Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's not over until the Electoral College sings.

The possibility that Hillary Clinton may lose the Democratic Iowa caucus to challenger Barack Obama has produced a great deal of speculation about a change of plan for the Clinton campaign. For example:
Hillary Rodham Clinton's backup plan if she falters in Iowa can be summed up in two words: New Hampshire.

Clinton's Democratic team is preparing television ads here criticizing Barack Obama's health care plan and working to build what campaigns call a firewall. If the Obama presidential campaign ignites in Iowa, she wants to be ready to cool him off in a state where her organization is strong and her support has proven durable.
Apparently the contingency planning doesn't stop there. Mickey Kaus points out speculation that Hillary might lose the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary and offers advice about what to do after that (author's boldface):
Anyway, given today's outlook, Hillary is well advised to drop the "halo of inevitability" and don the fur suit of the Energizer bunny candidate who will just keep going and going even if she, say, loses the first three primaries and the next three. Her strategists are presumably already thinking about such a long-haul comeback plan.
The common factor ignored by these types of conventional campaign analyses is the propaganda factor. We know that Hillary Clinton is unlimitedly ambitious, unstoppably ruthless, and raking in tons of cash. She also has a lot of friendly -- to the point of utter gullability -- media figures on her side. That puts a lot of options on the table for her that other candidates don't have:
  • The most obvious campaign tactic is that Barack Obama will "pull a Howard Dean" and fall victim to an instant-onset Big Media counter-punch. That is, the mainstream media would seemingly spontaneously adopt an anti-Obama story that would be repeated endlessly in an effort to stampede Obama supporters into abandoning him. The actual storyline used for this attack could be anything, whether rational ("The Clinton campaign released new video footage of Barack Obama snorting coke today..."), exaggerated ("Was Obama wearing mascara at his post-caucus victory speech?"), or entirely irrational ("Obama supports wombat attacks on little girls . News at 11").

  • Another posssible campaign tactic is messing with Obama's delegates at the nominating convention. After all, only ignorance about the true facts could cause someone to fail to recognize Hillary Clinton as the natural leader of the human race. This could come in the form of a media counter-punch or in a direct lobbying effort from the Clinton campaign. Another plus is that it does have the virtue of having been tried before.

  • A related tactic would be for Hillary Clinton to wait until the election is over, then launch a lobbying campaign against the Electoral College to defect en masse to voting for Hillary Clinton for president. Historically speaking, it has been completely unprecedented to attempt to lobby one's way to a voting majority of defectors starting from scratch; when Al Gore attempted this in the 2000 election, he was only looking for two defectors to put him over the top in the totals. On the other hand, rules are for Republicans, dude.

  • Another similar tactic would be a late-game ballot switch. Hillary could just wait for Barack Obama to get pounded mercilessly by his Republican challenger, then try to stampede public opinion her way to "save the election" for the Democrats. Again, while this tactic has been battle-tested to a certain extent to keep Senate seats in Democratic hands, this is an unprecedented tactic for someone to pull off in a presidential election.


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