THE BLOG
03/08/2008 03:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

7 Days in America : New Math vs. Old Assumptions in Obama-Clinton...with Gov. Ed Rendell, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Huffington and Green

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by Mark Green

There was no Democratic presidential primary debate this week, so 7 Days in America had one, sort of. Post-Ohio/Texas, Gov. Ed Rendell made the case for Hillary Clinton and Arianna Huffington and Katrina vanden Heuvel demurred.

After weeks of Obama on a roll, his enthusiasts are having a hard time coming to grips with a new political landscape. He's still favored (by 74% to 26% according to InTrade.com, the Irish futures market), but Clinton's success last Tuesday has created some new facts to challenge old assertions:

*Clinton should quit because she can't win, argued Jonathan Alter of Newsweek and radio talk show host Ed Schultz. Clinton chose to ignore their "Dewey Beats Truman" hand-wringing, avoided defeat and extinction in Ohio and Texas, and now is mathematically within reach of winning. Based on Realclearpolitics.com's numbers, Obama's ahead by about some 120 delegates (or 52%-48%) and by only 1% in the popular vote (counting Florida but not Michigan). To win the nomination, therefore, she needs 56% of the remaining 961 delegates -- which is about the margin she won in Ohio. Hard but do-able.

*Super-delegates are undemocratic. That is so February. If Supers are undemocratic, then so are Caucuses, which inherently discriminate against night-shift workers and seniors -- which is why general elections are like primaries. Of course, the Democratic Party is no more likely to decide mid-contest that Caucuses shouldn't count as that Superdelegates shouldn't count.

One more time: because Super-delegates have been in the rules since 1982, because they likely will make the margin of difference this year given two superb and evenly matched competitors, and because Supers are not aliens but interested parties called governors, senators, congresspeople & grassroots leaders, the case against allowing each to decide would be the best nominee and president is frivolous. And makes the perfect the enemy of the good.

*Clinton's too negative. Possibly true, but that largely misses the point. There is a natural restraint on her or any candidate, which is that if one is too negative, voters are lost not won. Though red-hot supporters and talk show hosts have an incentive to exaggerate every criticism, Clinton has done no worse than LBJ implying JFK would die of Addison's disease or GHW Bush attacking Reagan's "voodoo economics." And look what happened to Johnson and Bush. Since Clinton obviously believes she has more national security cred than Obama, she's going to advertise that fact in inevitable Mondale-like red-phone ads - though she should surely NOT say or imply that McCain is a preferred president because he's been on this topic longer than Obama.

And both sides should stop stringing together stupid, foolish, or random comments (Shaheen!, "as far as I know"!) since anyone can garther a few "Monster" gaffes from the hundred staff/surrogates who side with a candidate to make believe that the opponent is a creep.

The big story is not attacks but themes -- and it appears that Clinton's finally found a theme to compete with "Change," viz., she's the pocketbook Democratic who has best economic story during this Republican Recession.

There are really now only three big questions that need to be answered in the next six weeks until Pennsylvania or the next five months until the Denver Convention, IMHO:

#1: Who's more likely to beat McCain? Answer -- yet to be determined.

#2: Can Obama figure out why Clinton in Ohio won white Catholics by 31 percentage points in Ohio and blue collar union families by double digits? For if she replicates those numbers in Pennsylvania -- and perhaps in new Florida and Michigan elections -- she can have a persuasive answer to Question #1 above.

#3: Speaking of Florida and Michigan, will there be do-overs there? To cut this Gordian Knot of a controversy, can there be a "One-Third Solution" -- with the States, the Party and the candidates each picking up a third of the costs? For if there are new primaries, it's possible that Clinton could then shrink Obama's delegate lead significantly and reverse his popular vote lead. That too would help her answer #1 with undecided Super-delegates.

Listen to the audio to hear about this and more -- that is if you believe in truth, justice and the Air American way.

RENDELL: On whether Clinton's ads have been unfair: "I think that people on both sides, the Clinton side and the Obama side, should stop whining about us hurting ourselves because what we have done is mild. It's child's play compared to what the Republicans are going to do. If the Obama forces think that the 3 a.m. ad was unfair wait till they see what the 527's are gonna do in the fall. It will make this look like mother goose."

RENDELL: On why Clinton is better on national security issues than Obama: "Although it's true that she never made any decisions, she was there when those decisions were made and she saw the way those decisions had to be made. She experienced the process with which those decisions were made over the course of 8 years -- as well as her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee -- and throughout the course of those 8 years there were a lot of tough and difficult decisions to be made."

HUFFINGTON: On why Clinton won Ohio: "I think that it proves once again that fear-mongering works. The 3 am phone ad was absolute and unadulterated Karl Rovian fear-mongering of the kind that worked in 2002, it worked in 2004 and she is now trying it in 2008. As Gary Hart has just written in the Huffingfton Post, Hillary Clinton has just broken the final rule that you do not provide ammunition for the opposition party that can be used to destroy your party's nominee. And she did that when she said that she and John McCain are qualified to lead the country, particularly during times of crisis, and then implying that Obama is not...Democrats will lose again if they don't everyday make the case that the people who took us to Iraq, who are keeping us there are, are the worst people to protect us when it comes to every national security issue."

GREEN: "Gov. Rendell, you are a super delegate. Al Gore and Jimmy Carter and John Kerry and Bill Richardson other senators and governors are super delegates. Are these evil people who shouldn't have any role in the nominating process?" RENDELL: "Let me say this to the Obama people or anyone else who thinks that super delegates are unfair or undemocratic: Number 1: That was the rule going in. Number 2: If Obama supporters say they are undemocratic, I can say to them that the caucus states are undemocratic because they disenfranchise a lot of people -- particularly older citizens, who can not vote by absentee ballots, and shift workers who tend to be lower income people who work the 4 to 12 shift."

VANDEN HEUVEL: What about the Jonathan Alter & Ed Schultz argument that Clinton should quit the race since she can't win and is being divisive? "I think it's deeply anti-democratic to say that she should step aside. She and the voters should have the chance to decide for themselves." HUFFINGTON: "Absolutely! Last Tuesday's election changed that dynamic. If she had lost on Tuesday then that argument would have made sense, but now it doesn't."

VANDEN HEUVEL: How should Obama respond to Clinton's new surge? "He should go to Pittsburgh and give a keystone speech with details about what he'd do as president to address the economic anxieties and insecurities of workers in Pennsylvania. And he should do it at the headquarters of the United Steelworkers."