Barack Obama has moved past the Democratic endgame and into the Presidential election, even before formally defeating Hillary Clinton, and how appropriate that he should do it in my home town of Portland, Oregon. It’s noticeable that the frames of reference in this election have suddenly changed. Where just a few weeks ago both Obama’s and Clinton’s chances were increasingly doomed by their unwinnable contest, McCain is now in decline, losing campaign staff left, right and centre as their connections to lobbyists come to light. And whilst stumping for the Oregonian primary, Obama broke a record, pulling in 75,000, seemingly with ease. His theme seems also to have been in play that day too:
“John McCain has decided to run for George Bush’s third term,” he said to a deafening roar.
It’s an excellent slogan, and one which defines his initial foreign policy battle with the Republicans. As Michael Tomasky points out, last week W defined “some” Democrats Neville Chamberlain-style appeasers, whilst addressing the Knesset in Jerusalem. Within hours McCain joined in, the Republican attack machine launching a vicious, two-pronged attack, which until now in recent presidential politics has been completely successful. But Obama launched a press conference of his own, not just firmly rebutting all the attacks on him, but he played to his unique strengths. He took the Republican foreign policy of the last 8 years apart, identifying the party’s lies over Iraq, and offered a different path. Of course it’s excellent politics to pursue in contrast with Hillary – it’s a good point that Tomasky raises when he suggests that Hillary’s bluster in threatening to nuke Iran makes voting for her as a Democrat somewhat perfunctory. Seeing as that’s Republican policy already, why jump ship? And by lumping Bush and McCain together, he paints McCain as the heir to Bush; noone but noone wants that.
I wonder how this will play out – November is still a long way away. And there are many other factors in play.