Risky Closing Strategy? Obama, Clinton Nationalize Guv Race


    by Paul Goldman

    On an historic basis, none of the previous Democratic GUV winners in the modern age – Robb, Baliles, Wilder, Warner and Kaine – would have gone with the McAuliffe campaign’s closing strategy of having the efforts of major national figures like former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s million dollar spending and now – last but hardly least – the President himself dominate the news coverage in the closing days of the campaign.

    Times change, circumstances change, no question.

    BUT: Moreover, the President is finally getting into the fray this weekend as the Obamacare issue goes viral, and not in a good way politically. .  

    At 200 proof, we don’t judge right or wrong, we leave those thing to the really smart people. We simply call the play on the field, as it unwinds after the snap to the quarterback. We try to ask the right questions, and answer them in a fair manner to the extent possible in the boundaries of human nature.

    So we ask: Given the polls, and assuming they are right, why – on a net, net basis – would you want to nationalize the election by having coverage of Bill Clinton, and now the President, define the close given the way the Obamacare issue is building toward election day?

    As a political issue, Obamacare, as we wrote weeks ago, should have been a net PLUS politically for Cuccinelli. Why? Simple: Like most things in politics that are difficult to achieve – national health care being one of the toughest ever tackled by a President – there are going to be winners and losers among Americans as they perceive their economic interests.

    As the famous advertising slogan in New York City declared: BS walks, money talks.

    And as far as most voters are concerned, politics is mostly BS to them because they are sure that the “devil is in the details” of everything, that a politician isn’t lying only when his or her lips aren’t moving. “Read My Lips: No New Taxes” claimed President George Bush the elder.

    Of course he didn’t keep that promise: his lips were moving when he said it. That’s what real people living in the real world think, right or wrong, its their opinion and actually never more than now if you believe the polls.

    We live in a sound bite political culture. The most popular Governor in the modern history of Virginia – Chuck Robb – was famous for saying things in such a convoluted manner that it proved impossible to get a sound bite. It worked brilliantly, he came across as thoughtful and middle of the road. But in the campaign, he knew how to do sound bites.  “No More Car Tax” is probably the best known – and most untrue – sound bite to ever dominate a Governor’s race. Gilmore promised the local car tax would be gone 10 years ago! How did that work out Jimbo?

    Don Beyer, his losing Democratic opponent, had the most honest sound bite: “I won’t lie to you about the car tax.” He didn’t. .”

    Guess who was slam dunking right on the merits? Guess who won the election in a landslide?

    Whether fair or not, Obamacare sound bites threaten to dominate the political news going in one ear and out the other right through election day BECAUSE the voters Cuccinelli needed to win the election think they pay too much for health care except those with too much money to spend any time thinking about how to pay for their health care. Given the media in America, they are going to cover the negative, they are going to run sound bites of those upset. Local news loves car crashes, murder victims, and those willing to go camera to complain about being a victim of government, whatever. It gets ratings.

    Let’s be honest: If the President had to go to Massachusetts to defend Obamacare by calling on the ghost of Mitt Romney and evoke Romneycare to prove the value of Obamacare, then THE DARN POLITICAL WORLD IS UPSIDE DOWN POLITICALLY WEIRD RIGHT NOW.

    The President is trying a two-cushion billiard ball carom shot into the middle pocket. Even the folks in a Harvard PHD program would have a tough time following that argument. The legendary Pool Hall Hustler Minnesota Fats would likely pass on trying to make that double bank shot.  

    People want a simple answer: Will I have to pay more for my health care?

    And the right answer is the wrong one politically: “It depends what you mean by more.”

    They don’t really care if they can keep their current health care plan if the “Obamacare” one will cost them less. But getting an apple to apples comparison isn’t all that easy, and not possible to explain in a sound bite.

    As Bill Clinton, the brilliant lawyer, said: “It depends what is…is.”

    Not his best sound bite either, but he was right on the law.

    As they say in politics, “if you are explaining you are losing.”

    The sound bite war that is.

    Fact: Unless something unexpected happens, Obamacare will be a LOSING SOUNDBITE ISSUE through election day next Tuesday.

    It might save your life on Wednesday. But not before you have to vote. .

    So this why 200 proof asks: Is it the right closing strategy to in effect nationalize the election, ending the campaign with an appearance by the President, which right now figures to have a picture of the President, Terry, Bill and possibly Hillary on the front page of every page Monday, dominating the nightly news the prior Sunday, and possibly leading to an “Obamacare referendum” headline on Tuesday, along with giving the GOP bloggers – who don’t much like Cuccinelli – a united rallying cry for the next several days.

    Moreover, it is purely a “turnout” strategy. Yes, this figures to be a “turnout” election since it has not yet been dominated by any substantive issue although the generic issue of Cuccinelli being an extra standards deviation or two from the norm surely has shaped the playing field.

    But since the polls show TMAC with a solid lead – and the poll show Democrats eager to vote more than Republicans – why do you need a “turnout” strategy that risks turning out more Republicans who might not have voted than Democrats?

    What may friends in DC tell me is this: “Come on Paul, are you that much of idiot, the President wants a piece of the win, so do the Clintons, the TMacker is going to win, that’s the whole thing this last week.”

    My response was: “I am probably an idiot, I get that. But so you are saying this is basically a victory lap prior to the victory?”

    The fact is that in this space, 200 proof was the first in the state to point out statistically – a year ago when others were saying Cuccinelli was a sure winner – that TMacker would win, and we upped it to a DEM sweep before the Democratic primary meaning it didn’t matter who won the nomination, they were all going to win.

    I have absolutely no doubt this is what would have happened had the election been held this past Tuesday.

    There is no question the President’s campaigning will increase Democratic turnout. But it also could lead to a bigger relative increase in Republican turnout. It could also convince some of those interested in voting for Sarvis to switch to Cuccinelli on a net-net basis since the third party Libertarian is hurting the GOP nominee more than the DEM nominee according to the polls.

    In the end, it all gets down to the numbers, the same reason Obamacare is having trouble politically right now.

    Bottom line: Democrats and Democratic leaners already have a reason to vote for Terry. Contrary to the news reports, the polls show Democrats like him, it isn’t an anti-Cuccinelli vote.

    The guy with the real problem with losing votes other Republicans have received  because of his image is Cuccinelli, who has real problem among a bloc of regular voters who seldom have “voting Democrat” as their favorite pastime.

    They don’t like Cuccinelli.

    But the odds say that right now, they aren’t big fans of Obamacare and they aren’t all that happy with the President either.

    Why give these Virginians reason – a reason they don’t have right now – to cast a reluctant vote for Cuccinelli, more importantly come to the polls to support Mark Obenshain, the emerging “hope” of the depressed GOP.

    Bill Clinton has just toured the state, getting big news coverage. Isn’t that enough GOTV high-profile campaigning?

    The Cuccinelli campaign was on a downward trend until the nationalization of the contest began getting more attention as so many groups want to “own” a piece of the victory.

    Net, Net: I voted for the President 3 times, and but for the 22nd Amendment, would be voting for him again. Political strategy is best without passion or prejudice.

    If Democrats aren’t ready to vote, if Democratic leaning independents aren’t ready to vote, if the anti-Cuccinelli Republican isn’t ready to vote by now, an appearance by the President will not likely move them except at the margins.

    So I don’t see the upside when measured against the downside risk, however small, of finally giving a lot of normal but turned GOP types a reason to hold their nose and cast a protest vote against the President.

    It probably doesn’t matter in the end. But that suggests only further reason not to do it on the Democratic side of the game.  


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