Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Benefits of the Hillary/Obama Battle

At the end of the day, either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee for President. My preference is Hillary Clinton. I think she'll make a very good president and I also believe she's going to win the nomination in a tough battle with Obama.
But I've always wanted the battle more than I've wanted a Hillary win. Whoever wins between Hillary and Obama, I've believed that having a tough primary fight would make the winner a stronger candidate against the Republicans.

Now that it looks like Hillary and Obama are going to have two victories apiece after Obama wins South Carolina, it's possible to see the real benefits of having to fight it out.

Most importantly, the Democratic contenders are both forging identities as presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton is becoming much less the "former first lady" and much more "Hillary" the exultant winner in New Hampshire and Nevada and the disappointed loser in Iowa. What is defining Hillary as "the candidate" is the ferocity of the battle with Obama. The fact that Hillary has to compete, and compete hard, against Barack Obama means that she's being measured more by who she is and what she does as a presidential candidate. Of course, Hillary still is the "former first lady," wife of Bill Clinton, senator, mother, lawyer, etc. However, as she goes from primary to primary, her identity as a presidential candidate is being magnified and reinforced. In the process, she's gaining stature and gravitas and making herself more plausible as a future president. As has been the case with her other trials by fire, Hillary Clinton is growing as a result of the pressure.

And she has Barack Obama to thank for that.

The same thing is happening with Obama. Three primaries into the nominating campaign and Obama is looking like a lot more than a good-looking guy and charismatic speaker who was right on Iraq. Obama has turned out to be a long-distance runner who can handle the "vision thing" and fight it out in the state-to-state, day-to-day, and news-cycle to news-cycle of presidential campaigning. The presidency is non-stop trench warfare and months of fighting it out with Hillary has shown that Obama can handle the pressure. I've always thought well of Obama and feel even better about him now that he's shown his chops in the presidential arena.

And he has Hillary to thank for that.

Hopefully, the competition will also give the Hillary and Obama campaigns an idea of what themes work and what don't. Hillary's MLK v LBJ idea was as weak a political jab as you can get and I imagine her people now have a better idea of why it's not good to put that kind of weak stuff out there. The same thing with Obama and Ronald Reagan comment. Given that they're both getting hammered whenever they put out weak ideas, I expect that the Hillary and Obama campaigns will do better in the future.

The competititon for the Democratic nomination is great and both candidates are showing a lot of tenacity. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are pulling each other up as presidential candidates.


Hope said...

I still feel that Hillary is getting pummelled by the mainstream press and Obama has a free ride. To me it is beginning to feel like there is a vast left-wing conspiracy as well as a right-wingconspiracy. I think that Hillary's gender is playing a much larger role than Obama's race.

Ric Caric said...

I agree with that. The mainstream press hates Hillary with a passion and it's showing in their coverage. A lot of the big liberal blogs are having trouble with the election. They would like to support Obama, but Obama is beginning to engage in some neo-liberal, centrist talk that liberal bloggers (myself included) find revolting. So, it looks like Hillary is the more liberal of the two main contenders.