When Nolan Richardson led the Arkansas Razorbacks to the 1994 NCAA hoops title, he called their tight pressure defense “Forty Minutes of Hell”.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Democrats are in the midst of another unique time period, which I think of as “Seven Weeks of Purgatory.”
The term is defined in part as “any condition or place of temporary punishment, suffering, expiation, or the like. ”
Democratic candidates will now have seven weeks to castigate, analyze, blame, or otherwise carry on about a nominating process that is far from over and has revealed more chinks in the process and the candidates than was recognized when the journey began. Staffers will be blamed and/or pardoned, tactics explained away or newly embraced, and candidate tactics and party selection processes will be condemned, praised, pardoned, or redeemed. Oh, and of course, the temporary suffering of Hillary and Obama as punishment for not fighting a schedule that allows for such a huge delay in the process.
I have been puzzled by much of the primary/caucus schedule this year. After zipping through half of the state nomination exercises faster than Dan Snyder goes through coaches, there is now an interregnum of seven weeks between the March 5 TX/OH showdown and the Pennsylvania primary.
Seven weeks with an occasional small state caucus or primary, but without the knock-out punch that can end it all one way or another.
Seven weeks where putative GOP nominee John McCain can save resources and mend fences without having to campaign state to state.
Seven weeks where the Democrats can hem, haw, palaver, and stew about a variety of things, including but not limited to:
What to do with Florida and Michigan?
Howard Dean is not about to let the original results stand, but the states need to be included to help pick a nominee. If you take their delegations out of the equation but count their delegate votes toward the number needed to win, the winner will need 54% or so of the vote…which is not likely this year. Hillary will want another primary, but Obama will want caucuses.
What is the proper role of the super delegates?
The debate continues on super delegates…are they supposed to be completely independent voters, or should they reflect the will evidenced by their states in the primaries/caucuses. Clearly they were created as far back as 1976 as independent voters, but in a year where the establishment candidate is taking on water opinions are changing.
Are primaries or caucuses better indicative of what will make a general election winner?
Is the ability to win a primary closer to what it takes to win a general election, or is the ability to fire folks up to come out late and stay long at a caucus a better indicator that a candidate has the stuff to win in November?
Seven weeks is a long time, and I have a hunch this hiatus will not just help John McCain, it will hurt Barack Obama.
Obama’s appeal has been at a very high, inspirational level. Where the Clinton campaign has worked policy and legislative technique, Obama has talked hope and unity. The problem is that at some point he has to come back to ground and reveal the policies and techniques that will bind and bolster this country.
I am somewhat reminded of the Hoot in last year’s state Senate election, saying that had she been in the senate instead of Cooch she would have made a difference by being more bipartisan-then neglecting to mention how she would accomplish this.
As Charles Krauthammer writes today, to date Obama’s rhetoric of unity and working together doesn’t quite match up to his record:
The Obama campaign has sent journalists eight pages of examples of his reaching across the aisle in the Senate. I am not the only one to note, however, that these are small-bore items of almost no controversy — more help for war veterans, reducing loose nukes in the former Soviet Union, fighting avian flu and the like. Bipartisan support for apple pie is hardly a profile in courage.
Then we get to the tough stuff..
On the difficult compromises that required the political courage to challenge one’s own political constituency, Obama flinched: the “Gang of 14” compromise on judicial appointments, the immigration compromise to which Obama tried to append union-backed killer amendments and, just last month, the compromise on warrantless eavesdropping that garnered 68 votes in the Senate. But not Obama’s.
To date, Hillary C has the best of all worlds…she is well vetted, and Obama refuses to take her to task on much of that record, much to the dismay of some of his supporters. Hillary has no such scruples, and will continue to launch surgical strikes at Obama.
I think the upcoming seven weeks will help cast this election as a doppleganger for the Hart-Mondale struggle in 1984, and I don’t know that helps Obama. Obama will continue to take the high road, Hillary will continue to work the process and super delegates. The MSM will start to shy away from the perception that it is in the bag for Obama, and get overly tough with him in a reflexive backlash. If he goes negative, it will either rebound as being contrary to the picture he has built up OR it will be considered acceptable but may be too late.
Or not…only time will tell…
Yes, the “Seven Weeks of Purgatory” are upon us. With all the potential for negative advertising and negative commentary and possibilities for the smallest errors to wet the political landscape in flames, the Democrats have to worried about what effect this delay in the nominating process will mean.
Meanwhile, the GOP, like Willy Wonka watching the German boy get stuck in the tube, watches and thinks “The suspense is terrible…I hope it’ll last.”