Bill Clinton Must Like Obama

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[Comment: Political Essay]


In his private moments, as he watches Barack Obama’s ascendancy, former president Bill Clinton must be both terrified and elated.

Clinton is frightened because he knows Obama can beat his wife, senator Hillary Clinton, for the nomination as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. Yet, he must also be thrilled because in Obama, Bill Clinton sees an image of himself; the young Bill Clinton of 1992.

Like the young Bill Clinton, Obama is an intelligent, inspiring, telegenic, exuberant, and buoyant, great orator.

The young Bill Clinton projected himself as a “change agent” and a “New Democrat,” who wanted welfare reform, smaller government, and was able to attract Republicans as well.

Similarly, Obama says he represents the future and transformative change, by unifying Americans; he’s attracting traditional Democrats, Republicans, independents, and especially, young voters.

Just as no one knew the young Bill Clinton when he launched his campaign for the White House, as governor of Arkansas in 1992, a few months ago, even as the nation’s only Black senator, millions of Americans knew little about Obama.

Early in his own campaign in 1992, Bill Clinton stumbled in Iowa, when he came in well behind. Heading to New Hampshire, Clinton trailed senator Paul Tsongas badly, as allegations about his affair with Gennifer Flowers emerged.

The Clinton’s went on “60 Minutes," to deny the allegations, and he fared better, with a strong second-place finish in New Hampshire just as the pundits were writing him off as an inexperienced governor of a small unimportant state, with character problems. He was dubbed “the comeback” kid.

Obama shocked the nation when he won the Iowa Caucuses, leaving Hillary Clinton’s campaign momentarily unhinged. Then Clinton came back and “found” her voice with a victory in New Hampshire, and people began to write off Obama, as an inexperienced rookie senator. Senator Clinton went on to “win” Nevada’s popular vote, even though Obama earned more delegates because his wins were more geographically spread.

But, proving that he too was a “comeback” kid, Obama won a magnificent victory in South Carolina----That was, in fact, Obama’s “Clinton” moment. Obama won big, partly thanks to Bill Clinton.

It’s quite possible that Bill Clinton, the political wizard, had looked carefully at Obama and one day said to himself: “You know what? This guy can actually beat my wife. He’s good. Real good. As good as I was; perhaps even better.”

Yet, it's more likely that both Clintons, during the long course of this debate, have watched Obama's speeches together on TV together, and, inadvertently, but understandably, said to themselves, or even out loud: "This guy is good!"

That’s why Bill Clinton, a little desperate, threw in the race-baiting tactics, hoping to drive a wedge between Whites and Blacks by reducing Obama into a “mere” Black candidate.

The strategy backfired. While it may have initially eroded Obama’s White support, it solidified his backing amongst Black voters, many of whom a few weeks earlier had been loudly wondering “Is Barack Obama Black enough?” No one is asking that lunatic question anymore; Obama has been winning, on average with more than 80% of the Black vote.

Yet, Obama has also been doing well with White voters. He won more than 25% of the White vote in South Carolina, almost sharing it with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who was still in the race.

Obama then held Senator Clinton to a draw on “Super Tuesday,” on February 5, when 22 states held either primaries or caucuses. Each candidate won 839 delegates; Obama actually won more states; 13 states to Clinton’s 8.

Even before “Super Tuesday” the momentum already was swinging in Obama’s favor. In January, Obama’s campaign raised more than $30 million to Clinton’s less than $15 million. In recent weeks, Obama has been raising almost $2 million per day, while Clinton had to loan $5 million of her own money to her campaign to keep it afloat.

So, heading into last weekend’s elections, it was no surprise that Obama ran away with all the four states with delegates at stake; Louisiana, Nebraska, Maine, and Washington. Obama’s victories in the latter three states, all overwhelmingly white, dispelled any lingering myths that Obama was a “Black” candidate. (Moreover, Obama has won states like Connecticut, Minnesota, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, and North Dakota).

A more accurate analysis would be that Hillary is "merely" a White candidate; and that’s the only reason why she’s still in the race. Obama’s support is broad-based; he’s winning as much as 35% of the White vote on average. Clinton is only winning about 18% of the Black vote.


Obama’s victories today, in Washington, D.C., in Virginia, and in Maryland, were spectacular. Obama won with overwhelming margins ranging from 30%-plus to 50%-plus as in D.C. He is now ahead on the delegates tallies, 1,209 to 1,171, inclusive of Super delegates.


In today’s voting, while Obama built on his core supporters, winning 90% of the African American vote, and 84%, in Virginia and in Maryland, respectively, he gained inroads into Senator Clinton’s base. 

In Virginia and Maryland, Obama won both women and men. In Maryland, he won 62% of men and 55% of women, AP Exit Poll data show. In neighboring Virginia, Obama won 60% of women and 68% of men—in Virginia, he also won among White men, getting 58%. While Senator Clinton did win 53% of the White women vote in Virginia, Obama was right at her heels with 47%. Obama made record in Virginia, besting Senator Clinton among Whites in a Southern State for the first time.

The rich, poor, young, elderly, men, women, independents, Whites and Blacks, are now flocking to Obama's candidacy.

Hillary Clinton is banking on “big” wins March 4 in Texas and Ohio--both states with huge delegate numbers. This means she’s conceding next week’s vote in Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton’s supporters claim she will win because Latinos, who make up about half the Texas electorate will back her.

That’s being rather presumptuous. Obama won the Latino vote in Virginia, and he can only gain more support going forward to Texas where many of the Latino voters are younger and ready for Obama's message of hope and change. Obama also will compete strongly in Ohio, which is believed to be leaning towards Clinton because of her ties with union organizers; yet, independents can also vote in Ohio and these tend to favor Obama.

Obama has fared very well in every state where he’s competed head-to-head against Senator Clinton. With millions of dollars in his war chest for political commercials, and riding on the wave of his victories --now 8 states, and possibly 10 states by next Wednesday--Obama’s momentum could overwhelm Clinton’s defenses in both Texas and Ohio. Voters flock to winners.

Bill Clinton, senator Clinton’s husband, is one of this country’s political geniuses. He knows a good thing.

Bill Clinton knows Obama is very good. He knows Obama can defeat Hillary Clinton, because he’s as good, if not better, than the young Bill Clinton.



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