Friday, May 02, 2008

Hoosier endorsements

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Obama received the support of most of Pennsylvania's major newspapers -- actually, pretty much all of them except Dick Scaife's Hillary-friendly right-wing rag -- and it may or may not have done him any good. Hillary still won the state by over nine points in the April 22 primary, though Obama narrowed the gap dramatically over the course of the long campaign there -- and, I suspect, endorsements mattered. Without them -- and high-profile endorsements came not just from major newspapers but from such luminaries as Senator Bob Casey, Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, and the two greatest Steeler RBs ever -- Hillary's margin of victory could have been far greater.


Today, Hillary picked up the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, The Indianapolis Star, which, while acknowledging that picking one or the other was "a difficult choice," based its endorsement largely on Hillary's supposed experience: "Obama offers an attractive vision for the way things could be," but "Clinton offers a clear-eyed view of the way things are." Obama "speaks eloquently of hope and change" and "connects with voters," but Hillary "offers nuanced positions on how to address the war in Iraq, trade with China and economic expansion. Her depth of knowledge is remarkable."

I have no doubt that Hillary is a knowledgeable woman, but I'm not sure how her positions are more nuanced than Obama's. Is it more nuanced to have supported the war in Iraq than to have opposed it?

Regardless, it is this ongoing talk of Hillary's "experience" that bothers me. What exactly is experience? Is she more experienced than Obama because she was first lady for eight years? Does that really qualify as experience? True, she has been in the Senate longer than Obama has, but do a few extra years in the Senate qualify as significantly more experience? Or is experience, or what is being talked about as experience, merely longevity? Hillary has been around longer on the national stage than Obama has. So, it follows, she has more "experience." But, then, why not just vote for McCain and call it a day? He has been around longer than either one of them, and he certainly has more national security and foreign policy "experience" than either one of them.

Hillary talks up her experience, as do her supporters and endorsers, but what matters more than experience is judgement, as well as one's policy positions and vision for the future. It is simply not true, in my view, that Hillary is more "clear-eyed" than Obama is -- how are his views on race and politics, culture and economics, not "clear-eyed"? And while they certainly differ on the finer points of universal health care and on the idiotic gas-tax holiday, they're policy positions are, on the whole, rather similar. What it comes down to for the Indy Star, it seems, is "her experience and grasp of major issues." And yet her experience is overplayed and her grasp is no firmer than Obama's.

Anyway, a key Hillary Hoosier supporter is Senator Evan Bayh, long the leading Democrat in the state and a possible Veep pick should she win the nomination, but, as I mentioned yesterday, Obama has picked up the endorsement of another top Democrat in the state, former DNC Chair (and Clinton friend) Joe Andrew. Indeed, as the Indy Star's Matthew Tully points out, "it's been a rough few days for [Bayh]," what with Hoosier Democrats like Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and Rep. Baron Hill (also a superdelegate) "straying from [him] on such a crucial matter" and endorsing Obama.

Tully reports that "[m]any state Democrats have privately complained about feeling pressure from the Bayh camp to support Clinton, or at least to not endorse Obama." Perhaps Bayh isn't as powerful as he once was, but his support for Hillary is still a key to her success in the state, as is the support of the likes of the Indy Star.

As I put it last week, though, Indiana is a state where Hillary should do well regardless. Much of the state is the "small town" world of John "This is Our Country" Mellencamp -- though Mellencamp himself has endorsed Obama. However, Obama is a senator from a neighbouring state, Illinois. While he should do well in Indianapolis and in the northwest, next to Chicago, she should do well everywhere else. The RCP Average is currently Clinton +6.2. The endorsements matter, I suspect, but it looks more and more like Hillary will pull out a victory next Tuesday.

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