Will Obama’s Appeal Outlast Hillary?

Will Obama Between RealClearPolitics and Memeorandum, there must be a dozen articles this morning wondering if Barack Obama’s nomination is now a foregone conclusion, how Hillary Clinton managed to blow what seemed a sure thing, and how long Obama can get away with being the inspiring candidate of “hope” and “change.”

Perhaps the most novel observations come from Earl Ofari Hutchinson (via InstaPundit), who argues Obama looks so good only in comparison to Clinton.

The biggest beneficiary of the Hillary loathe has been Obama. Her campaign has been sufficiently subverted and sabotaged by the legions of Hillary haters to the point that it’s listing. If her campaign goes down, so will Obama’s Hillary firewall. The gloves will be off and it won’t be pretty.


His votes and views during his days in the Illinois Senate on taxes, abortion, civil liberties, civil rights, law enforcement and capital punishment have so far drawn little public attention, because of the media and a big chunk of the public’s obsession with nailing Hillary. But in a head to head match up with the likely GOP presidential nominee John McCain, Republicans and conservative interest groups will surgically dissect his state Senate votes and they will find much there to pound him on.


McCain and the GOP hit squads will go for the political jugular and lambaste him as an anti-police, anti-business, pro abortion, pro labor, pro-gun control, tax and spend liberal Democrat. Conservative interest groups will tar him as a liberal Democrat who will bend way over to pander to labor, minorities, and women. Obama’s record on civil liberties, civil rights, abortion, and spending will endear him to millions of voters, but not in the South and the heartland states.

Then there’s the personal dirty stuff. They’ll hammer him for his dealings with an indicted Chicago financier, for possible conflicts of interest in other financial dealings and legislative votes, and for his fuzzy, oftentimes contradictory, statements and actions on the Iraq War and terrorism. Then there’s the ultimate ploy: the race card. The GOP hit squads will dig, sift and comb through every inch of his personal life and poke through his voting record to find any hint of personal or political muck.

There’s much to this. Unlike the Republican race, which has been an ideological fight among different factions of the conservative coalition, the Clinton-Obama contest has been between people who largely agree with one another and the contrasts have been on style, experience, and differing visions of the 1990s Clinton legacy. That’ll change regardless of which one wins the Democratic nomination.

Of course, it’s not as if there isn’t a Democratic machine out there ready to attack McCain. And, indeed, McCain’s much easier to attack than either of the Democrats because he has a much longer legislative record and because there’s already just one opponent to research.

Charles Krauthammer, fatalistic as always, figures Obama can hold out just long enough:

Democrats are worried that the Obama spell will break between the time of his nomination and the time of the election, and deny them the White House. My guess is that he can maintain the spell just past Inauguration Day. After which will come the awakening. It will be rude.

Perhaps. This election cycle has defied expectations so many times already. Hillary was done after Iowa, became inevitable after New Hampshire, and has now been written off again. McCain was toast just a few weeks ago and is now the all but certain nominee. There are still another nine months to go.

Photo credit: 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog via Google

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Elmo says:

    Via Drudge (Boston Globe)

    Obama’s political action committee has doled out more than $694,000 to superdelegates since 2005, the study found, and of the 81 who had announced their support for Obama, 34 had received donations totaling $228,000.

  2. Paul says:

    Can anyone post the actual details of Obama’s far-left votes? Would be interesting to consider. And of course, even if McCain swears off swift boating, there will be others who will do it for him. But it is going to take more than a little to offset McCain’s dumbass “100 years in Iraq” statement. Man, are we going to get tired of hearing that played back this fall.

  3. Bithead says:

    First of all James,I tend to agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one. I suspect that Obama’s appeal will outlast that of Hillary. he will manage to maintain the illusion until just past election Day, which is all the Democrats are ever interested in anyway.

    The reason is simple, this entire contest between these two is a clash of cults of personality, and Hillary Clinton’s personality is approximately as welcome as your average skunk, even by those who think she’s better qualified. There is those negatives, again.

    I also tend to agree with Dr. Krauthammer that we’re in for a rude awakening if that day ever comes that we have Obama as President.

    I am struck by the Earl Hutchinson comment that you reference that Obama only looks good in reference to Clinton. I say that because it was just a couple of days ago that I was suggesting that John McCain only look good in reference and in comparison to the Democrats. I suppose that this all boils down to the lesser of the evils, again. Certainly, to some degree, it is always that. Every election is selecting amongst a list of evils, since government itself is best considered as a necessary evil. What disturbs me, is that our choices are becoming increasingly evil. Even, unfortunately, the best remaining choices available to us.

    And I wonder if we will ever ba able to stem that trend.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    It’s like that old quip about swimming in a river full of alligators. You don’t have to swim faster than the alligators. You just have to swim faster than the guy swimming next to you.

    Barack Obama’s popularity doesn’t have to outlast Hillary. It just has to last until he gets enough delegate votes to get the nomination.

  5. Triumph says:

    Obama is clearly on the wane. The Oprah Effect has played its course.

    Now more and more people are understanding precisely who this guy is: a madrassa-schooled, drug-addicted, immigrant whose main platform is to sell the country out to Jessie Jackson and his Kenyan and Indonesian patrons.

    McCain will be able to walk all over this guy. The election will essentially be about what we want the country to be: a land of heroism or a land of terrorism. McCain wins that argument hands-down.

  6. LaurenceB says:


    He’s also a Liberal Fascist (just like Hitler), and an Islamo-Nazi-Secular-Commie, and probably a closeted homosexual Black Panther.

    You forgot that part.

    But at least you got the “immigrant” part in. Snap! Nicely done.

  7. Eric R. Ashley says:

    ‘land of heroism vs. land of terrorism’…Obama could very well beat McCain on this motto.

  8. Chris says:

    This assertion Obama only looks good when put next to Hillary is odd, considering there are even Republicans who are saying the exact opposite: That the Obama wave would have utterly destroyed anyone but Clinton is strong enough to actually hold her own.

    From the Wall Street Journal:
    “The Obama wave is unlike anything I have seen during my career. It would have totally swamped any traditional candidate,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts The Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls with Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “The fact that Clinton is still standing and breaking even is actually a remarkable statement about how unique a candidate she is and what an exceptionally strong candidate.”

  9. Jim Rockford says:

    Biden is pushing Obama’s “Global Tax” bill to pay out to foreign countries about 843 billion USD in “foreign aid” which would go directly to foreign dictators.

    Also in the bill is the ICC jurisdiction over US soldiers, sailors, Marines etc. Allowing say Iran to try Marines for “war crimes” — and Kyoto (kill your job for global warming) — and best yet a total ban on guns, including Obama’s pet project of hand gun bans. Obama is on record as saying he wants to ban all handguns. A winning argument in South Side Chicago, not so much in TN, TX, or FL.

    This is Obama’s ONE substantive legislative accomplishment and it seems like a murder-suicide pact with the Democratic Party.

    The gun control (part of the “global ban on small arms” treaty) is particularly stupid. Gore reckons gun control lost him TN and the White House.

    If Obama were actually interested in WINNING or actually SMART he’d come out against DC’s gun ban and FOR the Constitutional right to own firearms, subject to some reasonable (no felons) restrictions but no blanket ban.

    But Obama is a relatively inexperienced pol who’s never RUN a winning campaign against any serious Republican Pol. Gary Coleman could have beat Alan Keyes.

    Expect: Obama wants to send your taxes to foreign dictators. Obama wants to take your guns. Obama wants to kill your job to save the Polar Bears. And more in the fall. Attack Ad bonanza!