Some insurgent. Apparently Barack Obama wants to run a Rose Garden strategy now, limiting his debates with Hillary Clinton to one before the next big round of primaries on March 4th. Clinton wants one a week, which seems reasonable, given how hot this race is -and how important the issues facing the nation are. But Senator Obama had better not try to smell those fragrant, protected petals in February. Now that we've all had the first whiff of the Obama pop culture phenomenon, we all want to learn more about this man from Illinois.
“I don’t think anybody is clamoring for more debates,” Mr. Obama said. “We’ve had 18 debates so far." Mr. Obama added that he would agree to at least one debate, but noted, “It’s very important for me to spend time with voters.”
Like, perhaps, on national television, Senator Obama? One of the fascinating tidbits from the Super Tuesday polls was the very late break toward Clinton: "those who reported making their decision on the last day bucked the trend, tending to vote for Mrs. Clinton, of New York," reported the Times. My friend Fred Wilson was one of them, and he is dismayed this morning by Obama's run for cover:
Well Barack, I am clamoring for more debates. That makes one person. Please weigh in via the comments if you too would like more debates. I honestly don't know a better way to "spend time with voters" than by answering questions side by side with his competitor in front of a national television audience.
For me, a big part of my decision was the substance she showed in contrast to the lack of substance that Obama showed in the Los Angeles debate. If Obama is going to be the nominee, and I've said many times that I'd be fine with that, then he needs to show more substance, define what exactly he'd do to fix the big issues that face our country. And now that the country is watching, there is no better way to do that than a debate a week for the next month.
Every time they've made a move, the Obama campaign has done something dumb to counter it - and it seems to me it stems from the personality of the candidate himself. Iowa's victory was diminished by "likeable enough." The Kennedy investiture turned into "the snub." And now an encouraging tie on Super Tuesday becomes "run and hide." A long-time commenter and all-around bloggy friend - and by "friend" I mean "Blue Girl" - has been after me to be more positive about Hillary Clinton, rather than focus so much on the rampant sexism in the media. It's a good point, and to me, the difference in their personalities provides a point of separation for the two Democrats - I like Hillary's better. He's prosaic, shiny and removed. She's spunky, she's tough, and she won't quit.
Want proof? That $5 million loan shows real commitment and fire. It's far more of an investment on a percentage basis than Mitt Romney or another other candidate has put into this campaign. Say what you will about the Clintons - they're all in. They believe in their campaign and their issues. And it fired up the sleeping Clinton base. The campaign has raised more than $4 million online since the polls closed Tuesday night, with 35,000 new donors coming in behind Hillary.
Yet, the Obama camp is so smug in its impressive fundraising abilities that it sees fit to mock Clinton's personal financial contribution with a sneering and distasteful anti-Clinton graphic. Ah, the politics of hope. The more you get to know the Obama personality, the more you're reminded of a certain kind of towel-snapping bully who used to hang around the high school locker room.
Speaking of that snoozing Clinton base, it's coming alive and it won't like the mocking graphic or the politics of turning tail on serious policy debates. In a must-read, all-time great post over at Shakesville, Melissa McEwen (she of the former Edwards blogging status and all-around great liberal) dissects the rising feminist sentiment for Clinton's historic campaign. Please the whole thing and comment over there, but here's a bit:
Every time she mentions being a woman, mentions being a mother, mentions being a daughter, mentions being a wife, or even makes any oblique reference to running a historical campaign or being the first woman to do something (like win a presidential primary), she is accused of playing the gender card. She is diminished, ridiculed, criticized, and dismissed using dog whistles, slurs, graphics, and bluntly misogynist commentary. When her womanness is the weapon most used against her, is it any wonder that women who support her may be hesitant to scream it from the rooftops, reluctant to stand behind her in large numbers, lest we undermine her? When womanness is hated, it will inevitably make women feel like a liability.
I don't even think this is a conscious feeling in many women. It certainly has taken me a long time to reach the point where I found this hesitation within myself, that I could bluntly engage the grim realization that I had internalized the expressions of contempt for a strong woman and let them manifest as a disinclination to speak too loudly of any admiration I had for Hillary, lest the contempt for me, for this strong woman here and her strong opinions, add to the weight of disdain Hillary carries already on her shoulders.
I know one thing, there's a new online group of about 150 bloggers and DailyKos/MyDD posters that didn't exist two weeks ago, most of them women. It just sprung up out of frustration and, dare, I say it, hope.
The Hillary surges in this campaign tend to be quieter, well below the radar of the enraptured media. She does well when she debates policy. She wins all the closed-booth, big state Democratic primaries. But those surges are there, and after the split decision of Tuesday night the road points to March 4th and the big states. Clinton's base? Fired up. Ready to go.
UPDATE: Senator Obama has turned down Senator Clinton's offer to appear together at a Maine town hall event in the name of party unity and a discussion of the issues. Wonder why?
UPDATE II: Jane Hamsher on Obama's "claws come out" crack.