Friday, March 28, 2008

It ain't over .... till it's over ...

The younger step daughter is now asking me to convince her to vote for Obama. Maybe she has heard the pundit talk about how Hillary can't win. My wife is talking about it too. My wife (and maybe my step daughter) took the online quiz that is going round emails, that identifies which presidential candidate you most closely identify with. I did too. Both my wife and I turn out to identify more closely with Obama.

But I will tell you I am not convinced yet that Obama is the best candidate. I think he would make the better president, because of his speaking ability. That’s an important skill for a president who wants to convince people things are all right. It’s also an important skill if you want to set a nuanced agenda, if you want to start a dialogue about African American poverty that might end in legislation to help persuade factories to locate nearer to cities, and/or might help shore up inner city K-12 schools.

But I believe Hillary Clinton would want to follow through on those issues too, and would want to pursue universal healthcare and economic issues as well. In fact, on Washington Week her proposals for addressing the foreclosure crisis were described as more aggressive than Obama's, ie, more liberal. Obama, in this campaign, has held himself a bit above the fray. He has occasionally attacked Hillary directly, but mostly in debates where she has had an immediate opportunity to fire back. I don’t know if this is a natural role for him, I don’t know if he wouldn’t be more comfortable taking direct shots at her down and dirty (Chicago style?). I have read, on more than one occasion, that he is very ambitious. You have to say he has the talent to back that up, although he had some good luck in being a newcomer to national politics just when people wanted a sense of change, someone they could believe would be different because he hadn’t been around long. So I don’t know if things actually turn against Obama if his ambition won’t kick in and cause him to drop into mudslinging.

But what I think of is how Mark DeSantis decided to run a clean campaign and compete with Mayor Ravenstahl on the issues. I guess he did that, although I will take a shot and say that the most important issues had a way of disappearing from his website as new press releases came in, and you literally had to remember or have a cache of the article’s URL to retrieve it a week or two later (I won’t go into the inadequacy of Ravenstahl’s website, especially since it was adequate enough, he won). Still, you would have to say that DeSantis won in the neighborhoods where computer ownership and use is probably highest, in Squirrel Hill, Shadyside and Oakland, the university districts. So I guess DeSantis did compete on the issues, and won in the neighborhoods where the news isn’t just a sound bite. It wasn’t enough. If DeSantis had gotten mean, and continuously brought up the Mayor’s mini-scandals, which were no more and no less than the truth, maybe more working class Pittsburghers would have thought twice, if DeSantis had adequetely proven Ravenstahl a liar. Maybe Ravenstahl would have been giving the concession speech after the election.

That’s where I am worried Obama will be, either in a month or two or next November, conceding. Rising above is all very well. Giving a great speech on race is great. I don’t want Obama to be Dick Cheney, but sometimes you gotta be willing to throw an elbow, just to show it can happen. Is he willing?


Mark Rauterkus said...

Running mates matter.

When you run for mayor -- you don't have a vice president. Candidates for president do.

The 'attack dog' needs to be the VP candidate.

When running for nomination -- there is just VP rumors.

It might do Candidate Obama to get a VP 'running mate' sooner -- rather than later.

DeSantis didn't have a running mate. DeSantis could have had three -- but he didn't want to engage.

Three indie candidates were seeking seats on council to replace the deadwood Ds. DeSantis could have and should have made more headway in the neighborhoods by having running mates.

Thousands of votes could have switched. But, I'm not sure if that would have been enough.

The key concept -- running mates -- is vital and potent.

Laura said...

I think Obama has started to show that he can be tough when he has to be. And I don't think McCain wants to run a particularly nasty campaign would damage his image as much as a nasty campaign would damage Obama's. If he can manage to defeat the Clinton machine, as he has come pretty close to doing, there should be no doubt that he is tough enough. Given Clinton's universal name recognition and establishment advantages at the beginning of the primary season, Obama never should have gotten as far as he has. The fact that he is not only still in the race but leading is a testament to how great a candidate he is.

EdHeath said...

Well, Obama is not Colin Powell, but he has done a good job of threading the needle, being articulate and well educated for the white voters, but also African American. Voters want a change and Obama fits the bill. It is the toughness thing that worries me. There are still about three weeks before the primary, so Obama will find an opportunity *and* a need to showcase his toughness.