Mar 11, 2008

March 9, 2008: Hairless Nut, Bradley Effect Rears Its Ugly Head, Slime Ball

Buckeye: n, adj.—a hairless nut.
--From a bumpersticker sold outside the "Big House" during the Michigan vs. Ohio State game, 1979

In today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Robert Smith wrote a column entitled “Race played and intriguing role in the Ohio primary”. Citing exit polls conducted by the Associated Press and television networks, Smith revealed that 20% of Ohio voters surveyed said that “the racial backgrounds of Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton loomed important in their vote” (see
The “Bradley Effect” has raised its ugly head. We had thought that perhaps we were beyond it, but it appears that the Achilles heel that dogs this candidacy will linger throughout the campaign.

In addition, Hillary was once again able to mobilize her base support among white women. Fully 60% of those voting were female and she garnered 65% of the votes of white women up 15% from her showing in Wisconsin. Clinton also won the majority of white men, 55%, up nearly 20 points from the Wisconsin results. Clinton won support among the less educated, the working men and women as trade and the economy began to dominate the campaign. Here the attack on Obama over NAFTA, as misleading as it was, served to influence swing voters and carry the day. (See:

Ohio is, in any case, a strange bird. Pundits compare it to Wisconsin but Ohio has never given us a William Proxmire, or even a Bob LaFollete. Instead Ohio has given us the likes of Warren Harding and the several Bob Tafts. Mother of more U.S. Presidents (8) than any other state Ohio, surprisingly for state that is in the industrial heartland, generally tracks conservative with a long Republican tradition. In the last 40 years it has gone Democratic only three times, in 1976 with Jimmy Carter in the wake of Nixon and Watergate and in 1992 and ’96 with Clinton which, in both instances, involved a three-man race.

The results from Ohio and, to a lesser degree, Texas are depressing. They are discouraging not only because the race will now drag on into the spring and perhaps through the summer and get increasingly brutal and divisive, but these results mark a return to the old politics of slash and burn. Hillary, following the advice of senior campaign strategists determined that Barrack’s “negatives” had nowhere to go but up. So she proceeded, in the words of one of her lieutenants, to throw everything—including the kitchen sink—at him in the hopes something would stick. By degrees, over the final week, the Clinton campaign went about the business of purposely sewing amber waves of doubt in the fertile fields of the old rustbelt. She questioned his optimism, she questioned his sincerity, foremost she questioned his ability to become “commander in-chief” and by extension his presidential stature. So the campaign began mocking his optimism, twisted through convoluted accusations about his commitment to change NAFTA, and ended with a full court assault on his ability to keep America safe. Saying that “John McCain brings a lifetime of experience to the oval office, I bring a lifetime of experience to the oval office, Barack brings a speech he made in 2002”, Hillary held a news conference with several retired generals and openly questioned whether Barack had, like she and John, crossed the threshold necessary to become commander-in-chief. One of the generals was a retired head of the Army Corps of Engineers. I’m not quite sure what that meant, but a uniform, any uniform, will do in a pinch.

This is the lowest form of campaigning, the kind of performance unbecoming a member of any party. I have seen contested races. 1968 was such a race. NO ONE questioned the character or the ability of Eugene McCarthy, or Hubert Humphrey, or Robert Kennedy to command our armed forces had any of those men assumed the presidency. That contest had all the earmarks, as the current race, of extending past the primaries and being decided at the convention hall. No one was out stumping the country making such scurrilous charges. But these are Clintons and they believe in hardball.

This is not hardball, this is slime ball. I have decided, after this wretched demonstration, that if Hillary is the nominee I will sit out the election. I cannot forgive the Clintons for the graceless, tasteless conduct that they have exhibited throughout this campaign.

Meanwhile the returns out of Wyoming last night were: Obama 61%, Clinton 39%. It was a caucus but it counts. Mississippi is up next where Barack is favored. Then there is a hiatus in the voting until April 22 in Pennsylvania. This promises to be a real blood bath with the Clinton’s pulling out all the stops. Like Texas, the Clintons were unprepared for this. Reports out of Pennsylvania are that the Clinton team failed to file delegates in all the districts. We are again looking at a contest in which Hillary may win by a few percentage points but because her organization was so bad she will loose the delegates she needs now so desperately.

What is troubling about the developments of the last few weeks is that both the McCain and the Clinton campaigns have been about the business not of forging new coalitions to run the country but of ginning up their political bases in an effort to outpoll their opponents. This is the same old politics of slash and burn that have characterized the miserable political discourse of the generation of swine. If these two emerge as the nominees we will simply have another food fight on our hands, all sound and fury signifying nothing.

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