Thursday, February 14, 2008

Can Hillary “change the narrative?”

Pollster Stuart Rothenberg, respected by pros in both parties, says the Democratic nomination race is still wide open but “Clinton needs to change the narrative.”:

Obama’s clear-cut wins in Maryland and Virginia, coming after a series of less important primaries and caucuses on Feb. 9, are now earning him the label of favorite or frontrunner. Wednesday morning, a headline screamed “Obama Frontrunner.” NBC’s “First Read” began in much the same way, looking at the upcoming contests and suggesting that Clinton was the clear underdog.

This could make Obama appealing to more voters, and even to superdelegates, over the next few weeks.

And yet, prior to Tuesday, victories in the Democratic nomination contest didn’t produce any obvious “bandwagon effect.”

Obama won Iowa, but it didn’t give him “momentum” to New Hampshire. And Clinton didn’t have momentum out of New Hampshire and Nevada and into South Carolina. Obama didn’t have momentum out of South Carolina. And Super Tuesday didn’t give Clinton momentum into last weekend’s primaries and caucuses.

So far, voters in each state haven’t paid much attention to previous results. Instead, they’ve been making their own decisions.

Still, there is no doubt that Clinton needs to change the narrative that is developing that Obama has moved ahead of her and has a chance to sew up the nomination on March 4, in Texas and Ohio, two now-crucial states for the New Yorker.

But don’t yet fall into the trap of thinking the Democratic race already is over.

This contest already has had plenty of surprises, and more could still be ahead.
Rothenberg’s entire assessment is here.

Yes, Sen. Clinton “needs to change the narrative,” but she’s between a rock and a hard place as she tries to do that.

For starters, she can’t bring her husband, the former President in to help change the narrative. Bill Clinton tried that in South Carolina. And both Bill and Hillary lost.

As far as the ’08 primary campaign goes and, perhaps for many years to come, Bill Clinton is now “damaged goods.”

Yes, Hillary’s campaign can use him at campaign rallies where he’ll excite the Clinton faithful. And maybe get him on some interview shows and hope he doesn’t go “off message.” But that’s about all.

Would a John Edwards endorsement “change the narrative?”

I think it would be a one day story.

Edwards may be able to deliver the 30 or so delegates pledged to him. I don’t know how the delegates are bound and whether Edwards could deliver them.

But in any case, whatever gain would come from an Edwards endorsement could very easily be offset if many undecided voters and those without strong allegiance to Hillary see Edwards' endorsement as a kind of “ganging up” on Obama.

Hillary has tried to make Obama’s inexperience an issue, but it’s not hurting him. In fact, if anything it seems to be working to his advantage as exit polls report large numbers of voters saying they like Obama because he’s “new,” “fresh,” and – drumroll – “a change.”

You can be sure if he’s the nominee the GOP will make a major issue of Obama’s very liberal voting record.

But Hillary Clinton can’t do that. She’s got a similar voting record herself. And what’s more important, Democratic primary voters like candidates with liberal records.

I doubt Hillary can “change the narrative” before the Texas and Ohio primaries. She needs wins in both those states to do that.

What do you think?

Hat tips: The Rothenberg Political Report


Anonymous said...

She keeps claiming "thirty five years of experience" that she doesn't have. What did she ever accomplish either in the White House or in the Senate that she can point to as an example of what she would deliver as President?

For thirty-five years she was the Manager of Bimbo Eruptions and the architect of a failed health care initiative, and that's it. She's beaten herself by presenting herself as something that she's not.