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Hillary's Opportunity


My second National Journal column for the week (which will appear in tomorrow's Convention Daily) will be posted within the next few hours. Since it is all about the opportunities presented by Hillary Clinton's speech tonight, I'll post a key block quote now and add the link later.  Update:  the full column is now live.

The gist is that I disagree with the "Hillary can't win," damned if she does, damned if she doesn't them of Marie Cocco's column in this morning's Washington Post (echoed to some extent by Todd, et. al. in FirstRead). I think the speech presents Clinton with a huge opportunity, both for her own long term interests and for the Obama-Biden ticket. I make the case with survey data in the column. While an Obama-Clinton ticket would have come with risks to offset benefits, the same cannot be said for tonight's speech. Quoting myself:

And the decision by the McCain campaign to release (if not air) three different television advertisements this week invoking Clinton's criticisms of Obama during the primaries provides her with a huge tactical opportunity to create one of the convention's most memorable moments.

"I'm Hillary Rodham Clinton, and I do not approve of that message," she told the New York state delegation yesterday. In her speech, she can do more. I am not a speechwriter, but the "truth hurts" tagline of the first of these spots seems like an obvious opening for a riff on the records of McCain and President Bush.

We'll see how it turns out.

PS: Nate Silver made a very similar point about the Clinton-quoting McCain ads earlier in the week:

I could see the ad being very effective. But it also tosses a big softball to Hillary Clinton, who will speak to a national audience on Tuesday. The risk to the Republicans can be summarized in five words: "Shame on You, John McCain". A finger-wagging, how-dare-you moment by either of the Clintons at the convention -- but especially Hillary -- could be both effective and therapeutic, especially when coupled with a reminder that McCain voted against measures like SCHIP (and voted to impeach her husband).

I prefer big "hanging curve ball," but I'll defer to the baseball guy. 

PPS:  I'm catching up on my RSS feed while listening to the speeches.  This post yesterday from Marc Ambinder seems relevant to what Clinton can help accomplish (emphasis added):

They are, yes, Hillary supporters, but a certain type of Hillary supporters: mainly white voters without college degrees. Ron Brownstein has noted that in four polls taken before the convention, Obama sits at 38% with this group.  These voters, as pollster Stan Greenberg's new data shows, have a panoply of concerns. Unquestionably, some are racist. But a majority of them worry about Obama's credentials, his liberal positions on national security issues, and whether he truly understands their economic insecurities.

It is much easier to convince these voters to vote for Obama when they see Obama as the antidote to the Bush presidency, and when they see McCain as a Bush Republican. SO -- you will hear and see speaker after speaker portray McCain as a Bush Republican.  Polling shows that even when recalcitrant Democrats learn about Obama's middle class roots, they're still skeptical. It is MUCH harder to convince them to vote for Obama because they LIKE him. It is much easier to convince them to vote for Obama because they think McCain represents a continuation of President Bush's policies. (Obama's campaign has polling data suggesting that an unusually large number of pro-choice Democrats don't know that McCain is pro-life.)

 

Comments
Jeff:

"Since you seem to value my opinion so much, Senator McCain, here's some material you can use in your next commercial."

And then just blast the guy for three, four minutes straight.

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brambster:

It was a terrific speech, and it was delivered excellently (as these things go).

Regarding baseball analogies, I didn't see any home runs being batted the stands, and Democrats aren't generally known for the one-liners of this sort. The whole speech however was a pounding of singles, doubles and triples, and amounted to a solid performance.

Michelle Obama did a good job of showing herself as a mother that everyone could identify with, and a successful and smart woman. Hillary Clinton did such a great job that it probably made many Obama supporters like her again. We all know that Obama can deliver a speech, and expectations for that are high, so it will really come down to Bill Clinton tomorrow. If Bill does what he is capable of, the whole convention stands a good chance of actually making an impact.

I'm not sure that the Republicans are in a great place following such a convention because it just begs for comparisons. I'm sure everyone can remember McCain's speech where he flubbingly repeated "that's not change we can believe in" in front of a room with less than 1,000 immediately opposite Obama in front of a crowd of tens of thousands having locked up the nomination. They do not want to do that again.

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Gary Kilbride:

I wish I'd wandered here yesterday. There was too much risk for Hillary to specifically confront the McCain ads. I was certain she wouldn't do it. Monday night on MyDD I commented that we'd have to wait for Bill Clinton along those lines. He's devastating in breaking down D vs. R, with issue theory and easy-to-understand numerical specifics.

If Hillary had focused on the McCain ads with a finger wagging tactic or similar, it would have dominated the post speech coverage, drowning out her conciliatory themes, including free air time for the McCain commercials that she had directly referred to. Chris Matthews and other analysts would have had a field day with that aspect alone. That's the last thing Hillary wanted, for herself or the party.

Democrats have also done a good job avoiding the McCain house topic. Voters don't begrudge rich people acquiring assets, particularly major investments like housing. As long as everything was legally purchased at proper rate and all taxes paid it's not an issue unless McCain gets defensive and repeatedly changes his story about the properties. In that case, he'd become a latenight joke and he's finished.

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thoughtful:

I agree with Nate that there is potential for a big bounce particularly after a small backlash given the Biden pick. I go further than Nate as I see it as a game changing bounce.

Hillary's speech set out a narrative, did she successfully lay down an Imperative to support Barrack Obama? We will know from the size of Obama bounce in a couple days time. 2-3% off McCain 2-3% to Obama + 3-5% undecided Dems to Obama. 9 point max bounce coming just from Hillary supporters signing up to Hill's imperative.

Any less than that constitutes degrees of failure, or less success assuming the aim of the speech was to bring the Dem base home to support the platform.

With respect to Brambster, personally I think that her plea should have been more impassioned - the very future of the country is at stake! It's going to be interesting to see the bounce.

PS The most significant Saddleback issue was the pro-choice and pro-life discussion, I think Obama should have been assertive there and then, the "pay grade" remark showed weakness rather than humility. Any way consequentially further polling has highlighted an opportunity.

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I have finally put my finger on what has been bugging me about the CNN/ORC poll that shows so many Hillary supporters are voting for McCain.

Using their reported margin of errors, there are 171 Clinton supporters among the 1,023 adults in the survey. That's 16.7% of all adults, or (using my 2006 voting-age popualtion estimates) 38 million people. She recevied only 18 million. If she had gotten that many votes, Thursday would be Clinton's night. Where were these extra 20 million people in the primaries? This strongly suggests that something funny is going on with those self-identified Clinton supporter respondents in the CNN/ORC poll, and I suspect many other polls, too.

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