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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tough Spot for Clinton and Obama

The United States Senate's biggest vote of the year came and went this week. The war has been re-funded. The Democrats lost. The Republicans won. Might this be foreshadowing? The results of the vote encompass two huge factors in the 2008 Race to the White House.

1. Now, more than ever, every vote on the Senate floor by Presidential candidates will become campaign fodder for multiple opponents. Example #1: Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted no on a bill that effectively funded our troops. This will ruffle many feathers. Example #2: Senator John McCain voted yes on a bill that effectively extended a war many consider un-winnable. This will ruffle many feathers. This vote alone cost each of these candidates an unknown chunk of votes, in the primary and the general election.

This, of course, is the reason why a Senator has won a Presidential election once in the last eighty years (that's one in twenty elections). Constantly voting on bills that the entire country will not agree on is hurtful to a campaign. A typical Congressman - that is, one that's not running for President or is named Lieberman - mostly worries about representing the local constituency. A candidate running for a national mandate has a much more difficult time appealing to a national audience, as written earlier in the week. This Iraq War funding bill epitomizes this point.

2. This war vote tells us how either A) incompetent or B) impotent this Democratic majority is when it comes to dealing with the biggest political issue in the country. Clearly, the Democrats took both chambers of Congress riding the coattails of an unpopular war. That's why they won. Now that they're in, has anything changed? They wanted steady troop reduction. They wanted a timetable for complete withdrawal. They produce bills with literature saying as such. What they got, however, was exactly what the President and the Republicans wanted. Not a good job by the Dems.

This, however, might be better for Democrats in the long term, and here's how: First, if the war continues to frustrate Americans, the Democrats can blame the Republican President for slowing down the Democratic agenda. Second, a Democratic Congress was powerless to reverse the Presidents agenda. The veto power of the executive was too much to overcome without a supermajority, and let's face it, this country is too equally divided for the Democrats to achieve 2/3 majority in 2008. So what must happen for the government to finally reflect the stance of the public?

A Democrat must be in the White House.

Another Democratic Congress will be equally powerless to change course if John McCain or Rudy Giuliani are in the White House. If voters want change, they need to elect a Democratic executive to go along with a Democratic legislature (and then John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg can finally retire without fear of nearly completely losing the bench).

Until Election '08, look for Republicans to tirelessly propose bills that require a vote from Clinton and Obama that will divide the country. This is master politics before an election. We're talking Karl Rove doing everything this side of walking into the well of the House to propose bills himself. They will start pushing initiatives that will put Clinton and Obama into very entangled voting situations. The other Senate Democrats running, Biden and Dodd, will have little problem voting down every GOP proposed bill that comes their way, as they need to concentrate solely on the primaries. Clinton and Obama, however, both have one eye on the general election.

Tough spot.

2 comments:

sptmck said...

I agree, and this is a great post. I can already hear the din of s/he flipped-flopped on the funding legislation.

atm said...

I agree as well; at this point, this is where I wish a candidate like Dodd was a big money candidate. He seems as outspoken as Biden, without the foot in mouth problem.

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