Obama V. Hillary

by TNR Staff, TNR Staff | October 29, 2007

This passage from today's LA Times story on why Obama hasn't soared higher strikes me as a very useful microcosm:

In a meeting hall at the fairground in rural Tipton, Obama was pointedly invited to criticize Clinton recently when a 65-year-old woman asked, "Why should I vote for you instead of Hillary Clinton?"

Instead, he gave a somewhat rambling answer that began by complimenting Clinton as "very capable," "smart" and "tough." He also said she would be a "vast improvement over George Bush." Then he mildly knocked her for what he called her "conventional" views on foreign policy. Five minutes later, he concluded: "If you're still unpersuaded, talk to me afterwards, 'cause I got more stuff for you, but I don't want to use up all my time."

I sympathize with Obama's desire to "elevate" politics but unfortunately I just don't think it generally works. Certainly not the way he's been doing it. Readers of, say, Matt Yglesias may thrill over swipes at the "conventional" DC foreign policy establishment. But I suspect the only way Obama is going to get real traction with voters is if he's willing to go after her character--on questions of trust and honesty. (His charge that she's obscuring her Social Security position is a nod in that direction. But it's fairly weak tea, if you ask me.)

Meanwhile, Garance has a good post worth reading, in which she describes going back and actually re-watching the 2004 convention speech that made Obama in the first place. If I read her correctly she's arguing that the speech's punch has been exaggerated in the constant re-telling--kind of like the fish I caught one time that was that long...

 --Michael Crowley

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