Observations From NH
Posted by Michael Cohen
Today I sort of saw both sides of the political coin here in New Hampshire and it was an interesting experience.
On the one hand when you talk to politicos and those "in the know" there is a palpable sense that Hillary is dead in the water. Not a single person I spoke with seems to think she can come back from this. Part of what is driving this is the creeping air of desperation around her campaign.
Through the day I got pitched, formally and informally, by various Clintonites on Obama stories, most of which were almost embarrassing to hear. I don't use these words and phrases lightly or indiscriminately. I find it difficult to conceive of how unprepared her team was for this not-that-hard-to-predict turn of events. What it tells me is that they never really planned for this. And they literally have no idea what to do at the clutch moment. For the now they are grasping for anything and everything.
Just to give an example of this I saw a release sent out by the Clinton campaign that accused Obama of violating NH law because he was calling people on Don't Call lists as well as other picayune campaign violations. For lack of a better word, it was laughable and hardly the type of campaign attack that one could realistically have any hope of swaying an undecided voter. When I saw it, my first response was "desperation" and I wasn't alone.
To be honest, this was hardly the most desperate or even despicable attack I heard about coming from the Clinton folks, but it should give a good flavor of what's going on. To all those people who argue that the press hates Hillary, I think that's too simplistic; one gets the sense that more than a few reporters are a little tired of the unceasing Clinton spin machine. How many years have some of these folks been listening to Ann Lewis, Howard Wolfson, Mark Penn and other Clintonites try to convince them that the sky is indeed, green? I imagine it becomes grating after a while. Back in the 90s spinning about Ken Starr was acceptable, but against a guy like Obama it just seems more ruthless. I'm not a reporter and I could be wrong about this, but that's been my sense.
Now for the contrast. This sort of inside baseball back and forth doesn't seem to be trickling down to the electorate. I was very struck today, talking to Democratic voters, how many of them seemed genuinely to be agonizing about having to choose not only between Hillary and Obama, but also Edwards and Richardson. These aren't voters who are trying to choose between the lesser of two evils. They like several of the candidates; they just can't decide which one they want to support.
Kevin Drum wrote with a slight tinge of bitterness earlier today:
In related news, apparently the flinty-eyed independents of New Hampshire aren't quite as flinty-eyed as they'd like you to believe. After a solid year of town halls, coffee klatsches, and early morning doorbell ringing — because, you know, New Hampshirites take their electoral responsibilities so much more seriously than the rest of us — all it took was a few thousand Iowans to flip them from one side to the other in less than 24 hours. Feh.
But again I think that's a but unfair. Let's face it, supporting someone like Obama means taking a bit of a leap of faith. The guy does not have a ton of experience. So I think for a lot of voters who are deciding between her and Hillary, the Iowa results were sort of the impetus to take that leap. Heck if Iowans think he's a safe bet, maybe we should get on the bandwagon. Moreover, if you look at past results, Iowa doesn't always translate into a New Hampshire victory. Keep in mind, in 1988 George Bush finished third in Iowa (18 points behind Dole) and won New Hampshire. In 1996, Dole won Iowa and lost NH to Buchanan. In 2000 W won Iowa and got hammered in NH. On the Dem side, we had different winner of Iowa and NH in 84, 88 and 92. In defense of New Hampshire voters, I think they take their responsibility, for the most part, pretty seriously. But this year, the choices are not easy, esp for Dems, and I think Obama's win in Iowa has served as sort of confirmation for genuinely agonizing voters in the Granite State. At least that's the sense I've gotten from the admittedly small sample of voters that I've spoken to.
Tomorrow I hope to attend some Huckabee, McCain and Romney events so an update on the GOP side of things is coming soon. However, I'll offer a quick observation - the dislike of Mitt Romney among both voters and politicos alike is just palpable. Now I have met a few Republicans who indicated they are voting for Romney, but for everyone else . . . well the only word that comes to mind is loathing. Apparently the other GOP candidates are not alone!