Friday, May 09, 2008

The first time I ever really got involved in any political races as an adult was in the 2004 presidential election. For the first time, I put up my "Kerry/Edwards 2004" sign, and donated money to democratic candidates. In 2006, I again donated to democratic candidates for the House and Senate.

But I have to admit, I have been fascinated by the 2008 presidential primaries. A year ago, any betting man would have predicted that the GOP candidate would be Rudy Guiliani, and the DEM candidate, Hillary Clinton. More and more, it looks like any such prediction was dead wrong.

Of all the GOP candidates, Guiliani, with his socially liberal leanings, was obviously my favorite. I'm still at a loss as to why he derailed his own candidacy by ignoring every primary and caucus until Florida, where he was run over by McCain and the other candidates. If anything, this primary season has proven the value of momentum. By waiting until Florida, Guiliani became the forgotten candidate. I assume his campaign manager and strategists are looking for new lines of employment.

In yesterday's Time Magazine online, they looked at where the Clinton candidacy may have also miscalculated. According to Time, Clinton made at least five big mistakes, each of which compounded the others:

1. She misjudged the mood. In a cycle that has been all about change, Clinton chose an incumbent's strategy, running on experience, preparedness, inevitability. But in putting her focus on positioning herself to win the general election in November, Clinton completely misread the mood of Democratic-primary voters, who were desperate to turn the page.

2. She didn't master the rules. Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game - - chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates. It sounded smart, but Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Her campaign records reveal that this knucklehead is still owed millions of dollars for his services.

Note - I had no idea how delegates were allocated either . . . and still barely understand the primary process

3. She underestimated the caucus states. While Clinton based her strategy on the big contests, she seemed to virtually overlook states like Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas, which choose their delegates through caucuses, and it was in the caucus states that Obama piled up his lead among pledged delegates.

Note - I still have no idea how the caucuses work

4. She relied on old money. For a decade or more, the Clintons set the standard for political fund-raising in the Democratic Party, but something had happened to fund-raising: the Internet. Though Clinton's totals from working the shrimp-cocktail circuit remained impressive by every historic measure, her donors were typically big-check writers. And once they had ponied up the $2,300 allowed by law, they were forbidden to give more. Obama relied instead on a different model: the 800,000-plus people who had signed up on his website and could continue sending money his way $5, $10 and $50 at a time.

Note - Obama receiving donations from more 1,500,000 individuals is really an amazing accomplishment by any politician

5. She never counted on a long haul. If she could win Iowa, she believed, the race would be over. Clinton spent lavishly there yet finished a disappointing third. What surprised the Obama forces was how long it took her campaign to retool. She fought him to a tie in the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests but didn't have any troops in place for the states that followed.

As I said, I've never been a student of politics, but have been mesmerized by this year's races. It looks like Obama will be facing McCain in November, but there are still nearly 25 percent of GOP voters going for Paul and others in the recent primaries. It seems that neither candidate has completely won over his party. I'm hopeful that Obama can and will reach out to Clinton's supporters so that the party can unite. I also hope and think that McCain is miscalculating by moving farther to the right to appeal to the GOP's conservative branch, rather than courting the party's moderates. Schwarzenegger showed in 2006 that this strategy works for Republican candidates, when he was re-elected governor of California while Republicans across the country were being defeated.

But what do I know? Not a whole helluva lot!


Blogger sage said...

Diane, sounds like you're ready to start writing the "Making of a President, 2008"

At one point in my life, I spent a lot of time thinking about the presidential candidate process--which I think is screwed up. I even thought that back in 1974-75, when the national high school debate topic was whether or not we should change the way we pick candidates... Today, I refuse to publicly endorse anyone. I'll break that rule when my duaghter runs for President.

10:58 AM  
Blogger LA said...

Wait... Ron Paul is still in the race? That's hysterical.

I totally agree that McCain leaning further to the right is a bad move for him. The biggest crisis facing the GOP is that the moderates are feeling disenfranchised. The party's hard line on social issues combined with Bush's mess is pushing the socially moderate/fiscally conservative sector right out the door and into Obama's arms, and I love it.

One reason I've been so pro-Obama during the primaries is that I don't think Hillary can win in November. Whereas I personally know fed-up Republicans who will cross party lines and vote for Barak in November, they are still influenced by the message of the 16-year witch hunt that Hillary Rodham Clinton has endured.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Tiffany Norris said...

I've been very interested in this race as well...partly because I'm not crazy about any of the candidates. Now I'm anxious to see who they'll pick for VPs.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Auburn Kat said...

I have to admit, I don't really understand the delegates either! I wasn't really involved in politics until Kerry vs. Bush. I guess one thing I can thank Bush for is for getting me more invovled in politics so he is out of the office!

6:16 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Great write-up, Diane!

Your assessment is spot on. Now, the big question is: When will Hillary drop out!?!

5:08 AM  
Blogger EditThis said...

I really, really don't understand politics and primaries and delegates and all of that. I only know who I like and why. Thanks for the info on Hillary. And I can't believe Ron Paul is still in the race, either. I'm so glad he didn't show as big as his sheep...I mean FOLLOWERS thought he would at the outset.

8:44 PM  

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