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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Doesn't it feel like the end of every horror movie you ever saw?

Just as I was starting to enjoy the demise of the Clinton machine, it comes back from the dead and destroys the last, best chance of hope on earth. Ok, not so much. But that is how the media coronation of Obama make it feel.

I'm of two minds here:

First, Hillary's win is horrible news. It is long past time to put an end to the long national nightmare known as the Clintons. The most important thing is to keep this woman away from the Presidency, whether it is Obama, Romney, Huck, McCain or even Ron Paul. Better to beat her now than chance a Clinton victory in November.

Second, as I was watching the coverage of Obama leading up to New Hampshire, I couldn't help but get a sinking feeling that it would be nearly freakin' impossible for a Republican to run against the guy. We are already running against the wind in every election, but to add to that the fact that the guy has made it extremely difficult to attack him (partly due to his demeanor, his thin record and his race), and you can't help but acknowledge it would be a tough climb in November against this guy, at least in comparison to Hillary.

Things that I enjoyed seeing in Iowa and NH:
1. The Clinton's running against the wind for once. That's pretty much every election for us. It's a lot tougher, isn't it? (Yes, Hillary won NH, but by all accounts she should have walked away with a twenty point victory against this neophyte).
2. Democratic bloggers accuse the Clintons of rigging the election in their favor (doubly interesting to wonder why we would think they don't do it against Republicans).

Can Obama still win? In a word, no. Well, I don't think so, anyway.

Here's why:

* New Hampshire was huge opportunity for Obama. A win would have led to a rush to his side. The big thing is that organization Democrats want to abandon Hillary, but they also want to go with a winner. If they aren't sure, they will go with Hillary, who is the safe bet and has the organization and support in place to make their lives easier/harder, depending.

* Organization matters and as the primaries come faster and quicker, it will be tough for Obama to generate the type of atmosphere that will get new voters to the polls. The exit polls in Iowa show that 57% of the caucus-goers never attended a caucus before. Those votes went disproportionately to Obama, who won 40% compared to Hillary's 29%. By comparison, in New Hampshire, only 19% of the voters were first-timers. So as we move forward, it will be a more traditional crowd.

* Hillary has the added advantage of the superdelegates at the end of the process, that may turn out to be an important cushion.

Either way, I think a long hard slog for the Democrats helps Republicans in November.

If Obama wins:
* He'll be a little more tested. He's still pretty green. Right now, his biggest test was against Alan Keyes in a hugely liberal state! If he beats the Clintons, he will have proved himself on the campaign trail against the best funded and best organized campaign in Democratic history. That will make him more formidable in some ways.
* In a long campaign, Obama will have to go negative at some point and counter-punch. This will undermine his biggest strength - the purity of his public image, which has made it nearly impossible for his opponents to attack him without hurting themselves terribly in the process.
* Along the way, Hillary will have to land some blows on Obama to win. She'll have to criticize his record, dig up dirt and muddy him up a bit. It will be difficult for the media to decry Republican attacks as racist or out of bounds -- they will do it, but it will not carry as much weight.

If Hillary wins:
* Jonah Goldberg took some heat the other day for pointing out that the nutroots crowd will flip out if Republicans beat Obama:

I think it's worth imagining a certain scenario. Imagine the Democrats do rally around Obama. Imagine the media invests as heavily in him as I think we all know they will if he's the nominee — and then imagine he loses. I seriously think certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged. I can imagine the fear of this social unraveling actually aiding Obama enormously in 2008. Forget Hillary's inevitability. Obama has a rendezvous with destiny, or so we will be told. And if he's denied it, teeth shall be gnashed, clothes rent and prices paid.

He's not talking about urban riots, of course, but the "Bush lied, People died," crowd, which has already floated accusations that Hillary's win is a result of cheating on the part of the Clinton's (with Diebold's help, no less). Alienating ultra-liberal conspiracy nuts is no longer a positive with Democrats. Right now, they are known as "the base" and they contribute a lot of money.

* Among Obama supporters in New Hampshire, 66% had a somewhat or strongly unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton (CNN's exit poll results are a bit odd, since they add up to 120%, but I think I figured it out). Worst of all, 50% -- FIFTY PERCENT! -- had an unfavorable view of Bill Clinton. This is after just two weeks of having the Clinton's attacking their favorite guy. Wait until they unload in the next month. It is hard to believe that won't have an impact on Obama voters to show up at the polls, knock on doors, make phone calls and give money.

* Hillary has a huge gender problem. Sure, she does well with Democratic women and, to some extent, Republican women in NY. The problem is, she does terribly with men. She won just 23% of the men in Iowa and 29% in NH (compared with 30% of Iowa women and 46% of NH women). That may not kill her in Democrat primaries, where women have so far made up 57% of the voters/caucusgoers, but it will hurt her in the general.

* Still to be seen, but Hillary may have a harder time outside of the Northeast. The Iowa voters suggests that she may have trouble with both male and female voters in the middle of the country. Keep an eye on whether Hillary under-performs against Democrats in those states.

For those who are interested, here are CNN's poll results for New Hampshire and Iowa.

Exit Question: Which Republican matches up best against Hillary? Against Obama?

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