February 19, 2008

Which Populist Can Win Wisconsin?

Today. my neighbors in Wisconsin go to the polls in what may be a pointless exercise in delegate selection. Over the last couple of weeks, the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have flooded the state with populist rhetoric, trying to out-sell government solutions to Wisconsin voters. Who can promise enough to win the state?

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama intensified their populist appeals on Monday, responding to widespread economic anxiety and pushing the Democratic Party further from the business-friendly posture once championed by Bill Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton, speaking on the eve of the Wisconsin primary but looking forward to primaries in Ohio and Texas on March 4, issued a 12-page compendium of her economic policies that emphasizes programs aiding families stressed by high oil prices, home foreclosures, costly student loans and soaring health care premiums.

In public appearances here and in her economic booklet, she took aim at hedge fund managers, oil company profits, drug company subsidies and trade agreements that she says encourage companies to export jobs. ... Campaigning in Ohio before flying to Wisconsin for an election-eve rally, Mr. Obama said the wealthy had “made out like bandits” under the Bush administration and called for an end to tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

John Edwards tried the same type of campaign and wound up foundering early. For some reason, his two competitors have taken his losing strategy and adopted it for their own. They have openly courted Edwards' endorsement -- a man who couldn't carry his home state in 2004 and couldn't win a single primary in 2008.

And somehow they expect to win? Talk about the triumph of hope over experience!

The polls, meanwhile, show Obama leading -- barely. The margins have closed to within the margin of error, and even Rasmussen shows movement back towards Hillary. She had all but abandoned Wisconsin two weeks ago, but has made a run at closing the gap over the last week. If she can pull this state into her column, it will take some steam out of Obama's momentum and force some recalculation in the race.

I predict that Hillary pulls out a narrow win in Wisconsin by two points. When it's been close, she's managed to find a way to win. The delegate split will be minimal regardless of who takes the state, and that may be a big enough victory for Hillary, given the wide margins of loss last week in the Potomac Primaries.


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