Friday, May 30, 2008

Senator Obama and the Democratic race

The AP has a story out headlined "Obama campaign used party rules to foil Clinton." Essentially, the article talks about how Senator Obama's team studied delegate allocation to run up delegate totals in states he won, while keeping Senator Clinton's advantage in states she carried to a minimum.

First, that headline seems a little negative - I'd put a more positive spin on it like "Obama campaign winning using party rules." Maybe the media is trying overly hard to balance out the misconception that they have been harsh on Senator Clinton while going easy on Senator Obama.

Second, one of the points the article makes is that Democratic delegate allocation rewards historically Democratic districts:
" 'Black districts always have a large number of delegates because they are the highest performers for the Democratic Party,' said Elaine Kamarck, a Harvard University professor who is writing a book about the Democratic nominating process.
'Once you had a black candidate you knew that he would be winning large numbers of delegates because of this phenomenon,' said Kamarck, who is also a superdelegate supporting Clinton.

This is very similar to the Geraldine Ferraro remarks. And of course, it comes from a Clinton supporter. I consider such remarks just plain dumb - because they suggest (like Ms Ferraro did) that any Black candidate would be at a tremendous advantage. We have seen - with Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley-Braun - that this isn't the case.

I much prefer the more sensible assessment by Don Fowler, a former DNC chair supporting Clinton (his wife, also a superdelegate, supports Obama!):
" 'The Obama campaign was very good at targeting districts in areas where they could do well,' said former DNC Chairman Don Fowler, a Clinton superdelegate from South Carolina. 'They were very conscious and aware of these nuances.'
But, Fowler noted, the best strategy in the world would have been useless without the right candidate.
'If that same strategy and that same effort had been used with a different candidate, a less charismatic candidate, a less attractive candidate, it wouldn't have worked,' Fowler said. 'The reason they look so good is because Obama was so good.'

That's what Ms Kamarck, Ms Ferraro and President Clinton miss - that Senator Obama might be Black, but so was Al Sharpton. And we haven't seen Minister Sharpton (nor the Rev. Jesse Jackson) as the Democratic nominee for POTUS.

Finally, I would add - on top of the candidate's personal qualities and a good understanding of delegate allocation, Senator Obama's winning because he embodies change in a year when a lifetime spent in Washington, DC, can be a liability. Not to mention that in the GE, he will be running as a different kind of Democrat - yes, a liberal, but someone who does not force people to participate in government-mandated health insurance (but makes it affordable so anybody who wants insurance can get it), and who talks comfortably about his faith.

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