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Estrich on the Polls

Susan Estrich is nervous. She’s nervous because the polls don’t show Obama leading with the kind of numbers he should have given all the smiles he’s attracting from the gods of campaign fortune. He’s got money, an adoring media parade following him around like he’s the pied piper, a frenzied and energetic youth base, a less than ideal Republican opponent with a host of his own problems, a demoralized GOP, an unpopular incumbent, a sagging economy, high oil prices, an unpopular war which he opposed . . . shall I go on? And he’s what, 8 or 9 points ahead at best? And it’s July. As Estrich says, ask President Dukakis what it means to be up in July (or ask President Clinton what it means to be down in July).

Estrich posits a host of possible reasons for Obama’s less than stellar numbers and, regrettably, race rates highest on her list. She also wonders whether people are worried about Obama’s youth and lack of experience. It’s fair to say that both are legitimate points for an honest political analyst in this season. But Estrich’s emphasis draws heavily on her ideology. It’s clear that race hurts Obama with at least some small percentage of voters and it would be foolish to claim otherwise. But this factor alone cannot be enough to decide this election. I think Estrich knows that (hence her tentative reference to age and inexperience) but she has reasons for wanting to emphasize race (just as she also had reason to emphasize Obama’s tensions with Jesse Jackson). She wants you to feel guilty about not liking Obama. She wants you to think your legitimate gripes secretly or subconsciously might be racist ones.

One way Estrich attempts to help that guilt along is to remain silent on a number of Obama’s obvious flubs. She didn’t hold back in her criticisms of other Democrats or of the Democratic Party more generally, but she is reserved when it comes to Obama’s real difficulties with voters. For example (and incredibly!) she never even mentions the perception of him (now growing with this Brandenberg Gate nonsense) as an arrogant, wannabe punk. Inexplicably, she makes no mention of his many (Freudian?) slips of the tongue (rural voters clinging to guns and God, etc.). Remarkably, she never thinks to mention the names of Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers or Fr. Pfleger. She assiduously avoids any mention of Michelle. She doesn’t talk about Obama’s slick re-engineering of himself and his positions and his absurd tendency lately to take himself way too seriously. Indeed, as Estrich ticked off her list of recent Democratic candidates, I couldn’t help but notice how similar Obama now seems to Kerry, Gore and Dukakis. With the exception of Bill Clinton, Democrats really do have had an uncanny knack to nominate insufferable people who are very difficult for regular people to like. Whatever one may say about his differences with either of the Bushes and Reagan, one didn’t get the sense from any of them that they considered themselves to be above reproach. On some level you knew that these were normal people (or as normal as politicians probably get) and that they didn’t get up every morning reveling in how much smarter they were compared to you. Obama (like Dukakis, Gore and Kerry before him) tends to give the impression that he is a very earnest and very grim student affairs director in charge of a grievance hearing whenever he is attacked. It is hard to imagine him laughing at himself and it looking genuine.

That said, Estrich does ask a fair and rather pointed question about Republicans as she closes her article, "You know there will be a major effort on the Republican side to destroy Obama. But will there be anything else? And if so, exactly what will that be?" It could be a lot more than it has been so far, that much is certain!

Discussions - 13 Comments

With blacks preferring Obama to McCain by 89%-2%, why is anybody still talking about white racism?

Because only whites can be racist.


And a punk like Obama wants the game rigged in his favor. It's how a guy like that wins. He cannot win fair and square. Our job is to destroy him. If we don't go after him, hard, the fight is extremely unfair and we lose.

Most of the posts on this blog echo (if less blatantly) the sentiments of "Plain Vanilla Con": the only tactic available to Republicans this round is to attack Obama (are the Republicans REALLY going to spend lots of time and money attacking his wife? That's pure desperation, and disgraceful at that). There is nothing to stand FOR or BEHIND. This is why the Republicans will lose, and lose badly - unless they begin to argue what they are FOR.


I wonder, in fact, if all the emphasis on what's not likeable about Obama is not a bit of an effort to avoid facing up to what is not likeable about McCain. I have a hard time imagining that there will be any great enthusiasm for the man this time, and that his numbers will grow substantially going forward.


This is not to say that I am a fan of Obama- I agree with much of what Julie (and Estrich) diagnose here - particularly the propensity of Democrats to nominate dour killjoys who know better than us rubes. But, in the interest of being fair and balanced, the Republicans are in trouble, and no amount of mud slinging is going to change the fact that there's not much to rally behind.

Uhmmm ... in a politcal battle, don't you attack the opponent?

That is as old as our country, isn't it?

Although I'm not a Red Tory (the combination of Red and Tory would end up making politics incredibly moralistic), I think there's something to RT's last couple of paragraphs. It's not clear what McCain is FOR, and the congressional Republicans, of course, are even worse. On the other hand, I kinda like both Barack and Mac. My problem (which I have to hide here in a thread) is that I have I hard time thinking of either of them as particularly presidential.

I always amazes me how people who blame “racism” for Barack not doing well here or there, and will certainly bang that drum loudly, should he lose the election, never seem to notice the fact that if Obama was not black, we would not be talking about him at all. That is the ONLY thing which has set him apart from the Democrat pack.


I have tried to picture Obama, exactly as he is in policy, skills and experience, except white, standing against the Clinton campaign, or even the Edwards campaign, but I can not do it.

Estrich was the campaign manager for Dukakis extremely, large and obese failed bid for the presidency - Reagan creamed him - why would anything she have to say really matter?

Cowgirl, not to quibble . . . but Reagan didn't run against Dukakis--H.W. Bush did. And even Bush creamed him. That's what happens when the opposition is not likable even when you're not particularly interesting. On the other hand, Bush was coming from an incredibly popular administration and in the midst of good economic times. When the Dems nominated a man in '92 who seemed to be both likable and more interesting (if not always in positive ways) Bush lost because he was boring and because he could not inspire confidence as the economy began to slip.

Mac is not boring but he's doing a good job lately of playing a boring guy on TV--especially by way of contrast with an opponent who is far from boring. Peter Lawler argues that both Mac and Obama are likable . . . I guess that's debatable . . . and I guess I come out on the other side of that question for both of them. There may be certain aspects of Mac's character that I find admirable or likable but I'd say it's a stretch for me to view him as an entirely likable fellow--too distant and too stern and too impressed with his own achievements and judgment for my taste. And he's given to lecture. As for Obama, he's the kind of guy you like at a cocktail party as long as the conversation remains on a superficial level. Once you get to anything that's deep or interesting he becomes too earnest and, therefore, mildly to strongly irritating. If McCain indulges in lectures from time to time, this guy revels in them. This is why he's good before a teleprompter but bad off the cuff. When he tells you what he really thinks, you get a glimpse at his mean streak and the chips on his intellectual shoulder. As for being presidential . . . I guess I think Reagan was that (though when you're 10 perhaps anyone in such an impressive office seems Presidential?). But after Reagan (and before him in our lifetimes for that matter) who else seemed it? Is "seeming Presidential" just a fancy way of saying "seeming better than me without making me resent it?" In other words, is it a kind of natural "gravitas" or capacity to inspire others to follow along cheerfully and comfortably give over their trust? How is that different (because I think it is different but it's hard to distinguish) from the kind of worshipful devotion Obama has inspired in his base (to say nothing of the MSM)?

Finally, the papering over of Mac's weaknesses is as undeniable as it is necessary. The GOP's weaknesses, however, should be addressed and not papered over before the weight of the paper tears down the walls.

Ms Estrich may have a point. I live in a union stronghold area of Michigan, 1st CD, where the MC is Democrat, Pro-life and Pro-gun. Many of my neighbors do not know what they are going to do. The union tells them to vote for Obama, but they are not ready to obey the way they did four years ago. These laborers, steelworkers and teachers may eventually go with Obama, but right now they are classified as "UNDECIDED." More than a few have made it clear - the issue is complexion.

It's as I observed on another thread, the sacred cow of all sacred cows, the false messiah of all false messiahs, is being CARRIED by the media, and if that support should prove unavailing, Obama might get blown out come November.

Can the media carry this unready poseur, this unfunny clown, this possessed of no power messiah, and carry him to victory in the Fall?

AND PETER, why do you like a guy who has thrown so many relations and longtime associations under the bus? Doesn't his behavior of late indicate a certain want of seriousness, and what's more, a certain want of character?

But Paddyspig . . . what people say when they're pushed around by a union that tells them to vote for a guy who does not represent their views on a host of issues may be a reflection of their irritation more than a genuine expression of closely held views on race. You said they were pro-life and that they support gun rights. Don't you think Obama's statement about a child being a "punishment" and his characterization of those favoring gun rights as "clinging" to their guns might have something to do with their vexation?

Julie- thanks for the correction - You are right - it was Bush - my bad.

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