Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hold the Coronation
A new poll finds that Barack Obama is now almost even in South Carolina, with 34 percent to 36 for InevitaBillary. That's an eight-point gain for Obama since last month, and it comes one day after polls showed Obama within six points in New Hampshire and up seven in Iowa.

The key in South Carolina seems to be that African-American voters are now breaking for Obama, with 51 percent supporting him to Clinton's 27 percent. It always seemed like Obama's challenge in SC was to convince black voters there that he was in fact a viable candidate; having crossed that threshold, presumably most of them won't drop back unless he gets crushed in the two earlier primaries.

Meanwhile, despite the whispers of "Howard Dean," Clilnton's decline doesn't seem irreversible based on slightly less recent history--both Gore and Bush went through something like this in 2000. As I well remember, Bradley led Gore for much of late '99 and into 2000, and McCain of course whomped Bush in New Hampshire and then seemed like he was closing in SC until Karl Rove, Ralph Reed and the rest of the accursed bastards who gave us the Worst.President.Ever. slimed him to political doom.

There are some differences, however. Eight years ago, the Bushies had five weeks between New Hampshire and South Carolina to reverse course and reassert the advantages that came from Bush's overwhelming institutional and financial strength. Her Royal Highness has more institutional support than Obama, but nowhere close to the extent of Bush (and Gore) in 2000, and their war chests are pretty even. And of course the calendar is much more front-loaded this year; if Obama wins Iowa and wins or finishes a close second in New Hampshire, he's likely to take South Carolina and head into the Feb. 5 super-primary with momentum. (I don't see him beating Clinton in Nevada, though.)

It's nowhere near over and InevitaBillary is still a clear front-runner--though I wonder if, given how little personal warmth there seems to be for her outside of the HillBots, she can win back many of those who were tentatively for her but have turned to other candidates. And based on reporting like this, it couldn't happen to a more deserving candidate:

When talking to Clintonites in recent days, I've noticed that they've come to despise Obama. I suppose that may be natural in the final weeks of a competitive campaign when much is at stake. But these people don't need any prompting in private conversations to decry Obama as a dishonest poser. They're not spinning for strategic purposes. They truly believe it. And other Democrats in Washington report encountering the same when speaking with Clinton campaign people. "They really, really hate Obama," one Democratic operative unaffiliated with any campaign, tells me. "They can't stand him. They talk about him as if he's worse than Bush." What do they hate about him? After all, there aren't a lot of deep policy differences between the two, and he hasn't gone for the jugular during the campaign. "It's his presumptuousness," this operative says. "That he thinks he can deny her the nomination. Who is he to try to do that?" You mean, he's, uh, uppity? "Yes." A senior House Democratic aide notes, "The Clinton people are going nuts in how much they hate him. But the problem is their narrative has gone beyond the plausible."

That is, the Clintonites--and the campaign--may be overreacting. Will Democratic voters really buy the Clinton argument that Obama is an inauthentic and a dissembling scoundrel? Until the caucus-goers of Iowa speak, there is no way to know if Clinton's DEFCON-1 assault on Obama will succeed or backfire. But the Clinton attacks do say something about Hillary Clinton. She's adopting a whatever-it-takes strategy, mixing legitimate criticisms with truth-stretching blasts. And her campaign aides have adopted a we-must-destroy-him mindset that they justify by viewing Obama as a political lowlife.

Emphasis mine. Charming, aren't they?

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