Sunday, January 6, 2008
Obama the frontrunner, Hillary the underdog
(1) The betting. Who is favourite at any one moment is a matter of fact. Follow the money. Overnight, Saturday night/Sunday morning, the mantle shifted as the markets tipped from Hillary to Obama.
(2) The New Hampshire polls. A 10 point Obama lead caught the headlines, though other polls are tighter. He has the big mo.
(3) John Edwards: His debate strategy - defending Obama against Hillary - revealed that he believes his best hope is to knock Clinton out and go head-to-head over change.
(4) The debate dynamics. Obama was comfortable in the role of front-runner. The strategic dilemma for the Clinton camp in adapting to their new underdog status - how to draw contrasts, aware of the price to be paid for going negative - was on display. Obama parried the contrasts effectively, particularly his answer on why 'words do inspire'
(5) The media narrative. Each of these factors has played into the media narrative that Iowa is giving Obama immense momentum. (It is not giving Mike Huckabee momentum on anything like the same scale).
There is some rationale to this, which the media reinforces and strengthens: the Iowa demographics were exceptionally good for Huckabee, as New Hampshire's are not. But there is nothing about Iowa that made it particularly promising Obama territory. The Iowa number-crunching Obama's turnout success and appeal to independents, and his ability to defeat Clinton among women, suggests he will do well in New Hampshire, given the high number of registered Independents. And there is also evidence of Obamamania on the ground in New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton's problem is the loss of inevitability. There is one big Clinton argument. That the Democrats need to win - and that running Obama against McCain would be the greater risk in November. Hillary has negatives, but they are known. We don't know whether or not he has a glass jaw.
But the Clinton campaign are not going to get a hearing for that argument over the next 48 hours, and look likely to go nil-three in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The problem with a hope squashing 'reality check' strategy is that if Obama is possible, Democrats want him to be possible. He is asking voters to suspend their disbelief. And, if they do so, he wins.
As the Washington clocks strike twelve on 20th January 2009, listen carefully and you might just hear a swooshing sigh of relief travel around the world. The Bush Presidency will not leave the legacy its architects intended. But a critique of what should have been done differently since 2001 is not enough. This blog is about the new ideas which can create a 'new multilateralism' to tackle the global challenges we face.