Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clinton Campaign Defines Victory In Racial Terms

In a telephone press conference Wednesday, the Clinton campaign firmly reiterated its intention to keep seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination, spinning both her striking loss in North Carolina and her slender win in Indiana yesterday as positive developments -- while also appearing to admit that she is not going to win a majority of elected delegates even if Michigan and Florida's delegations are counted -- and parsing yesterday's primary results in starkly racial terms that are likely to exacerbate her increasingly significant troubles reaching out to minority voters.

The conference, called by Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson to discuss "the state of the race," was also attended by Geoff Garin, chief Clinton strategist, and Phil Singer, the campaign's Deputy Communications Director.

Wolfson seemed to rule out any possibility of Clinton suspending her campaign in light of Tuesday's primaries. Asked whether there had been any internal discussions about not going forward, an unidentified voice loudly replied, "NO!" When a reporter asked who had just spoken, Wolfson replied, "That was my declarative self." Several times during the conference, campaign spokesmen reiterated their belief that the drawn-out primary was a good thing for the Democratic Party and that voters want the campaign to continue. Apparently moving not the finish line but the starting line, Wolfson also described next week's West Virginia primary as "the first key test" of the campaign's momentum.

Putting the best face on a day that nearly all commentators are calling a significant win for Obama, Garin described the results in Indiana and North Carolina as "an outcome about which we feel very, very good." Indiana, where Clinton won by a scant 51 percent - 49 percent margin, "represents significant progress for Senator Clinton and .... is a good victory under challenging circumstances" because her narrow victory there was "the first time ... that Senator Clinton has come from behind to victory," according to Garin. And North Carolina, where Clinton lost to Obama by 14 points, "represent[s] progress for us," he said, underlining the campaign's focus demographic, because Clinton improved her performance with "the white electorate" compared to polls taken two weeks before the election. Wolfson, too, put a positive spin on yesterday's results, saying that Indiana and North Carolina were "two states we were supposed to lose" but "we won one." According to Wolfson, although Indiana was a near-tie, "Senator Clinton [was] making up ground in Indiana, and Senator Obama losing ground."

The Clinton campaign's analysis of yesterday's results was largely based on exit polling and a careful parsing along demographic -- mainly racial -- lines that seemed to track the campaign's recent strategy of dispatching Bill Clinton to speak to small groups of rural, almost exclusively white, Southern voters. Wolfson emphasized Clinton's support among white voters, saying, "in North Carolina among the white electorate we started even... and ended up with a 24 point advantage with that part of the electorate." Comparing Clinton's relative performance among white voters in North Carolina yesterday with her weaker performance with white voters in Virginia earlier in the race, Garin said: "Virginia is the closest white electorate in the country to the electorate that participated in North Carolina. We lost the white electorate in Virginia... [but] ended up with a significant vote" among whites in North Carolina. Garin continued by emphasizing other demographic groups that Clinton is targeting, saying, "Taking the two states together, Senator Clinton continues to run very strongly among people who are likely to be the swing voters in the November election... non-college-educated voters, seniors, Catholics...."

At points, the Clinton representatives' demographic parsing bordered on surreal. Wolfson seemed to imply that gasoline prices are primarily a white issue, suggesting that Clinton's proposal for a gas tax "holiday" had helped her with white voters and promising that she would continue urging that proposal on the stump. In response to a pair of questions about whether African Americans would support Clinton in the general election, Wolfson repeatedly referred to Obama's "passionate supporters," seeming to conflate the two.

In terms of campaign strategy, the Clinton camp almost expressly admitted that her presidential aspirations now lie in the hands of Democratic Party operatives, including the party committees that will determine the fate of the currently disqualified Michigan and Florida delegations and the undeclared superdelegates who theoretically could still give the nomination to Clinton. Although he described Clinton as focused on the last few primaries, Wolfson -- in terms redolent of Bill Clinton's infamous "it all depends on what the definition of 'is' is" -- admitted that she likely would not win the majority of elected delegates: "We expect that when we get to June 3rd we'll have a close result. It raises the question of how close is close."

Phil Singer seemed to admit that even Michigan and Florida are not likely to alter her probable loss in both the elected-delegate and total-delegate races, saying that seating both states would at best bring Clinton to "fewer than a hundred elected delegates, excuse me, total delegates" of the nomination. Nevertheless, Clinton is urging not only that delegations from those two states be seated, but seated in full (and without Obama receiving any delegates at all from Michigan, where his name was not on the ballot). Wolfson described Clinton's performance in both states' primaries -- in which neither candidate overtly campaigned -- as "significant victories" and disagreed with suggestions that the delegations be seated at half-strength as a penalty for knowingly advancing their primaries earlier than Democratic Party rules allowed: "Our feeling is that the delegations should be seated in full, that they should have full votes" "commensurate with the results from those primaries." Clinton also plans to keep making an electability argument to superdelegates, including in a meeting with undeclared superdelegates planned for Wednesday night.

Wolfson also was asked about Clinton's financial ability to continue the campaign. He described Clinton as having raised "an awful lot of money" but admitted Obama is doing the same: "We had a very good fundraising month last month, but Senator Obama had a better fundraising month." He acknowledged that Clinton had loaned her own campaign $5 million in April, another $1 million on May 1, and $425,000 on May 5. He declined to rule out the possibility of Clinton making additional loans to keep her campaign afloat.

Wolfson declined to speculate about the possibility of a "unity" Obama-Clinton ticket, calling it premature and stating, "we have not had any conversations with the Obama campaign about such a ticket" and "I have not heard her evince any interest in such a ticket."


Anonymous said...

Witnesses say Clinton belittled working-class voters (April 19/April 20, 2008)
Susan Ferrecchio, Chief Congressional Correspondent,

Despite denials from Hillary Clinton’s campaign aides, a growing group of democratic operatives are emerging to support the claim that as first lady she said, “screw em” in reference to Southern working-class white voters.
Her disputed denials come just as new polling data shows she is having a hard time gaining the public’s trust.
“The baggage that has overwhelmed her was accumulated in the 1990s, and this is one giant bag that she is carrying, lack of trust and credibility.” said University of Virginia political science professor, Larry Sabato.
So far four people have come forward to they remember Clinton belittling working-class voters at a Camp David retreat in 1995.
Three witnesses said they recall Clinton telling her then-president husband to disregard the white working-class Southerners who had helped Republicans gain control of Congress in the 1994 midterm election upset.
“Screw em” she said, according to Clinton supporter and respected political author Benjamin Barber. “you don’t owe them a thing, Bill.”
On Thursday another witness, Theda Skopcol, a Harvard political scientist wrote that she does not remember Hillary Clinton’s exact words, but considers the accounts of Barber and others credible. Barber took notes at the session and included the exchange in a book written years ago.
Skopcol wrote in an online column that during the retreat, “Hillary Clinton was among the most cold-blooded analysts in attendance. She spoke of ordinary workers as though they were a species apart, and showed interest only in the political usefulness of their choices - usefulness to the Clinton administration, that is.”
The Clinton campaign has staunchly denied the utterance of the “screw em” comment. Spokesman Phil Singer said in a conference call with reporters that it “differs from the recollections of other people who were in the room at the time that this comment was allegedly made”
Sabato who said that the comments were “too unflattering, too unpleasant” for Clinton to own up to, pointed out that Barber has been a Clinton supporter. “That’s what gives it credibility”, Sabato said, “I tend to believe Barber”.
A Washington Post-ABC poll released this week found that only 39 percent of respondents view Clinton as “honest and trustworthy“, down from 52 percent in 2006.

Anonymous said...

For crying out loud! How many times have John and his map point on CNN that Obama will win this state because the black vote is high, ,We all know she isn't racist. LISTEN UP! PEOPLE ARE GETTING SICK OF THE WHINNERS WHO SCREAM RACIST AT ANY WORLD..BLACK..WHITE??RACIST! LIGHTEN UP.

George said...

It is amazing to me that when a black voter comments on remarks made by the Clintons, that they( the black voters) are whinning or crying! Truth be told we (African-Americans) have witnessed and experienced enough racism in this country to know when someone like Hillary Clinton, who has lied repeatedly on the campaign trail, is blowing smoke! I hope she wins so we can experience the same thing we have been experiencing for the last 8 years with George Bush!! Same old politics and bipartisanship that has ruined this country in the eyes of everyone around the world! She represents evrything that SEN. OBAMA is trying to change! Racism is on the rise and it is worst now because at least we saw it coming back then!! The hard working white class that she refers to so much doesn"t like to hear the truth because it hurts to know that they are so transparent! God help us all! The voters in this country overwhelmingly elected George Bush and look where we are now! And now they think Hillary is a BETTER CHOICE!! And you all don't think RACISM IS ALIVE AND KICKING! HAHAHAHA!