We Really Need a Clinton-Obama Hybrid


John Zogby just sent out his latest daily tracking poll, and the headline is that Clinton and Romney are slipping and Ron Paul is gaining.
Between 30 December and 2 January — on the Dem Side — Hillary Clinton garnered 24%, Obama 31%, Edwards 27%, Richardson 7%, Biden 5%, Dodd 1%, Kucinich 0-1%, Dems 5%.
On the Republican side, Huckabee pulled 31%, Romney 25%, McCain 10%, Thompson 11%, Giuliani 6%, Paul 10%, Hunter 1%, Undecided 6%.
We’ll all know more tonight — but on the Democratic side of the ticket, I’m just not sure what these numbers mean or should mean. It seems clear that there is no candidate yet that the Democratic Party really wants to coalesce around. The topsy-turvy nature of this close three-way race says something important.
Americans aren’t happy with any of them as of yet. Hillary Clinton is both boosted and harmed by her last name, boosted and harmed by her extensive experience. Barack Obama has sizzle and traffics in “hope” — but many Americans think that we need someone who’s seen it all and knows how to remain level-headed in the most dire of times. Clinton scores better than both Obama and Edwards on the ability to take heat.
Edwards is also inspiring, a sculpted populist, but many Democrats fear that the failure to send a woman or black man to the White House at the most opportune time the party has ever had to do so will gut punch Democratic turnout in the November general elections. The thinking is that the absence of race and gender sizzle will stifle enthusiasm.
I think Hillary Clinton is going to be in this race for a long time, and may still win the primary. But one thing that should concern her team is the dynamic of an Edwards-Obama pairing, which is no where near happening yet.
There has been some subtle, behind the scenes flirtation and episodic moments of rejection between the Edwards and Obama camp. One Edwards insider told me that several months ago, Edwards was basically sending signals that he would take Obama as a running mate if Obama took the VP position. According to this source, Obama’s emissaries flatly rejected the notion.
More recently, this same source tells me that communication has remained open between the camps and that the “deal” (though I hesitate to call it that as I don’t believe anything has been formally arranged. . .but this is the word the source used) is to see who pulls first in the early primaries and who has dropped back. The suggestion from the Edwards campaign source is that Edwards would consider running in the No. 2 slot with Obama if Obama were dominating the early contests — and vice versa if Obama was trailing.
I don’t have a second source for this information — but I trust the veracity of the comments made, general as they were.
I have a bit of a nightmare scenario that keeps me thinking about the question of steadiness, experience and the need for creative change in the White House. When I think through this lens, Edwards and Obama don’t rank first — but they also don’t rank far behind Clinton.
I think that President Clinton, President Obama, or President Edwards are going to be challenged in ways few American presidents have been. Other leaders — foes AND friends — are going to kick the crap out of the new president, testing the resolve, decision making, and new boundaries of the next American era.
I really wish that there was some way to run Obama and Hillary together. Everyone tells me that this is impossible. But I’d like to see them partnered — experience and vision. Steadiness and innovation. Intellect and intellect. Getting either of them to accept the second slot would be painful for all involved — particularly everyone else who wants to compete for the VP slot.
But it is clear that there won’t really be a clear winner tonight in Iowa — at least I don’t think so. The spread is just too thin.
What the polls say is that we really want a hybrid.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “We Really Need a Clinton-Obama Hybrid

  1. Ben Bartlett says:

    Personally, I think Biden would be a good VP choice for Obama. Lots of foreign policy experience, knows the ins-and-outs of the federal government, probably doesn’t plan to run again himself, etc. Also, let’s face it, people like Tim Russert love him, which never hurts. I think unlike Edwards, Biden would actually give an Obama administration something it would otherwise be lacking.
    I also like the idea of Hagel in the cabinet. I hope that happens.


  2. pauline says:

    “You know, they said this day would never come,” who was frequently interrupted with cheers as he spoke. “They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose…But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”
    “Change won, the status quo lost, and the fight is on to see if we’re going to have the kind of change we need to save the middle-class…thank you Iowa for a second place win”
    “I wrote a book…did you buy it yet? Yes, I’m after change – small change, your small change! I’ve already got the big change locked up. So come on people, what the f**^%$#$K? You sons-*of-Bi%$&##, d*&*%$^, go***##@&*% it, I’m gettin m*%$!
    Madeleine, pick up those d**%$#@mn posters and hurry, hurry, hurry…we’ve got a plane to catch!”


  3. carsick says:

    Chris Brown
    Of course you’re right. My mistake. Hillary Clinton as Majority Leader of the Senate.


  4. Chris Brown says:

    I have now listened to the post-caucus speeches of Edwards, Clinton and Obama.
    Does it seem to anyone else that Clinton’s speech was primarily about herself and her seeming entitlement to be president, while the Edwards and Obama speeches were about their hopeful visions of the future?


  5. john o. says:

    Great job Iowa! This is the beginning of the end Hillary!


  6. Chris Brown says:

    Hey Carsick,
    The Constitution designates the VP as President of the Senate.


  7. Chris Brown says:

    My problem with Senator Clinton is that she is running a campaign straight out of the DLC play book, somewhat akin to the type of campaign advocated by Ralph Reed. That is remain as oblique as possible in enunciating positions, so as to minimize the number of voters one alienates. And maintain muscular military and foreign policy positions, so as to dull the republican meme that democrats are wimps.
    I think such explains the Senator’s vote to authorize the subjugation and occupation of Iraq, Kyl-Lieberman,and against joining the International Criminal Court.
    I think the charge that the Senator is politically calculating is spot on. It’s too bad that the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis take a back seat to political concerns.
    President Clinton was able to win running a DLC campaign through the force of his personality and his ability to connect with folks on a very personal level, a characteristic not shared by Senator Clinton. I think such is evident in the evaporation of her leads in the various states as the retail campaigning begins.
    Having said all of that I will be thrilled with whomever the nominee ultimately is.
    After the extreme lying, incompetence, cronyism, thievery, and general lawlessness of the Cheney administration, though, I would be happy with Sparky the Fire Dog.


  8. JohnH says:

    Thanks to the posters who keep pressing the HRC ‘experience’ question. It’s still mind boggling to me that she could claim to be the ‘experienced’ banner in the company of Richardson, Dodd, and Biden.
    Steve will say that she has vast knowledge and understanding of the issues, and that she is ‘well regarded’ by her fellow Senators, probably for her knowledge and for her ability to deliver for her state. In my mind, none of that makes her presidential. Rather, it makes her a technocrat, a valuable staff member.
    Steve wants some way to pair Clinton-Obama. I can see Obama as a sort of CEO (strategy, vision, sales and bully pulpiting), and initially thought of Hillary as possibly COO (managing nuts and bolts)–the same role that Cheney has played for Bush. But I haven’t seem her use any of those tools at her disposal to deliver anything to the American people, ever. So I think she is best left where she is: providing advise and consent.


  9. pauline says:

    I believe Iowa may just show the rest of the country what they really think of HRC. She may just end up third where, imo, she belongs much lower.
    It’s been said before, but if it wasn’t for hubby president Bill, she is really nothing more than just another democratic name — and that’s really it! Her past many failures — already pointed out here multiple times — don’t seem to go away and voters I think have seen her true character. Can we all say, “three dollar bill”?
    Your enamored fascination with HRC seems to go against everyone who wants a president who can make real changes to this country’s many basic problems while de-emphasizing multi-national corporate, Big Pharma and AIPAC’s money control. The common man in the USA senses quite rightly that HRC just represents “more of the same” and who wants that?
    Chris Dodd and Joe Biden run circles around her “experience” and character record. And if somehow she doesn’t go on to capture the nomination, which other dem candidate would want her as a VP running mate?
    Can we all say Z-E-R-O?


  10. carsick says:

    Clinton as president of the Senate
    Hagel as Sec. of State
    Looks good to me.


  11. john o. says:

    The only thing that is clear is this blog’s reflexive Hillary boosting.


  12. Chunche says:

    Thanks, Steve. I certainly saw your post on Obama v. Clinton in using legislative tools. I thought you made valid points and was a bit disappointed that Obama had not held sub-cmte hearings. However, if that is what you are referring to, I have a hard time leaping from there to the broader conclusion that Clinton has extensive relative experience to be President where Obama does not.
    I’m also not convinced that the public really wants a hybrid. That’s one possible conclusion. Even if it is a close finish, another possibility is that Clinton came in to the race with substantial amount of name recognition and momentum. But when the (Iowa) public really got to know Obama and compared the two, he fared better. Over time, as the public gets to know Obama more, the race might not be as close. I have no idea which will (if either) of these two scenarios will turn out to be the case. It should be fun to watch.


  13. Reader says:

    It was Ted Sorensen – writing in one of the most liberal newspapers on the planet – who compared Senator Obama to John F. Kennedy. Read for yourself and decide if that comparison has merit. Sorensen presumably knows something about JFK and the workings of power.
    Regarding the inapposite comparisons to George W. Bush’s reliance on “gut” decision-making, let’s not forget that GWB is a Phillips Andover flunky who got into Yale and Harvard based on the very same quotas GHWB disparaged and appointed Clarence Thomas to abolish through the Supreme Court – quotas uniquely benefiting people of GWB’s particular demographic profile. Senator Obama has a rather different record as far as critical thinking skills go.
    As POTUS, GWB chose to surround himself by advisors who utterly lacked expertise in their respective portfolios and who were driven by ideology and partisanship rather than reason. Colin Powell is one product of that decision-making model – a brilliant general, an inept practitioner of international relations and diplomacy when he was placed in an office by GWB requiring the latter skill set.
    Concerning John Edwards – his is a pretty face. He is as clueless in foreign policy today as he was in 2003 when he was pandering to the warmongers who marketed the idea that we’d find WMD and defeat Al Qaeda in IRAQ. His recent discovery of populist passion is commendable, but he is the epitomy of the Johnny-come-lately in his loud advocacy for the poor. His record in the Senate on progressive issues was abysmal. Check it.


  14. susan says:

    Steve, In Nov. Frank Rich wrote a column about Hillary. In it he addressed the subject of her “experience” and Obama’s lack of it. In the piece he stated that the public wasn’t buying the argument that her “experience” should be a deal closer for us. Here is what he had to say:
    “…The principal foreign-policy Clinton alumni in Mr. Obama’s campaign include Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state, and Tony Lake, the former national security adviser and a prewar skeptic who said publicly in February 2003 that the Bush administration had not made the case that Saddam was an “imminent threat.” Ms. Rice, in an eloquent speech in November 2002, said that the Bush administration was “trying to change the subject to Iraq” from the war against Al Qaeda and warned that if it tried to fight both wars at once, “one, if not both, will suffer.” Her text now reads as a bookend to Mr. Obama’s senatorial campaign speech challenging the wisdom of the war only weeks earlier that same fall.
    Mrs. Clinton’s current team was less prescient. Though it includes one of the earlier military critics of Bush policy, Gen. Wesley Clark, he is balanced by Gen. Jack Keane, an author of the Bush “surge.” The Clinton campaign’s foreign policy and national security director is a former Madeleine Albright aide, Lee Feinstein, who in November 2002 was gullible enough to say on CNBC that “we should take the president at his word, which is that he sees war as a last resort” — an argument anticipating the one Mrs. Clinton still uses to defend her vote on the Iraq war authorization.
    In late April 2003, a week before “Mission Accomplished,” Mr. Feinstein could be found on CNN saying that he was “fairly confident” that W.M.D. would turn up in Iraq. Asked if the war would be a failure if no weapons were found, he said, “I don’t think that that’s a situation we’ll confront.” Forced to confront exactly that situation over the next year, he dug in deeper, co-writing an essay for Foreign Affairs (available on its Web site) arguing that “the biggest problem with the Bush pre-emption strategy may be that it does not go far enough.”
    Rich ends his column by saying, “…her choice for foreign-policy director in 2008 makes me question her ability to profit from experience and make a clean break with the establishment thinking in both parties that enabled the Iraq fiasco. Judgment calls like this rather than failures of the press may answer her husband’s question as to why the public finds her experience “irrelevant.”
    My hope is that tonight will signal the beginning of the end of the Clintons. It is time for them to exit the stage.


  15. Steve Clemons says:

    Chunche — I’d have to dig back, but I think I have discussed Hillary’s experience and performance as a legislator in the past. I think it is more extensive than Obama’s — but not dramatically so. I have a real problem between the two — as I tend to like the Holbrooke and Brzezinski types and am less enamored by well…I’m not going to get into it right now as I’m out of time.
    But thanks much for your note. These are nuances, and it’s making the pundit class crazy. 😉
    Juca — good point. You know I have to admit that the Bill Clinton issue is novel — though I think that Cheney has expanded the powers of the VP office so much that any of these folks would enjoy the ride there.
    The key question in my mind is how much power would the Prez and the VP give up that this presidency usurped.
    best for the new year,
    Steve Clmeons


  16. Juca says:

    Who is going to want to be Hillary’s VP with Bill in the picture?
    I agree Hillary and Obama would make an interesting team if it weren’t for Bill. I just don’t see Obama taking Hillary up on the offer… and I don’t see Hillary making the offer. I think she’d go for someone like Richardson.


  17. Chunche says:

    Steve, I apologize if I have missed where you have addressed this before and I missed it, but why do you believe that Clinton has “extensive experience”? It seems to me to rest on a remarkable inflation of her time as First Lady. Clearly, that experience is relevant, but (in my opinion) only indirectly. I see her as only a bit more experienced than Obama and less so than either Biden or Richardson.


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