Friday Talking Points [Vol. 13 -- All-Election Edition]

[ Posted Friday, January 4th, 2008 – 17:15 UTC ]

Special All-Election Edition


Well, it looks like I owe some young folks an apology. To the youth of Iowa: Sorry!

I've been predicting for a while now that counting on "new voters" is a mistake for the campaigns, because they just never actually show up on election day. Whoops! Democrats in Iowa turned out to the caucuses in droves -- almost doubling the previous attendance records. And an enormous amount of them were young people and other first-timers, who mostly voted for Obama.

Just goes to show you what happens when you rely too much on conventional wisdom, I guess. As a local radio host put it this morning:

The baby boomers went out and fought to get the voting age lowered to 18 forty years ago. Well, they finally turned up to vote, forty years later. The only problem is, they didn't vote for one of us -- they voted for one of their own.

For those playing along with my "pick the primaries" concept, I have to say that (on the Democratic side) if you switched two names, I did pretty good. Well, OK, mostly I blew it. I predicted Edwards would win with at least four to five points over an essential tie for second, which Obama would squeak out from Clinton. Like I said, switch two names and it would have been right!

But anyway, we'll be continuing this game on Monday, so for now let's get into our special election edition of Friday Talking Points. Our Most Impressive and Most Disappointing will be given out to candidates only this week, and the talking points themselves will be for the three frontrunners in the race.


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

Senator Barack Obama. His large margin of victory in Iowa, a state with very few minorities, is going to give a whole lot of Democrats in other states the confidence to actually vote for him. If he goes all the way, he may even wipe out another bit of conventional wisdom -- that black candidates can't believe their own polls, since the turnout will always be about 5 points less than the polls show. Obama certainly proved that wrong last night, but we'll see how this plays out in later contests, especially in the South.

But I don't mean to say anything negative about Obama here. He easily and obviously won the week with his victory in Iowa. Well done, Senator Obama!


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Senator Joe Biden. Of the "second tier" candidates, Biden has always been the one with a coherent message, and very solid and well-thought out plans and positions. Now, Biden wasn't expected to do particularly well in Iowa, so that's not what disappointed me. What disappointed me was seeing him drop out before New Hampshire.

Now don't get me wrong -- unlike normal weeks for this award, Biden didn't personally say or do anything disappointing. The award should really go to something like "it's disappointing that in today's political world you have to raise a mountain of cash to be considered viable" or something like that, and he admittedly faced just too many "rock star" type of candidates this time around. So I'm not disappointed in Joe, but rather that his candidacy is at an end.

I don't think this is the last we'll hear from Biden, though. I would be willing to bet that he's at least on everyone's short list for Vice Presidential candidates, and it's also a good bet that he'll get picked as a cabinet member in a new Democratic White House. His foreign policy experience is going to be hard to ignore when putting together any Democratic administration.


Only three talking points this week, all my humble attempts to give advice to each of the frontrunners in the Democratic nomination race. They are given in reverse order of their finish in Iowa.

Friday Talking Points

Volume 13 (1/4/08)


   Hillary Clinton

The whole inevitability thing didn't work out the way it was supposed to. Likewise the electability thing. "Change" may gain ground, now that it's the official buzzword of '08, but the change Clinton really needs to make is in her style. The campaign is now about emotion, and Hillary needs to get back to the point where she was earlier in the contest, when she was actually showing a decent amount of emotion and connecting with her crowds on a personal level. The wonky "I'll be ready on day one," and reciting lists of reasons why she should be nominated needs to change to actually connecting with people emotionally in the final stretch.

Of course, she still has lots of money and an impressive political "machine," so she may decide to stick with what she's been doing -- which could indeed still win her the nomination. But coming in third means she's also probably going to be throwing some serious elbows in television attack ads, which may work. Then again, it may not.


   John Edwards

John Edwards deserves a lot better press than he got from his second-place finish in Iowa. The impression the media is putting out about Edwards currently is that his campaign is about one word: anger. He needs to work on this, as he has been making a lot out of "I'm a fighter," but he needs to tone this down a notch. Edwards should lean more heavily on the positive side of this message. Not just "I'm a fighter," but concentrate more on "This is exactly what I'm fighting for." Or maybe "Here is where we'll be in the future, and I'm going to fight to get you there." Make it personal, and more positive towards the future. Of course, this isn't entirely fair, as the media themselves choose their own soundbites -- which they have been doing to tell their version of his story (and which they'd have to change, as well).

Keep banging the drum of "My message won out over money." This is a valid stance to take, as Edwards was outspent massively in Iowa by both candidates, and yet he managed to beat one of them. I heard him speaking after the results were in, and he got off a good line with "This is not an auction, this is an election." Although I have to say, his calling it a two-way race now between him and Obama is a little premature. And be very, very careful about those election-night speeches -- Edwards was heard giving a "...on to New Hampshire, and then Nevada, and then South Carolina" type of speech, which is dangerous territory -- awfully close to the "Dean scream" that sunk Howard Dean's candidacy.


   Barack Obama

I really have no valid advice for Barack Obama. He seems to be doing pretty well on his own, from where I sit.

Keep getting the message out to the young people, and keep the "southern preacher" cadence in his speeches, and people will (quite obviously) respond.

Oh, as I said for Edwards, be careful of that "list of states" in your victory speeches. Don't get caught in a "Dean moment."


[My apologies for getting this out late -- one of my New Year's resolutions was to try to get the Friday column out a lot earlier than I have been doing. But we had a windstorm today, so the power was going on and off all day. Next week I'll try to do better, promise!]


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


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