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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Wisest Choice

Obama appears at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI
Full disclosure, straight up front -- I voted Obama in Wisconsin's Democratic Primary yesterday. I didn't faint in the voting booth, I wasn't brainwashed into a cult by inspiring speeches -- I did something crazy like look at reality.

For example, it turns out that John McCain is freakin' insane. Not only is he cool with staying in Iraq for up to a million years, but I can't think of a time when he voted against any sort of military action. As a potential president, John McCain is basically George W. Bush without the mangled english. In other words, someone who has no business anywhere near "the nuclear football" and someone who's absolutely guaranteed to make lousy foreign policy decisions.

So, if I really don't want to ever say "President McCain," I need to look at the numbers. And the numbers show me that Obama's the guy for the job. The latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows Clinton losing to McCain -- albeit barely -- 48% to 49%. Obama, on the other hand, beats him easily, 50% to 46%.

And look at what happened last night. Obama exceeded expectations (including my own), turning what was predicted to be a fairly close race into a win by 17%. In Hawaii, were he was expected to do well, he did amazingly well, pulling 52% of the vote.

As I predicted, Obama took Madison and Milwaukee, which have long been the keys to the state. But he also took pretty much everything -- losing in only ten counties. He took urban Wisconsin, rural Wisconsin, blue collar Wisconsin, and white collar Wisconsin. He took a bite out of demographics that Hillary had counted on -- and that may mean bad news for Clinton in Ohio. That's a "must win" for Clinton.

All of which says, to me at least, that Obama has an awesome ground game. And if, when November rolls around, the numbers are close, then that's going to make all the difference in the world. If the last poll before the primary was correct, Obama owned those last minute decision-makers, taking the lion's share of that 11% undecided. Obama's a closer.

The Clinton campaign has been saying that she's "ready on day one." But here we are, months before day one and she has nowhere to go. She's losing ground in her core demos. Wisconsin was the first state where she went negative -- and it didn't work. At this point, she's tried everything and nothing's working. She's already done the campaign shakeup; no dice. Looking back at her campaign, it looks like her entire strategy was to assume she'd already won. Her theme of "experience" seems to rely on her husband's experience more than her own.

And her inability to rally Wisconsin, which actually should've been one of her strengths, shows a deeply flawed strategy. Her argument, that Obama's message of change rings hollow, didn't really connect. And, as Clinton has gone negative, Obama's message has allowed him to stay positive, while answering her charges.

At this point, McCain is pretty much unstoppable in his own race for his party's nomination. Huckabee's just building up a list of donors and contacts to become the next Pat Robertson -- at this point, even a miracle is impossible. Unless McCain keels over Cincinnati, Huckabee is out. Staying in at this point serves no purpose other than building an evangelical contact base.

Reuters gives us our closing argument, straight from Hillary Clinton's mouth. "It's about picking a president who relies not just on words but on work, on hard work," she said. "We need to make a choice between speeches and solutions, because while words matter greatly, the greatest words in the world are not enough unless you match them with action."

My point exactly. Looking at the Obama campaign's ground game, we see someone who's willing to work hard and that hard work is translating into an incredible string of wins. You don't win if you don't convince people and you don't win without some leadership. That's part of the genius of modern democracy -- the primaries are a proving ground for the general election. And Barack Obama's proved himself very capable.

No, I didn't get caught up in soaring rhetoric, I didn't fall under the spell of some electoral Svengali, I didn't find myself drunk with hope. I made what I felt was the wonkiest, most logical choice I could.

And I chose Obama.


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