Last night Cap'n Ed Morrissey of the good ship Hot Air offered this prediction on the Democratic race.
If superdelegates had begun to reconsider their support of Obama after Crackerquiddick, they're speed-dialing Hillary after watching Gibson dismember Obama on national TV tonight.
Phil Klein speculates on this disconnect, between conservatives (myself included) who think this was the most unimpressive debate performance by a national candidate since the first Bush-Kerry debate, and Democrats who think Obama stood heroically up to a mean-mouthed assault from the Fourth Estate.
It's kind of like in the wake of the YouTube debate last year in which pundits on the right praised Clinton for attacking Obama as being naïve for wanting to meet with foreign dictators. (Clinton was being the grown up, Obama wasn't ready for primetime.) But to liberals, Obama's stand reinforced the fact that he was the candidate who represented a true break with the Bush foreign policy. Obama may have been pummeled last night, but there's a lot of liberal rage against ABC, and Clinton will be seen as a collaborator who spent the night doing John McCain's dirty work.
That's working for Obama with the Democratic electorate. What's working for him on the superdelegate level is that Clinton does not, and never did, look more electable than Barack Obama. A shudder of dread went up in many Democratic quarters after John Kerry lost, as they realized that Clinton, now the 2008 frontrunner, was going to struggle mightily to score 50 percent of the vote against any Republican. For months and months you could watch Clinton pander to various centrist or conservative interest groups as her flacks argued, desparately, that she wasn't as unelectable as you thought. The early waves of superdelegates went to her out of lust for spoils; the second wave, for Obama, are going because they're convinced he can win. Clinton's job has been to make Democrats believe he'll wind up this process as hated as she is, or as Kerry was, or as Dukakis was. But Democrats don't want to believe that. This or that debate performance aside, Obama is obviously the most talented pol they've had on their team in decades. They don't want to hear that he'll be mau-mau'd over the flag, or his pastor, et al.
This whole ugly affair brings to mind the struggles of President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica. She begins her re-election campaign with a healthy lead, padded by the belief that she has clarivoyant powers and will lead her people to the promised land. She stumbles early on by making an unpopular anti-abortion stand. Her opponent, Gaius Baltar (advised by a former terrorist–shades of Bill Ayers!) has no traction until the fleet stumbles upon a new, barely habitable planet where humankind can settle and declare a truce in their War on Cylons. Baltar starts surging, and Roslin asks her political director Tory why that is.
Tory: Madam President, in my opinion, people vote their hopes, not their fears. Baltar is offering them what they want to hear, and you're offering them a bitter reality.
Roslin: I'm offering them the truth.
Tory: They don't want to hear the truth. They're tired, exhausted. The idea of stopping, laying down their burdens, and starting a new life right now is what is resonating with the voters.
Roslin: How well is it resonating?
Tory: It could turn the entire election around.
Replace "starting a new life" with "getting over the 90s and defensive war-on-terror politics" and you've got your analogy. And then Roslin tried to steal the election with forged ballots.