In the Arena

How to Build A Majority–2008

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John Judis has an interesting theory about why the Republicans did better than expected (they still lost) in the special Congressional race in Massachusetts this week.

A flawed companion piece appears in the Washington Post today about Obama’s difficulty selling bipartisanship to the Democratic Party’s base….flawed because bipartisanship can’t be a blanket strategy. There are issues where Democrats and Republicans have differences. It’s entirely appropriate for Democratic voters in Iowa to be ticked off about Bush’s SCHIP veto–an act of purposeful, incendiary partisanship–and it would be appropriate for Obama to express some anger about it. (Although I’d be happy with a compromise that puts SCHIP eligibility at 300% of poverty and restricts the ability of states–New York, for example–to move the income level higher.)
The fact that the two leading Democratic candidates, Obama and Clinton, are essentially running moderate campaigns–and that John Edwards’ populism hasn’t exactly caught fire–is an indication that the Democratic base isn’t nearly as partisan as the Post seems to think it is.

In any case, I’m not so sure that the Obama campaign’s stasis has been a consequence of his bipartisan pitch–it’s more a result of his inability to find an issue that he owns, an issue where he has taken a substantially different position from Clinton. It’s also about his cool, cool style: a certain amount of inspired ranting about the Bush debacle would certainly be justified (and might find eager auditors among independent voters).

And again, there is plenty of time to go. The vast majority of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire haven’t made the visceral, final decision in this race. Clinton hasn’t closed the deal. Be patient and watch and learn.