In the Arena

It’s Getting Close to Over

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I woke up this morning and the blues were pouring down like rain…Well, not really–although I’ve always loved that lyric. Actually, I woke up this morning with a gut feeling that the Philadelphia debate may have been the last straw for the Democratic Party, that the superdelegates are about to rush to Barack Obama in order to end this thing and liberate him to actually answer the Republican-style attacks that Hillary Clinton has been previewing. This New York Times piece is a pretty good indication of the zeitgeist. And these words from Obama pretty much sum up the current state of play:

“That [debate] was the rollout of the Republican campaign against me in November. It happened just a little bit early, but that is what they will do,” Mr. Obama said. “They will try to focus on all these issues that don’t have anything to do with how you are paying your bills at the end of the month. There’s no doubt that I will have to respond sharply and crisply, then pivot to talk about what exactly are we going to do for the economy and what are we going to do about the war in Iraq.”
Until the nominating fight ends, Mr. Obama said, he is “trying to show some restraint.” He added, “I won’t have as much restraint with the Republicans.”

In other words, I believe that analysis like this in the Wall Street Journal is precisely wrong. Yesterday, I spoke with a senior uncommitted Democrat–who has pledged not to commit until the nomination fight is over–who told me that yes, Obama’s “bitter/cling” comments were a troubling sign of the disdain for average folks that coastal/academic Democrats have often displayed…but that Clinton had just wrecked her reputation within the party by comparing Obama unfavorably to McCain and running a Republican-style primary campaign in Pennsylvania.

There is still the possibility that if Clinton really blows out Obama in Pennsylvania–a twenty point win, say–there will be some second thoughts. And this is not to say that Democrats are entirely thrilled with a candidate who has such obvious difficulties getting white middle class people to vote for him. But there is a growing sense that the bleeding needs to be staunched. If he’s to be the nominee, Obama needs to start putting together his general election campaign now–and start responding to the character attacks in a way that won’t be restrained by his desire not to offend fellow Democrats. My guess is that the superdelegate tidal wave is about to begin.