When Pundits Go Awry
When it comes to elections and whatnot, Marc Ambinder knows a lot more than I do.
But this latest post is poppycock.
He starts by giving credence (as Josh Marshall and others did) to Republican Tom Cole's quote in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine:
"I happen to think Hillary Clinton is a stronger candidate in the end" .... "You couldn’t raise money against Obama right away like you could with Clinton, that’s true, and so maybe by the time you were able to raise money it wouldn’t matter. But he’s ideologically well to the left of Hillary Clinton, for all his rhetorical gifts, and I also think he’s got a national-security deficit. I think she’s a plausible commander in chief, and I don’t think he is. It may not matter. But those two areas are where we would fight the election, and with McCain, I think we contrast with him very well.”
That's the NRCC Chairman Tom Cole, by the way. What possible stake could he have in this game? Why would he be suggesting that the Republicans get what they've been drooling over - the chance to run against Hillary Clinton!
Against Obama, John McCain and the Republicans are going to front national security. They'll run on "who'll keep your safer" -- they'll try to force members in swing congressional districts to own -- or disown -- Obama. There is much more a messaging function in having Obama as the candidate, where Clinton would clearly provide the energizing function.
Really? If Clinton is the nominee, Republicans won't run on a national security platform? OF COURSE THEY WILL. John Kerry, like HRC, voted for the war, and that was the entire Bush re-election campaign. The one thing John McCain reportedly has going for him is his advocacy for the surge. Whoever is the Democratic nominee will have national security being run after them.
And it's not like Clinton has any more outs than Obama does on this. It's not like she's going to be agreeing with McCain on his policy on the war. Therefore, they'll attack her. Over and over again.
Obama provides a clean contrast with McCain on the war, and to the extent that Americans are ready to choose a "side" on Iraq, Obama has the upper hand. But Iraq has not been his trump card in the primary -- indeed, at least about half of Democrats do not believe that Clinton's 2002 vote disqualifies her.
About half, you say? Hm...maybe that's why the Democratic nomination is still going on! Sure, it doesn't disqualify her, because it's not a one-issue race and she has been building up support for the last eight years - not that it's sealed up a nomination for her by any means.
Democrats may be tempted to conflate John McCain's national security arguments with the Bush-Republican national security arguments. Superficially, they sound alike. But McCain has much more standing to make them -- registered voters say this, not me, as does McCain's biography and life.
Obama supporters bristle at the notion that Obama will become as polarizing to Republicans as Clinton is right now. We will see. The net effect of the competitive Democratic Primary may well be that Obama becomes less of a unifying figure and more of a, well, Democrat.
Look, any Democratic nominee is going to get the full onslaught that Democrats always do - soft on national security, tax-and-spend, blah blah blah. The difference is that Obama, more than any other candidate in recent years, has broken through that noise to many voters and gotten them to look at real life problems and why he is the right person for the job of solving those issues.