December 14, 2007

Would An Obama Nomination Change The Tone In 2008?

A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation; the queen tripped over herself and lost her crown. That could well be the story in the Democratic primaries if the Obama surge in recent polling holds. Hillary Clinton, once thought invincible, has spent the last five weeks reminding everyone why she has such high negatives, and the inexperienced Illinois Senator has reaped the rewards. In New Hampshire, Obama has now edged ahead of Hillary among likely voters:

Barack Obama has come from behind to turn the Democratic presidential race in New Hampshire into a toss-up, according to a new Monitor opinion poll. The results - which show Obama with a one-point edge over Hillary Clinton - mirror other polls released this week, indicating that Clinton's once-imposing lead has evaporated in the run-up to New Hampshire's Jan. 8 primary.

The poll suggests that the Democratic race could hinge on the turnout of undeclared voters, who aren't registered with either political party. Much of Obama's backing comes from undeclared voters, while registered Democrats make up the bulk of Clinton's support. In New Hampshire, undeclared voters can vote in either party primary, giving them sway in both contests.

These results follow a Rasmussen poll showing Obama with a slight edge in the Granite State. The Obama surge doesn't end there. He cut Hillary's lead in South Carolina by half and trails by eight points in a state that Hillary thought was safe as well. The Real Clear Politics average for SC shows Obama only back by two points, however, making that race a toss-up.

If Obama can win two or three primaries at the start of the race, he could shatter the support for Hillary Clinton. Certainly the Democrats have to be worried about her performance under only mild pressure over the last five weeks. How can she hold up under the onslaught of a general election? The problems on her campaign have all come from unforced errors; none of them have been revelations of scandal but of her own bad campaigning backfiring on her.

Republicans expected these kinds of tactics from her in the general election, but her meltdown brings up an interesting question, one that Jim Geraghty and Duane Patterson discussed with me on my show today. Would an Obama nomination change the tone of the 2008 presidential election? Obama, who has so far eschewed the kind of nasty politics displayed so baldly in Hillary Clinton's Snidely Whiplash moment in yesterday's debate, would also likely not adopt Hillary's tone in the fall of 2008.

Could that be an opportunity to tone down the vicious, bloody, tribal wars that have attended the last several elections? No more Clintons. No more Bushes. No more Derangement Syndrome. Instead, we could finally talk about experience and policy.

Bonus question: Rudy has built a case for himself as the one Republican tough enough to take on the Clintons. If Hillary has a complete meltdown and fails right off the bat, will the Republicans supporting Rudy now stick with him, or do they look for someone with better credentials on social issues? Which candidate would make the best opponent to vie for the White House against Barack Obama?

Snidely Whiplash moment below:


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