With such big hitters as Obama, Clinton and Edwards leading the charge for the Democrat’s presidential position, it was really a count down until they started really getting into it. At the latest Democratic debate (only the second televised), at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire (of course), between all of the Democrats in the running, it was a chance for everyone to tackle the election-deciding issue of Iraq. Keeping tabs on the big three about Iraq would appear to be simple: Democrats don’t want the war, thus they would all oppose it. Then everyone remembers that a heck of a lot of them voted for the use of military force in Iraq. That includes Hilary and Edwards, who voted for the Iraq Resolution as Senate members.
And here’s where Barrack Obama has the advantage among Democratic voters and anti-war Republicans – he opposed the war from the get-go, back when he was a member of the Illinois Senate in ’02. And Obama continued to do so; most vocally in his keynote address of the ’04 Democratic National Convention. At the same time, it was this speech that speared him towards voter popularity and, eventually, his presidential campaign.
Edwards tried to take soft shots at all his competitors for the Democratic vote by saying they weren’t “leaders” in opposing the Iraq war, to which Obama had the most effective reply to the Senator:
“The fact is that I opposed this war from the start. So you’re about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue.”
How more effective could you say ‘I told you so’ than that? And it was worded in a way so as to not sound pompous or rude, but that it was God’s honest truth. And it is. Edwards should have taken a page from Clinton’s play-book here and tried to skirt the issue. Instead, he allowed Obama to, for the debate (and the rest of the race if he keeps up with such rhetoric) to take the charge and the “leadership” role in the anti-war camp. Bad move for Edwards, great opportunity for Obama. Clinton, using her smarts, decided not to point out internal candidate’s differences, but looked to the wider, future presidential-context, setting:
“This is George Bush’s war. And what we are trying to do, whether it’s by speaking out from the outside or working and casting votes that actually make a difference from the inside, we are trying to end the war.”
Of course, Edwards’ plan was to try and steal votes from his much more popular and much more ‘able’ opponents:
“There are differences between us. And I think Democratic voters deserve to know the differences between us. I think there is a difference between making very clear when the crucial moment comes, on Congress ending this war, what your position is, and standing quiet.”
Good idea, if you’re from the Obama school, and not if you voted to get the war going. Of course, if Clinton or Edwards get up with the primaries, then there’s going to have to be a whole lot of dancing lessons taken, or at least excuses thought up as to why they, in fact, voted for the war in the first place, if all they are going to do now is act the ‘hypocrite’ (Republican’s word, not mine) and say that the war is no good.
Of course, that tactic should be avoided at all costs while they are running the primaries. Obama will always hold the trump card in that debate, with Clinton refusing to repudiate her Iraq vote and saying that if she knew then what she knows now, she would change her vote. Funnily enough, she may have know enough then to vote differently. Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who at the time was the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, voted against the Iraq Resolution in 2002 citing the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq as a reason for his vote. Now, is Senator Clinton telling us that she didn’t read the Estimate or that she was wrong, in which case she could be wrong about a great many other things (Republican words, not mine)? And then the Obama camp could march out and say that he opposed it, and she didn’t, and that he was right all along, and therefore you should vote for Obama.
And let’s be frank: Edwards doesn’t stand a chance against these two. If the centrist Obama doesn’t win the primaries, Miss Popular Clinton will. Unfortunately, as good as Edwards would be, it’s my belief that Obama (who I would like to see slightly (and only slightly) more as president than Edwards) or Clinton (who I don’t want to see as president, and that’s not a fear of femininity) are a shoe-in already, and the leading chance to become president come the race. Of course, it probably wouldn’t hurt either candidate’s chances to try and secure Edwards as VP. Of course, he’s already been there once and a half times (Gore had him on the very short list reportedly), so he might just say no, or the candidates may view him as vote-costing (as he lost the Kerry/Edwards election quite comprehensively).
So, in their blogger’s opinion, it’s still a two horse race, and on the issue of Iraq, it’s still my opinion that Obama is a shoe-in. Of course, there was more discussed at the debate than Iraq, but everyone touts (and I believe) that it’s probably the biggest issue (unless something comes up between now and then) that the Democrats have to face, as well as the Republicans. The Republicans have to stand up against their party’s want to go to war and how they voted (which, if they voted against, is likely to cost them more votes than if they voted for). The Democrats have to convince the people that they oppose the Iraq war for the right reasons and have another, successful, course of action. And on that last point, Obama has Hilary by a mile. And, in the face of Edward’s back-handed slap, Obama not only replied in the most effective way, but was a cool as a cucumber so as to no appear a show-off:
“And, you know, I think it’s important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this.”
What a suave SOB. And all he needs to do is reply in exactly the same fashion against anything Hilary might have to say about the issue, and he is a lock. And that’s the part Obama has played, and will continue to play, within his party: he’s a uniter. Being of the centre, he brings together the left and the right of his party, and then some of the left from the Republicans. He doesn’t go around promoting communism or other left-wing extremist views, but nor does he cross over into the traditionally red area. When Wolf Blitzer asked the question (where a blue-red candidate would have a field day answering it) if English should be the official language of the United States, he replied with another cool, calculated response:
“When we get distracted by those kinds of questions, I think we do a disservice to the American people.”
And that’s shutting down Fox’s Blitzer with a single sentence, while also ensuring that his views on a whole range of issues are moderate enough that the far from extreme right voters and the left voters all can rally together under. Which is exactly why Obama would win the presidential race. The only issue is: beat out the other candidates for the primaries. It’s a tougher battle there than for the White House this time around. And it’s only because of Clinton’s popularity.
When it comes down to policies deciding votes, then things will get interesting. While people say Obama’s inexperience is a bad thing, I tend to disagree. It’s a chance to shape his policies in an election-winning way. Clinton has to deal with her Iraq Resolution vote, her extreme left opinions on some issues and policies that she has talk about that may not be popular on the right side of politics (and mean that she can’t steal any votes). Edwards the exact same. But now, Obama gets to talk about his first detailed economic policies, his first detailed immigration policies, his first detailed health care policies. First first first. And if he has a good team behind him, then they shouldn’t be a problem. And, being the centrist that he is, he can make different types of policies that the left-left Clinton and the left Edwards can’t, and will secure more votes that way than if he tailored his campaign and presidency to securing the extreme left.
The only first, though, that is really important, is winning the primaries, then going onto the White House.
P.S. Just when you thought it was safe to go back int the water …
I know it has been a while since I did a political post, and before my McCain rip, even longer. But I enjoy them more than most other posts (behind probably movies, T.V. and holidays), so I’m probably going to do a fair few this month with all the free time I have. They seem to take a little longer, having to cross-check and find quotes etc.