Sunday, February 17, 2008

Obama's McGovernite Blowout

Robert Novak suggests that Hillary Clinton's campaign's pumping up Barack Obama as the next George McGovern:

Strategists for Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign believe it is imperative to identify her high-flying opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, with the "McGovern wing" of the Democratic Party - but they want to keep their candidate's fingerprints off the attack.

During the two weeks remaining before the important Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4, Clinton insiders want to spread the message that Obama represents the radical left-wing politics of George McGovern's 1972 candidacy, which won only one state. But they don't know how to accomplish this. When Clinton herself has launched past attacks on Obama, it has hurt her with voters.

The Clinton campaign is confident of winning in Texas because of the state's Hispanic vote. But it sees the need in Ohio to identify Obama as a leftist in the eyes of lower-income white voters, who often have supported Republican candidates against Democratic opponents they consider too liberal.
What's great about this, to the extent that it's true, is the resulting initial outpouring of intra-party Democratic oppistion research suggesting a McGovernite Obama blowout in November:

Everyone agrees: Obama has run a superb campaign. He's put together a strong coalition of African-Americans, "latte liberals," young people, and the Democratic Party's liberal-left insurgency that was previously attracted to people like Bill Bradley and Gary Hart, and before them, George McGovern.

McGovern, along with Cong. Don Fraser, wrote the rules which governed the 1972 campaign. Four years earlier, in 1968, the Democratic Party had blown itself up in a dispute between the established powerbrokers and the anti-war left. The "McGovern Rules" were mostly about taking power away from "the establishment." In the future, nominees would be chosen in local caucuses and state primaries.

In caucuses, cohesive goal-directed groups can have influence beyond their numbers. This makes them ideal for insurgency-type campaigns. In 1972, we McGovernites took 9 out of 10 delegates in Ellis County, Kansas--a significant achievement especially when George McGovern was not exactly representative of local sentiment among traditional Democrats.

The McGovern campaign did this in thousands of county assemblies all across the nation, particularly in what are now called "red states." Note George McGovern's "red state" victories in this map of 1972 caucuses and primaries and compare it to the states Barack Obama has won through caucuses this year. This is not surprising, of course, considering that the Obama campaign has adopted the McGovern insurgency caucus strategy, added in internet organizing and fundraising, and, what's more, rallied the same McGovern constituency
Obama's certainly not as uncompetitive as McGovern in '72, but you've got to love how hot and sweaty the left gets sometimes!