Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Winners Win

There is an old political adage popularized by an American Enterprise Institute fellow to explain why Bill Clinton kept the Republicans at bay in the 1990s. He suggested, rather simply, that “winners win and losers lose” meaning that when a politician has the appearance of winning, he’ll likely win. Clinton was the master of this, particularly during the State of the Union. He’d laundry list lovely proposals which would never pass but which would make him quite popular with the public, a public that thought he was despicable on a personal level, yet lovely on a policy level. He won – even though the GOP through the kitchen sink at him and eventually caught him in a lie.

I mention this because a lot of people are suggesting that last night was disappointing for Obama. I think they’ve forgotten this adage. Winners win. Obama won 14 states (including New Mexico – which is still a toss up). He won in the northeast, the south, the Midwest, and the southwest. He won white and black and even a few Latinos. And while the delegate count is still out, Obama pulled off the unthinkable. He made California irrelevant.

It must have been a very disappointing night for Hillary Clinton. She lost states she should have won, her margin of victory in the states she won, for the most part, was fairly narrow, and had it not been for California, we would be talking about the end of her candidacy.

As recently as three days ago, Hillary was leading in Delaware, Connecticut, Alabama, Missouri, Minnesota, and was in a dead heat in Colorado. He won them all. He won Delaware by 10 points, Connecticut by 4, Alabama by 14, Missouri by 1, Minnesota by 35, and Colorado by 35. This was a stunning turn around.

Obama is the challenger, the underdog, while Hillary is the virtual incumbent due to her name recognition and her husband. And the general rule in politics, sports, life is that the longer a challenger sticks around, the worse it is for the favorite. This doesn’t mean it’s over. Hillary could still win this thing. But all the important trends are going against her. Obama has the money ($32 million in January alone). He’s been trending upward on national polls while HRC has been flat. He won yesterday’s total popular vote 49%-48%. The next few primaries favor him over HRC (Virginia, DC, Maryland in particular).

And then you have to consider the historical circumstances. One year ago he was a junior senator from Illinois barely recognized from his 2004 Convention speech. He was up against the inevitable Clinton machine, a machine that had been cultivating the HRC image since 2001 for her ultimate plan to win the White House in 2008. She had (has) rich, powerful backers lined up behind her and an aura of inevitability that seemed unstoppable. She was the New England Patriots.

Now, Obama is a national force. He’s got a movement behind him. A movement of people that passionately support his candidacy with time and money, of people who have been better organized from the bottom up than HRC’s top down approach, and who have consistently gotten out the vote in key states. At the end of the day, even if Obama is still behind in the delegate count, he won more states and more people. Winners win.
As to the Republicans, I think Doug Bandow, former Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute summed it up best:

“Imagine a McCain-Huckabee ticket: a mix of irresponsible hawkishness, economic populism, nanny-state regulation, parole for murderers, Christian identity politics, and ethical lapses. The Democrats are starting to look real good!"

Update: Here's the text of Norman Ornstein's Winners-Win argument. Refers to Congress, but the point holds true, methinks:

Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute, ROLL CALL, May 27, 1993

Winning comes to those who look like winners. This only sounds redundant or cliche'-ish. If power is the ability to make people do something they otherwise would not do. Real power is having people do things they otherwise wouldn't do without anybody making them - when they act in anticipation of what they think somebody would want them to do. If a president develops a reputation as a winner. somebody who will pull out victories in Congress even when he is behind, somebody who can say, "Do this!" and have it done, then Members of Congress will behave accordingly. They will want to cut their deals with the president early, getting on the winning team when it looks the best and means the most.



Blogger aqcatdroppings said...

lol, debate card copypasta.

12:19 AM  

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