Bitter Late Than Never
Some of you may have stopped by the website in the past few days looking for my take on the Obama bitterness controversy. As I sometimes like to do with these potentially big campaign moments, I decided to hold off from contributing to the initial avalanche of blogospheric reaction, in order to watch the situation play out for several news cycles. It has been my experience that these sorts of episodes often look somewhat different after they’ve had time to percolate a bit in the media, on the internet, and out on the campaign trail. It looks like the bitterness flap is no exception. So here is my sense of where we are now:
In the short-term, the comments may cost Barack Obama a few additional points in what will likely be a losing effort in Pennsylvania, even though the most recent polling shows virtually no impact from the controversy. We will get a more accurate measure of the fallout with next weekend’s round of major polling, shortly before Tuesday’s balloting. But, I would also not be surprised to find next week that Hillary Clinton’s willingness to pivot her entire campaign, in order to hammer Obama with maximum force over these comments, has actually blunted the impact of the episode. Clinton's reaction provided both an amusing media distraction (shooting lessons and boilermakers) and a target against which Obama could strike back in aggressive fashion. An initial statement of disapproval followed by relative silence on the issue might have actually helped Clinton more, in terms of underscoring the potential peril of Obama’s remarks, than did her full frontal assault on the candidate.
In the long-term, Obama's comments will feed into the longstanding Republican narrative that Democratic nominees are radically liberal elitists, who are out of touch with the lives of average American citizens. This narrative would be a central tenet of the Republican attack against Democratic nominee Obama, even without his bitterness comments. So, while Obama has inadvertently provided some additional ammunition to his Republican opponents, I don’t think that the episode will fundamentally alter the strategy that would otherwise be used against him in the general election.
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