Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Don't Understand the Clinton Campaign's Wisconsin Strategy

I'm at a loss to describe Hillary Clinton's campaign in the state of Wisconsin, one of two states holding their nominating process (Hawaii's caucuses being the other) on Tuesday. Today is her first day in the state, after Obama has spent nearly a week there, and According to the Milwauke Journal Sentinel she's leaving a day earlier than planned, taking off on Monday morning instead of Tuesday. So, in a state she really needs to win to break Obama's current momentum, where there are a lot of working class, lower-to-middle-class voters which she does very well with, and a state with a very small African American population, Clinton's strategy is to spend less than 48 hours in the state campaigning. Am I missing something here?

Whatever marginal gains Clinton will make by spending an extra day or two in Texas and Ohio as she has the past week will be dwarfed by the change in momentum that would come with a Clinton victory Tuesday night in the Badger State. And it's well within her grasp. Rasmussen had Obama's lead only 4%, 47-43 practically within the margin-of-error. Two other polls shown at Real Clear Politics have Obama up 4 and 5 respectively. If she could win Wisconsin, the media, which loves a comeback story, and loves a horse-race, and would like nothing better than for the Democratic race to go on forever, would flood the airwaves and newspaper front-pages with the story of Hillary's great comeback and how this would catapult her to victory in Ohio and Texas on March 4th. There is plenty of time to campaign in those states, Clinton should have been in Wisconsin days ago, and she certainly shouldn't be cutting back her stay with the polls so close. It's almost baffling. Clinton, even if she is raising $1 million a day online as her campaign says, couldn't buy all the positive and free media she would get from stopping Obama's momentum in Wisconsin. This is a critical error.

And instead of appearing in Wisconsin herself, Clinton instead is running the first negative campaign ads of the campaign, bashing Obama for not agreeing to debate, and then adding on some policy distinctions (or, depending on your take, distortions). But, as Wisconsin Governor and Obama supporter Jim Doyle has said, it's very disingenuous to attack a candidate for not debating in Wisconsin because it doesn't give Wisconsin voters a chance to compare the candidates, when the candidate running that ad isn't even campaigning in Wisconsin. How could Obama agree to a debate? Clinton is literally in the state, campaigning, for less than a weekend. To knock Obama for not giving Wisconsin voters a chance to see the candidates when Clinton herself is spending no more than 48-hours in the state takes a lot of chutzpah.

And because I think the Obama response ad is so well done, I've embedded both the second Clinton attack ad, and the second Obama response below. Judge for yourself which has the stronger message.

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Kurt Hunt said...

Most of the analysis I've seen indicates that Clinton doesn't stand much of a chance in Wisconsin. Her strategy may be mostly about not wasting time and money on a lost cause.

In the meantime, I've seen and heard "Clinton" and "Texas" in the same sentence several times a day since before the Maryland results were back. That extra attention really might make a difference.

The attack ads are a different problem, though. I can't figure out if the campaign is a couple steps ahead of me, or if they're playing 20th century politics in a relatively transparent 21st century world. Did they really think those state ads wouldn't get national attention? Did they really think they wouldn't get torn apart? They look downright amateur. Maybe I just don't see their end-game--maybe they're trying to bait the Obama campaign--but maybe they're just getting desperate.


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