I say that the unanticipated savior of the Democratic Party has arrived?

Let me explain. Hillary is keeping the news cycle rolling in her favor. She wins West Virginia by a wide margin, and though it is a secondary story in the major media outlets, she’s getting ancillary press coverage that questions Obama’s viability with working class voters. She is still picking up superdelegates. She is choking up on CNN. And now she’s returning to the battlefield and on to the next primary with an undercurrent of doubt about Obama’s viability.

Hillary is still here and she is still getting the press to follow her every move.

Welcome to Bill Clinton Politics 101. And while I, and many other professionals, ascribe this notion of phoenix-like political recovery to him, it’s nothing new in the world of messaging and marketing.

For instance, The Politics of Messaging maintain that:

1). When you make a mistake, admit you were wrong (before being caught with a smoking gun)

2). Do nothing to reinforce a negative view about yourself, and

3). Take advantage of positive news by positioning yourself to benefit from it.

Her recent press coverage should bear this out. Not only has she succeeded in letting the public (tacitly) know that her mistake was being ostensibly defeated by Obama (obeying rule #1), but she’s doing so in a way that allows her to be magnanimous and take advantage of the positive press that all Democrats are getting these days.

Look at the way her speeches are non-controversial. Look at how she has been quietly campaigning at small stops and rallying every last supporter that is willing to come out for a stump speech. And lastly, look at the role Bill Clinton is playing by gathering his own set of voters in rural areas.

The Hillary of Today is much different than the Hillary of Yesterday. She is non-abrasive and sprinkling her message with determination. She’s becoming the Hillary that we always wanted and the one that we will want as Vice President. As in rule #2, the Clinton camp realizes that reinforcing the negative stereotype that many have of Hillary spells political death for her.  She’s playing nice because now, she has to.

So, she’s softening her image and softening the ground so that she can attempt a run at the Vice Presidency. If there is any hope of her becoming VP, it’s by doing exactly what she is doing. Getting people to like her and by exploiting Obama’s weaknesses by winning over white, older, blue collar men and women.

All this leads to rule #3. Hillary’s campaign is thriving on the perception that the Democratic Party is not united. What this means is that Hillary has and will continue to establish a constituency of her own.

Why has Hillary been saying that she can carry the independent voters in a General Election? Because she can. The one thing that Democrats need right now is a unified party with a unified message to finally put the nail in the coffin of the GOP in November.

Let’s face it, the only way Dems are getting good press these days is by the widely held assumption that there will a Democratic president in office in 2009. Here’s where Hillary takes advantage of the positive news.

All the Dems need is someone who can unify the party, start the healing and help them go to the convention stronger than ever. Since Hillary is winning independent voters in important states and she is no longer running contrary to Obama’s cause of hope, she is setting herself up as a potential unifier. Capitalize on the great press that Dems will win in November, swoop in and heal the party, and give them a powerful ticket all at once.

While I’m not saying that she will be successful, it is possible. And if this is the end she has in mind, she’s certainly playing her hand perfectly.

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I finally caved in. Follow me on Twitter and you can see every witty thing I have to say.

http://twitter.com/Jefferson_Smith

Jefferson on Twitter!

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The Hillary Deathwatch widget from Slate…probably the most timely thing that I’ve come across in recent days. Apparently, the internet news mag started this great little graphic last week. As I’ve been saying for so long here, it’s only a matter of time before Clinton needs to throw the towel in and now I’m glad someone caught on with a great little graphic. Enjoy!

The Hillary Clinton Deathwatch

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Clinton Wins - But May Never Be PresidentBarack Obama would desperately like to shoot the underdog. She’s wounded and she limits the healthy members of the group from making any forward progress. Too bad the small town people in Pennsylvania who cling to guns or religion couldn’t spare the ammo to deliver the fatal shot.

And so we move on. The American media is jumping on the Clinton camp’s statements that this fight will go to June or even to the convention this summer. She has pointed out that with this victory, and if you include the vote totals from Florida and Michigan, she is leading in the popular vote. Which is true, but Florida and Michigan aren’t in play.

The fact remains that Clinton is still battling from behind. She is trailing in the delegate count, popular vote totals (sans Florida and Michigan) and the number of contests won.

She’s losing in all the categories that everyone likes to call ‘objective measures’ and seeing this, Senator Clinton knows that she must cast doubt on Senator Obama to have any hope of making further headway. Or if not headway, she can hope to further damage his now vulnerable persona.

Expect Clinton to hammer on the electability question and claim that her victories are more meaningful for November, despite there being fewer of them.

Let’s see her take on electability first. Senator Clinton is claiming that Obama cannot be elected over McCain because he is too untested and too open to the vicious attacks the Republicans will throw at him. This is the smart move on her part. Her campaign has been pointing to his inexperience from Day One and as we get closer to November, this is just another way of her illustrating her experience over his.

However, she is just as open to this argument as Obama is. Clinton’s negativity rating nationally is incredibly higher than either McCain or Obama and therefore the electability question cuts both ways. If she insists on going down this road, she will need to be prepared for the consequences.

Clinton’s second argument is that the states that went for her contain more swing voters that will be an important demographic in November. This might be the more solid claim she has on her side. Her appeal spans older people, working-class whites, and women – those independent minded voters who may have voted Democratic in the primary season, but will surely be tempted to vote Republican in November.

In theory, this is the right move for her. If she can claim the mantle of populist, her vote totals in swing states will only grow. Arguably, this does translate into her being the more ‘electable’ candidate in November.

But past performances are no indicator of future trends. If she can successfully argue the point, I still doubt it will mean a perceptible difference in the outcome of the nomination. She has barely made a dent in Obama’s delegate totals even though she is picking up larger, more independent-minded Purple States.

The numbers simply don’t match her arguments – nor does the thought that she is more electable than Obama. With nearly 20 years in the national spot light, those swing voters that liked her in Pennsylvania have six months to remember why they typically vote for a Republican for president.

Despite her win, her arguments are only words and do not transform the numbers that simply aren’t on her side. She is building a house of cards that may topple with her having to accept defeat or battle bitterly for a runner-up Veep spot on the ticket. I just don’t see this going her way.

And now… the new Delegate Tracker.

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In everyday life, If you kick someone while they’re down you usually generate labels like ‘sadist’. But in politics, if you kick someone while they’re down you usually generate votes.

To wit, let’s look at Hillary’s latest commercial now running in Pennsylvania.

We’re entering a unique time in our national debate. The talking heads and pithy columnists floated the idea early on that the rancor created by the Clinton/Obama fight might cost the Dems the White House. I sincerely doubt that, but I will concede that the point they are making puts a more clear focus on this question: What is going to happen to the Democrats in 2008?

At some level, the voting public expects a free exchange of jabs between opponents. But the damage now being inflicted on Obama (the presumed front-runner and, in my opinion, the presumed nominee) will make this General Election race closer than it should have to be for the Dems.

After 8 years of George W. Bush and the easy linking of John McCain to the president’s failed foreign and domestic policies, the Democratic nominee can expect 9 innings of baseball with healthy servings of verbal pitches he (or she) can hit. However, the character assassination going on now in Pennsylvania will only help the GOP in developing clear contrasts to the Democrats and therefore score points with independent voters – especially if Obama or Clinton are cast as John Kerry-like elitists.

I still doubt the nomination will go to Hillary, but Pennsylvania might. And if Clinton and Obama strike a President/Vice President deal to be on the same ticket as a result, it may be even harder to avoid the wedge that the GOP will drive between them and independents.

The Keystone State might be a loss for Obama, but think about what it does if these two high value targets agree to be one large bull’s eye for the Republicans. It’s time to re-think what will happen to the Democratic Party in 2008.

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