Reality Based Community

It’s five minutes before ‘I told you so’.

Political reality is nudging political fantasy.

Hillary Clinton opponents and Big Media increasingly acknowledge Hillary is THE frontrunner.

“An important threshold has finally been crossed for Clinton: Even her opponents have joined the media in acknowledging that there is just one front-runner in the Democratic race. Considering where she started six months ago, it’s a remarkable feat. She’s done it without winning a single caucus or primary. Only Gore in ’99 and Mondale in ’83 were in this strong of a position in the last five contested Democratic contests.”

We here at Big Pink know what the political reality is and has been regarding Hillary. What political fantasies are giving way to political reality which have led to Hillary’s “remarkable feat” and strong position? Why is Hillary receiving so much support from the Democrat base of working class voters and the poor?

Denise Bren’s voice trembled as she stood in a city park near her home to ask Sen. Barack Obama what he would do to help people like her struggling to pay their bills. “From the cost of gas to the cost of a dozen eggs, the price keeps going up and the wages don’t,” she said. “I’m in a family of two and can’t imagine what it does to a family of four or more.”

Skipping any expression of sympathy for Bren’s personal plight on a day when he was focused on the Iraq war, Obama (D-Ill.) launched into a detailed, six-point plan outlining the economic policies he would change as president. As thoughtful as his response was that recent morning, touching on everything from annual minimum-wage increases to pension protection, it left the 52-year-old cold.

“He tried to answer my question but also was leery in a way to get into it and feel somebody’s pain,” said Bren, who is unemployed, never finished college and is leaning toward supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Wine versus beer.

A former Harvard Law Review president and constitutional law lecturer at the University of Chicago, Obama can sometimes seem professorial. It is one of the reasons he sometimes fails to connect with working-class voters.

Pollsters call Bren and those like her “beer-track” voters, while those with higher incomes and more education are dubbed “wine-track” voters. The first group tends to care more about pocketbook issues. The second places greater value on more global matters.

Wine-track voters can provide money, votes and other important resources for a campaign, but it is the beer-track voters who have proved critical for winning the Democratic nomination.

Intellectual liberals with outsider messages who fail to connect with this demographic group have often failed. Think Bill Bradley in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004.

So far, Obama has done well attracting the Chardonnay crowd, but he has had less success winning over Joe Sixpack. Clinton, meanwhile, is winning them over, aided by name recognition as a former first lady and a perception that she is tough.

Hillary doesn’t whine. She fights.

Still, a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll illustrates his problem. It found Clinton dominates the Democratic field among working-class voters in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

In all three states, she leads Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards among voters in households earning less than $40,000, although among all voters the race remains close in Iowa.

A Gallup Poll, meanwhile, recently reported that Obama is highly competitive with Clinton among the most-educated segment of the party. But he lags among those who have had some college or less.

“At least one candidate has exhibited a pattern similar to Obama’s educational skew in each election cycle since 1988, but that candidate usually does not end up winning the Democratic presidential nomination,” Gallup said.

Working-class voters traditionally have been the bedrock of Democratic primaries. They are a key reason Clinton leads in many state and national polls, mirroring the support her husband enjoyed with the group.

“Hillary’s strength is in traditional Democratic strongholds, and that is the beer track,” said J. Ann Selzer, who conducts the Iowa Poll for The Des Moines Register. “She is sort of the solid, institutional Democratic candidate.”

Obama and Axelrod in Fantasy Island.

Obama’s campaign argues it is bringing in a whole new set of voters, including younger ones and even some independents and Republicans.

But there are risks with that strategy, especially in Iowa, where the average Iowa caucus participant is in his or her 50s.

“They are less likely to actually show up,” Selzer said of the younger and potential first-time caucus participants. “The real question is can [Obama] harden up that support.”

A man of the wine people only.

Still, during his first major Iowa farm visit earlier this summer, he made it clear that he sometimes forgets he is not in his intellectually and financially affluent section of Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood.

On the farm that day, while trying to make a sympathetic point that farmers have not seen an increase in prices from their crops, Obama posed the following question:

“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” he asked. “I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.”

That comment came despite the fact that Iowa does not have any Whole Foods stores, nor do its farmers typically grow the leafy green.

Hard-working anecdote

The need for Obama to appear more working-class is perhaps reflected in the periodic inclusion in his stump speech of a recent experience helping a union health-care worker as part of the Service Employees International Union’s “Walk a Day in My Shoes” program for candidates.

“I went with her to work that day, and we made his bed and helped him get dressed, and we scrubbed the floors and made him breakfast and cleaned the house and did the laundry,” Obama recently told an audience. “I have to say, it was one of the best days I have had on the campaign so far.”

Still, after a hard day’s work, Obama seems to prefer wine to beer. In another section of his stump speech, he recalls a recent decision to visit a remote South Carolina town with relatively few voters to woo a state legislator’s endorsement.

“I must have had a glass of wine or something because I said ‘fine, no problem,'” he says in one of the anecdote’s laugh-lines.

It should not be suggested that Obama is without blue-collar support. A speech he gave last week to the Service Employees International Union, for example, won strong reviews.

Still, it was white zinfandel with an Obama logo on the bottle that was for sale at a rally one recent evening in Dubuque, Iowa, where a local winery had offered them as a campaign fundraiser.

The adjoining building was a former brewery, but there was no Obama beer for sale that night.

In August we wrote the aptly named article The Coming Obama Whine . In that article we took note of the fluid situation regarding the primary schedule. We further noted that the likely outcome regarding the primary schedule will be much earlier primary electioins and caucuses. Most importantly we addressed
the effects of earlier elections on the primary election voting population. We wrote this:

And here comes the whine. Obama, and to a lesser extent Edwards, has built his failing campaign under the delusion that students will support Obama at the polls. To that end Obama held his super-rallies geared to a youth audience and in some cases solely with the college networking site Facebook subscribers as the rally organizers. The Obama strategy is in conflict with the current primary calendar. If the primary schedule keeps moving earlier and earlier the universities and colleges of Iowa and New Hampshire will be on vacation when the voting takes place.

None of this can come as a surprise to the Obama campaign. But they have been silent on the issues relating to the calendar. We suspect that as their campaign collapses they will find in the calendar the ready excuse they will need. They will whine that the calendar robbed them of their organizers and voters. In Iowa, they will yelp that there is no way to caucus absentee.

Depending on how the calendar finally settles students will have to decide whether to return early to or stay late in the icy Jack Frost states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Obama of course thinks he is the sun to the youth vote. The likelihood is that Cancun and Daytona will be a more seductive destination for winter break than canvassing for a lusterless former fad candidate.

One month later, a Big Media outlet follows up on our article:

In interviews students said Obama’s campaign has been the most visible and aggressive on campus. But it is unclear whether this strategy will do much good, especially next year when the caucuses fall on Jan. 14, the first day of classes after winter break.

The University of Northern Iowa also begins on Jan. 14. The University of Iowa is the only state university still on break on caucus night; the spring term begins Jan. 22.

And

The doomsday scenario for organizers at Iowa State and UNI is if the caucuses are rescheduled for before Jan. 14. Iowa Democratic Party leaders have said they would move the caucus date up if other states challenge Iowa’s leadoff status. If that happens, most students would be in their hometowns, some of them in other states. [snip]

At the University of Iowa, where students don’t get back until Jan.22, organizers hope students will end their break a week early. Students who live off campus can come back whenever they want. On-campus, some residence halls are open during the break and some aren’t.

Dreams die hard, mistakes get repeated.

Scott County Auditor Karen Fitzsimmons looks at the youth voting from two perspectives, as an election official and as county coordinator for Obama. Four years ago, she was county coordinator for another candidate who had strong appeal with college students: Howard Dean. She was disappointed when many of Dean’s college-age supporters didn’t show upon caucus night, contributing to his disappointing third-place finish.

But Fitzsimmons said she thinks Obama’s supporters are more likely to follow through than Dean’s.”I get a sense, and so does (Obama), that these young people are going to show up. That’s what we hope for, or course. Time will tell,” she said.

Another ugly reality: Obama and LOBBYISTS

When Barack Obama and fellow state lawmakers in Illinois tried to expand healthcare coverage in 2003 with the “Health Care Justice Act,” they drew fierce opposition from the insurance industry, which saw it as a back-handed attempt to impose a government-run system.

Over the next 15 months, insurers and their lobbyists found a sympathetic ear in Obama, who amended the bill more to their liking partly because of concerns they raised with him and his aides, according to lobbyists, Senate staff, and Obama’s remarks on the Senate floor.

The wrangling over the healthcare measure, which narrowly passed and became law in 2004, illustrates how Obama, during his eight years in the Illinois Senate, was able to shepherd major legislation by negotiating competing interests in Springfield, the state capital. But it also shows how Obama’s own experience in lawmaking involved dealings with the kinds of lobbyists and special interests he now demonizes on the campaign trail.

And

The bill originally called for a “Bipartisan Health Care Reform Commission” to implement a program reaching all 12.4 million Illinois residents. The legislation would have made it official state policy to ensure that all residents could access “quality healthcare at costs that are reasonable.” Insurers feared that language would result in a government takeover of healthcare, even though the bill did not explicitly say that.

By the time the legislation passed the Senate, in May 2004, Obama had written three successful amendments, at least one of which made key changes favorable to insurers.

Most significant, universal healthcare became merely a policy goal instead of state policy – the proposed commission, renamed the Adequate Health Care Task Force, was charged only with studying how to expand healthcare access. In the same amendment, Obama also sought to give insurers a voice in how the task force developed its plan.

Lobbyists praised Obama for taking the insurance industry’s concerns into consideration.

And

In one attempt at a deal, Obama approached the Campaign for Better Health Care with insurers’ concerns, asking if the group would consider a less stringent mandate than requiring the state to come up with a universal healthcare plan. The coalition decided not to bend, said Jim Duffett, the group’s executive director.

“The concept of the Health Care Justice Act was to bring the sides – the different perspectives and stakeholders – to the table,” Duffett said. “In this situation, Obama was being a conduit from the insurance industry to us.”

Obama later watered down the bill after hearing from insurers and after a legal precedent surfaced during the debate indicating that it would be unconstitutional for one legislative assembly to pass a law requiring a future legislative assembly to craft a healthcare plan.

During debate on the bill on May 19, 2004, Obama portrayed himself as a conciliatory figure. He acknowledged that he had “worked diligently with the insurance industry,” as well as Republicans, to limit the legislation’s reach and noted that the bill had undergone a “complete restructuring” after industry representatives “legitimately” raised fears that it would result in a single-payer system.

“The original presentation of the bill was the House version that we radically changed – we radically changed – and we changed in response to concerns that were raised by the insurance industry,” Obama said, according to the session transcript.

And, how do you spell hypocrite?

Still, Obama’s willingness to hear out insurers and their lobbyists is revealing given the posture he strikes today on the presidential campaign trail – that lobbyists, insurance companies, and other big-industry special interests have an outsized and polluting influence on policy-making in Washington.

In a new television ad his campaign unveiled last week, Obama says that cynics “don’t believe we can limit the power of lobbyists who block our progress, or that we can trust the American people with the truth. . . . In 20 years of public service, I’ve brought Democrats and Republicans together to solve problems that touch the lives of everyday people. I’ve taken on the drug and insurance companies and won.”

And yet while serving in Illinois, Obama was willing to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists. Obama’s state Senate campaign committee accepted contributions from insurance companies and their lobbyists – including $1,000 from the Professional Independent Insurance Agents PAC in June 2003, and $1,000 from the Illinois Insurance PAC in December 2003 – while the Health Care Justice Act was wending its way through the Illinois General Assembly. Obama also collected money from the insurance industry and its lobbyists for his successful US Senate campaign in 2004.

Reality bites.

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Hillary Energy

Update: The Executive Council of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) voted unanimously to endorse Senator Hillary Clinton for President in 2008.

Hillary was also endorsed today by a former candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for President, Senator Evan Bayh.

[Obama was endorsed by the New York City corrections officers, a political maverick union that was among few labor groups backing Rick Lazio against Clinton in 2000 and (to its great benefit) was the only union supporting [Republican] Mike Bloomberg in 2001.
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Update II:

NYT’S DAVID BROOKS – HILLARY ‘DOESN’T HAVE TO GO AFTER ANYBODY, SHE JUST HAS TO BE WHAT SHE WAS ON YOUR SHOW. SHE LOOKED PRESIDENTIAL TO ME.’ [ABC This Week, 9/23/07]

FOX NEWS’ BRIT HUME – ‘I THOUGHT SHE WAS IN TERRIFIC FORM. YOU THREW HER SOME TOUGH QUESTIONS AND SHE HANDLED THEM ALL IT SEEMED TO ME VERY SMOOTHLY.’ [Fox News Sunday, 9/23/07]

WASHINGTON POST’S EJ DIONNE – ‘THIS MAY BE THE BEST WEEK [HILLARY’S] HAD SINCE SHE GOT ELECTED TO THE SENATE IN 2000. WHAT HILLARY’S DONE IS TO TAKE HER WEAKNESSES AND TRY TO TURN THEM INTO STRENGTHS.’ [ABC This Week, 9/23/07]

CBS NEWS’ JOIE CHEN – HILLARY IS ‘SOUNDING MORE THAN EVER LIKE THE DEMOCRAT HOLDING ALL THE GOOD CARDS.’ [CBS Evening News, 9/23/07]

POLITICO’S BEN SMITH: HILLARY ‘BEAMED HER WAY THROUGH’ SUNDAY TALK SHOWS AND WAS LEFT ‘UNSCATHED POLITICALLY AFTER THE TOUGHEST GRILLING WASHINGTON HAS TO OFFER.’ “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton beamed her way through a barrage of questions from five political talk show hosts Sunday morning, appearances that offered some details of her plans on health care and the war in Iraq, but left her basically unscathed politically after the toughest grilling Washington has to offer.” [Politico, 9/24/07 ]

LA TIMES’ JIM PUZZANGHERA – HILLARY ‘REINFORCED HER POSITION AS THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL FRONT-RUNNER SUNDAY.’ “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reinforced her position as the Democratic presidential front-runner Sunday as she executed the rare feat of appearing on all five major TV talk shows in one morning, defending her new healthcare proposal and vowing to oppose any Iraq war funding unless it is tied to starting a U.S. troop withdrawal.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/24/07 ]

POLITICO’S JOHN HARRIS – HILLARY ‘WAS REALLY PROJECTING HERSELF IN THIS INTERVIEW AS A FUTURE PRESIDENT.’ [CBS Face the Nation, 9/23/07]

NYT’S DAVID SANGER – ‘THE STRENGTH OF HER ANSWER ON THE SYRIA QUESTION… REALLY STRUCK ME.’ [CBS Face the Nation, 9/23/07]

CNN’S WOLF BLITZER – ‘IT’S A GUTSY THING FOR HER TO DO, TO GO IN FRONT OF ALL THE SUNDAY MORNING TALK SHOW HOSTS IN ONE FELL SWOOP.’ [CNN Late Edition, 9/23/07]

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What a Sunday! And more good news coming on Monday.

Hillary Clinton Speaks about Iraq funding on Meet The Press:

Hillary on Late Edition punching back and reminding Wolf Blitzer about Max Cleland and the Swiftboating of John Kerry. Hillary won’t be swiftboated:

Hillary Polarizes Tim Russert:

Hillary Mocks Chris Wallace and Hyper Partisanship Charge with a Big Hearty Laugh

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