On Sunday, March 3rd‘s versions of “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press” expert political commentators filled us in on how this year’s race for the Presidential nomination is playing out. A bi-partisan mixture of Republican and Democratic strategists had the opportunity to put in their two cents’ worth. This is how it sounded.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a guest on “Meet the Press”, said, “I’ll make a cash money bet right now on Obama.” There were no takers. Murphy backed up his bet with the information that, even if Hillary wins in both Texas and Ohio, she would have to win 70% of the votes in the 12 states that remain, which represent 611 delegates. (Most of those states, for the curious, are: Oregon, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Mississippi, Guam and Puerto Rico, which has 63 delegates.)
Bob Schrum—famous for his soaring speech work for the Democrats—commented, “You cannot go into this convention and not have some moral claim.” James Carville, the bald strategist to both Bill and Hillary, who appeared on “Meet the Press” alongside his Republican strategist wife Mary Matalin, said, “Nobody in the world can look at these polls and predict with any accuracy.” He did acknowledge, however, that he agreed with Bill Clinton, who told Texas voters during a campaign rally for his wife in Beaumont, Texas, “If you don’t deliver for her, I don’t think she can (win). It’s on your backs.” Carville agreed with his former boss, saying, “You gotta’ win something.”
Mary Matalin, his Republican spouse, laughed at most of the comments made about the continuing Democratic death struggle on “Meet the Press”, ultimately commenting, “It’s so khumbaya that they (the Democrats) can’t pick a nominee.”
Countered her Republican counterpart Murphy, “Turnout is his (Obama’s) demographic. The thing I’d be watching on Election Day is turnout. He creates a turnout demographic that is very powerful. My gut tells me he’s gonna’ take ‘em both (Ohio and Texas), and that’ll be the end.”
Democratic strategist and speechwriter “Schrummie” (Bob Schrum) interjected, “What we’re really seeing is a generational struggle inside the Democratic party.” He went on to liken Hillary to the Beach Boys when the Beatles came to America. The analogies were flying thick and fast. At one point, Obama was even compared to the hula hoop craze! Is it a fad? Will it last? What about staying power?
There was a lot of scrutiny of the latest ads that Hillary and Obama are running. The ads show a phone call coming in to a home with sleeping children in the dead of night. Hillary answers the pre-dawn ringing phone, dressed to the teeth (my husband wondered why she wouldn’t be in her nightgown, a valid Republican observation). The implication: a crisis call was coming in. Who is most qualified to answer it?
Obama immediately countered this Mark Penn-designed ad with one that used the same imagery, but underscored his judgment as being sounder, as he had been against the Iraq War since the beginning. Carville categorized both ads as “fair.” Then the experts began picking them apart, saying that the origin of such a ringing telephone ad goes all the way back to Walter Mondale in 1984, running against Gary Hart and using an image of a red phone. (Boy! Did that phone look dated!) The problem, the strategists said, is that the “red phone” fear message has become a bit of a cliché. The implication: this cliché charge is also true of Hillary’s entire campaign.
Next came some finger pointing. “Mark Penn has called the strategy in this campaign, dominated it.” This from Jason Horowitz’s New York Observer newspaper article titled “Ickes: Blame Penn.” As her chief strategist, Penn actually wrote the current phone call ad.
There were moments of mirth. After the phone ad began appearing in Texas and Ohio, someone asked Hillary during a campaign stop to give an example of a time when she had to handle a crisis phone call. There was apparently not a lot of thought given beforehand to this particular question arising. The best answer the campaign spokesman came up with was, “She’s on the Armed Services Committee.” Said Democrat Schrum, laughing, “You know the only crisis on the Armed Services Committee is when John McCain loses his temper.” Republican Murphy, laughing, added, “The only crisis call she (Hillary) might get is from Texas.”
Chuck Todd, the NBC News Political Director was quoted (“Meet the Press”) this way, “According to our delegate math, Clinton winning both Ohio and Texas by 52% – 48% would net her a combined 5-6 delegates. Yet, toss in a potential Obama landslide in Vermont, and then her next March 4th haul could be as little as 2-5 delegates.”
On “Face the Nation” Governor Bill Richardson was interviewed, as was former candidate Senator Chris Dodd (D, Connecticut), who noted that “If experience is the sole criteria, it should be Joe Biden and me,” something he said more than once on the campaign trail in Iowa. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Clinton supporter, was interviewed onscreen as well, and commented, “We’re hiring someone to do the toughest job in the country, and a big part of that job is being Commander-in-Chief. Intelligence people report renewed attacks. It’s a risky world. We need someone with the seasoning and the ability to be Commander-in-Chief. It’s a dangerous world.”
Chris Dodd (D, CT), who has endorsed Obama, countered with, “This is a person (Obama) eminently qualified to lead. It’s not, as they say, just about who answers that phone, but about what they say.” For those of us who have heard Hillary Clinton’s shrill tone of voice, we might add, “and it’s about HOW that individual speaks when they answer.”
From Santa Fe, New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson on” Face the Nation”, who has endorsed neither candidate, weighed in with, “I am legitimately torn (between the candidates),” saying, “The concern that I have is that the bickering is going on too long. D-Day is Tuesday. I want to see us, after Tuesday, come together and move towards the general election.” He added, “McCain cannot be taken for granted.” Richardson noted, “We haven’t elected a Senator in over 40 years. I guess we’re going to this time.”
Many charts and graphs were used to reinforce points being made. To share just a few: In Ohio, Clinton attracts just 38% of men under 50, while Obama gets 52%. Hillary gets the vote of 54% of those over 50 in Ohio, while Obama gets only 36% of those over 50. By race (in Ohio) Obama claims the vote of 86% of African-Americans (to Clinton’s 6%), while 62% of Hispanics favor Clinton, compared to only 30% for Obama. (“Meet the Press” graphic).
As to Super Delegates, those much-discussed 800, the change since February 5th has seen Obama pick up 38, while Clinton has lost 6, giving Obama a 111-vote lead. In a Pew Foundation Poll shown on “Meet the Press”, when asked whether a candidate was “very likable,” “somewhat likable” or “not likable,” Obama was judged “Very likable” by 50% to Clinton’s 26% and McCain’s 21%. In the “somewhat” range, the split was 35% for Obama, to 37% for Clinton, to 55% for McCain. In the dreaded “Not Likable” category, Hillary scored 33%, while McCain was at 18% and Obama at 10%.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy on “Meet the Press,” commenting on the general election, said, “We’ve got the one different kind of Republican this year who can go to the center, and a lot of the Obama stuff—the energy behind his campaign, other than the war—is stuff John McCain built his reputation on and frankly has shown a lot more courage on than Barack Obama ever has. He’ll (McCain’ll) co-opt that middle space and beat him on experience and leadership.”
All agreed that, if Obama were to be elected, it would “set the Conservative movement back 50 years.”
In another interesting bit, respondents to a CNBC Current State of the Economy survey (“Meet the Press”) were asked to respond with one word to the three remaining candidates in the race. The responses to each candidate and the word used most frequently follows: