Clinton abandons home-court advantage

I’m looking at Sen. Hillary Clinton’s comments in the wake of her primary victories yesterday in Texas and Ohio, and I’m wondering if I now have even more reason to be worried than I did before. From CNN:

Clinton attributed her wins to the belief of voters that she would be the best candidate to protect the nation.

“For me, this election has always been about who can be the best president, and, you know, that includes who can be the best commander in chief,” she told CNN Wednesday.

Voters also choose her because she would be the best candidate to challenge Sen. John McCain, who locked up the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, on national security issues in the fall, she said.

“People who voted a month ago didn’t know who the Republican nominee was going to be. They didn’t perhaps factor in that it will be about national security because, indeed, with Senator McCain, that’s what it will be about,” she said.

Sports fans will be familiar with the term “home-court advantage.” When the opponent plays in your barn, you statistically have a significantly better chance of winning. Home-court advantage serves as a useful metaphor for the political world, too. If you can make your opponent defeat you on your terms, you have a lot better chance of winning. If you’re great on domestic policy and you’re running against someone who’s strong on foreign policy, you want to make him/her beat you on domestic policy.

You set the terms of debate. You dictate the vocabulary. You conduct the battle in your areas of strength. And any winning coach knows that if you take away your opponent’s Plan A, you’re in the driver’s seat.

It’s been awhile since the Democrats were more in the driver’s seat than they are – or ought to be – right now. Seven years of GOP Fail-o-Rama have voters ready for a different approach, and that’s nowhere more evident than in the approval ratings of George Dubya Bush, which stand at below a third of the population in most polls. Hell, he’s only at 36% in the FOX poll.

But Clinton’s comments above seem to suggest that she doesn’t want a general election fought on terms favorable to her. She’s ramping up for an away game. Sure, her opponent, John W. McCain (who I believe formally locked up the Republican nomination last night), is going to want to talk about “national security” – what the hell else can he talk about? – but that doesn’t mean the Democratic nominee has to acquiesce.

McDubya: Let’s talk about fear and terror!
Democrat: No, Senator, let’s talk about the real issues facing the American people.

For instance:

There’s more – lots more – but you get the idea. If McDubya wants to continue Bush’s legacy of fear, let him talk. Hell, pay for his airtime. Then make clear that one candidate stands for staying in Iraq for a million years and one stands for strengthening America by strengthening America. One is promising more wars while the other is promising to end George Bush’s economically debilitating policy of unprovoked adventures abroad. One candidate has been endorsed by Bush and the other stands for the 70% of Americans who reject Bush and all that he endorses.

Goddammit Hillary, this ain’t rocket surgery. Once upon a time – a time not very long ago, I should note – you had the Dem nomination sewed up, had it won before it got started. Now you’re in a no-disqualification steel cage death match, and you’re in it because of this kind of thinking. You think you can beat Obama by convincing voters – with no evidence whatsoever – that you’re ready to be Commander in Chief? Seriously? You think that’s the answer to Obama’s rhetoric of change?

And if you can win the nomination, you think you’re going to beat The Maverick by campaigning on national security? Sweet fancy Jesus, Hil, that’s the only chance McCain has in this election! If November comes down to a Commander in Chief election, the GOP wins. I don’t think McCain is any more ready to be CiC than anybody else in reality – avoiding unnecessary and unjust war is one of the prerequisites in my book – but we know how much we can count on the intellectual discernment of the voting masses, right?

As I’ve noted before, Clinton isn’t my first choice in 2008, but she’s considerably higher on the list than Dubya’s boy John. There’s a part of me that thinks hey, great, Hillary is committed to a program of ballistic podiatry (that’s fancy talk for shooting yourself in the foot) and that can only help Obama. But the other part of me would like to see all candidates in the race demonstrating a modicum of good sense. And on the chance that she somehow captures the Democratic nod, I’d like to hope that she doesn’t wind up being her own worst enemy. She’d have a powerful home-court advantage, and only a moron in that situation would choose to play on McCain’s terms.

Of course, the other possibility here is that she’s completely right about what the voters are thinking. If thought, we’re about to forge new frontiers in fucked….


  • Sam,

    I hadn’t seen your post on opportunity before, and changing the language around progressive themes. Let me just say that that is one HELL of a post. You said what I’ve been thinking, but said it much better than I.

  • Thanks. I tried to put some thought into that one. I also try to pay attention to people like our friends Joe at Rockridge and Sara at Orcinus. If you want people who REALLY get the art of framing, I recommend them highly. I suspect they’d have done a better job than I did.

  • “national security? … that’s the only chance McCain has in this election!”

    Maybe against Obama. Against Hillary, he has oodles and oodles of lifelong Hillary haters easily in his pocket. That’s about, oh, I’d guess half the Democrats, and 4/5 of the GOP in an army of berzerkers that will be led by another fogie, Mrs. Gingrich, and her son Mordred, er, Newt. Meanwhile indies and Greens will be voting Nader/McKinney. Hillary is doomed against McCain. Why do you think the GOP is rapidly forming behind him now, when just a month ago they were all hating McCain? They’re helping Hillary along to a stolen nod as best they can… that’s their dream opponent… and they’re not even hiding their lust affair with her anymore.

  • I’m starting to hate polls – they’re making me try and octuple-guess myself and everyone else in country. One says that 50% of the country won’t ever vote for Hillary. Another says that 25% of Hillary’s supporters (ie about 13% of the Democrats who are voting in primaries and caucuses) would vote McCain over Obama. And it’s all driving me stark, raving bonkers.

    It’s enough to make me wonder if the Democrats have a snowballs chance in hell, which just plays into the Republican’s hands all around.


  • What I think is funny are the cable news networks who all of a sudden are back peddling although all the results fell in line with most of the polls. In fact I was watching MSNBC and someone had the poll numbers that Obama campaign used, and they were dead on with the exception of Missouri, which Obama surprisingly won. They had these numbers in January! In fact the Obama campaign fully expects to lose by a decent margin in Pennsylvania, and they may turn out to win Texas.

    I never used to hate Hillary, in fact I voted for her for Senate, but it’s stomach churning how desperate she’s getting. The mere fact that she even bitches about the media when she had 6 months of free coverage before one vote was cast is vile on it’s own. What I love is how the media is doing stories on how the “media” covers Hilary. That’s about as useless as those self evaluation reports you are forced to do at work. I hate to say this, but maybe some of the right wingers were really right about the Clinton power machine. Maybe I never saw it because she never went against someone I liked.

    I wonder what’s going to happen to the record number or newly registered voters that voted for Obama if she wins the nomination?

  • Well written Sir and I think it exposes what alot of people are thinking concerning Senator Clinton’s performance on Tuesday. I really hope she does not win the nomination because as Darrell wrote above, we can expect a huge drop in the number of youth coming out to to vote and that will almost certainly mean another Republican presidency which is not a good thing.

  • I’d like to call your attention to an article in today’s Globe and Mail that exposes a really incredible story about Hillary Clinton’s duplicity that calls into question her victory in the Ohio election.

    Her smear campaign against Barack Obama that accuses him of cynically using his opposition to NAFTA a campaign ploy is not only a cynical fabrication by the Clinton campaign but worse yet. It seems that the remarks attriuted to Obama’s aide were actually made my members of Clinton’s staff who contacted Canadian diplomats to offer them assurances.

    In today’s Globe and Mail by Campbell Clark tells how an investigation has begun by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that reveals the startling information that it was the Clinton campaign that first contacted the Canadian government to “tell them not to worry because Hillary Clintons attacks on the NAFTA were mostly political posturing.”

    It apparently started with a remark by Harper’s Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie during a Feb. 26 budget hearing.

    Note Brodie is quoted here indicating that it was THE CLINTON CAMP who had contacted the Canadians to give assurances that her attacks on NAFTA were mostly “political posturing” and should be taken with a “grain of salt.”

  • I hope she loses. I’ll vote for Obama but if she gets the nod I’ll hold my nose and vote for McCain.

  • “Convincing voter with no evidence what so ever” is some thing every old school politician knows how to do all too well. Make the lie big enough and repeat it often enough it will become the truth. Adolph Hitler’s propaganda minister was a master at this art and Hillery’s campaign managers are learning fast. Hillery is indeed an old school politician and that school of politics is what is wrong with America today.

  • I understand your feelings Rho, but damn McCain is Bush III. I don’t think the world can sustain another four years of that.

  • Thanks, Carol, for Globe and Mail story.

    My wife is a feminist and would love to vote for a woman. But she’s so disgusted at Her Royal Clintoness’ no-holds-barred campaigning (not to mention her hawkishness) that she may vote for McCain.

    Her thinking is that, since we live in New York, which Clinton should win in the general election if she’s the candidate, making her NY victory a squeaker will send a message to the Democrats about nominating a near-Republican.

    Indeed, Dr. S., HRC’s statement that security is “what it will be all about” is a major strategic and tactical error. Thanks for noticing that and throwing it back in her face.

  • Paul Woodward commented in a similar vein at War in Context:

    What was the key to Hillary McClinton’s success last night? She proved – again – fear works, thus demonstrating why she’s already conceded to McCain. And she won big where Democrats are sure to lose in November: rural America. That sounds, at least to me, like the definition of a pyrrhic victory.

    McClinton? I like that. Hadn’t heard it before.

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