April 25, 2008


Is Obama Ready for Prime Time? (KARL ROVE, April 24, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

[D]emocrats run the risk of a split decision in June. Mr. Obama could have more delegates, but she could have more popular votes. In fact, on Tuesday night she actually grabbed the popular vote lead: If you include the Michigan and Florida primary results, Mrs. Clinton now leads the popular vote by a slim 113,000 votes out of 29,914,356 cast.

Mr. Obama will argue he wasn't on the ballot in Michigan and didn't campaign in Florida. But don't Democrats want to count all the votes in all the contests? After all, Mr. Obama took his name off the Michigan ballot; it isn't something he was forced to do. And while he didn't campaign in Florida, neither did she.

And what about the Michigan and Florida delegates? By my calculations, she should pick up about 54 delegates on Mr. Obama if they are seated (this assumes the Michigan "uncommitted" delegates go for Mr. Obama). If he is ahead in June by a number similar to his lead today of 125, does he let the two delegations in and make the convention vote even closer? Or does he continue to act as if two states with 41 of the 270 electoral votes needed for the White House don't exist?

The Democratic Party has two weakened candidates. Mrs. Clinton started as a deeply flawed candidate: the palpable and unpleasant sense of entitlement, the absence of a clear and optimistic message, the grating personality impatient to be done with the little people and overly eager for a return to power, real power, the phoniness and the exaggerations. These problems have not diminished over the long months of the contest. They have grown. She started out with the highest negatives of any major candidate in an open race for the presidency and things have only gotten worse.

And what of the reborn Adlai Stevenson? Mr. Obama is befuddled and angry about the national reaction to what are clearly accepted, even commonplace truths in San Francisco and Hyde Park. How could anyone take offense at the observation that people in small-town and rural American are "bitter" and therefore "cling" to their guns and their faith, as well as their xenophobia? Why would anyone raise questions about a public figure who, for only 20 years, attended a church and developed a close personal relationship with its preacher who says AIDS was created by our government as a genocidal tool to be used against people of color, who declared America's chickens came home to roost on 9/11, and wants God to damn America? Mr. Obama has a weakness among blue-collar working class voters for a reason.

His inspiring rhetoric is a potent tool for energizing college students and previously uninvolved African-American voters. But his appeals are based on two aspirational pledges he is increasingly less credible in making.

Mr. Obama's call for postpartisanship looks unconvincing, when he is unable to point to a single important instance in his Senate career when he demonstrated bipartisanship. And his repeated calls to remember Dr. Martin Luther King's "fierce urgency of now" in tackling big issues falls flat as voters discover that he has not provided leadership on any major legislative battle.

Mr. Obama has not been a leader on big causes in Congress. He has been manifestly unwilling to expend his political capital on urgent issues. He has been only an observer, watching the action from a distance, thinking wry and sardonic and cynical thoughts to himself about his colleagues, mildly amused at their to-ing and fro-ing. He has held his energy and talent in reserve for the more important task of advancing his own political career, which means running for president.

But something happened along the way. Voters saw in the Philadelphia debate the responses of a vitamin-deficient Stevenson act-a-like.

Adlai Stevenson was at least running in an America that still gave Democrats credit for ending the Depression and winning WWII--not to mention the Southerners who appreciated it upholding Jim Crow--whereas Mr. Obama is stuck running in an America that has returned to its conservative default settings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2008 3:33 PM

I'll bet Rove was laughing out loud when he wrote "But don't Democrats want to count all the votes in all the contests".

While driving home from work, I heard a snippet of Scalia's upcoming interview on 60 Minutes. It was just priceless to hear him tell Lesley Stahl "Just get over it" and to hear him remind her that the vote on the issue of binding the FL Supreme Court was 7-2. "Not even close", he said.

Posted by: ratbert at April 25, 2008 5:20 PM

But the Dems didn't end the Depression. Heck, their meddling in the mid-30s even made it worse...

And they didn't win the war either...

Posted by: Bartman at April 26, 2008 6:30 AM

Rove's columns in the WSJ so far have been full of the most perceptive and clearly expressed political analysis around. He really is good at this stuff.

Posted by: rds at April 26, 2008 8:40 AM