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Snapshots as Campaign 2008 Resets

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, June 3 2008

The Tuesday night ritual of gathering around the electronic campfire to share in the evolving politics of the 2008 presidential race may finally be over, at least until November. Here are some snapshots and observations from tonight:

1. Hillary Clinton hardly seems to have folded her tents. Her homepage was touting her "18 million" votes, and she still seemed to be very much interested in building her army, with a big box seeking names, emails and comments.

2. Barack Obama is riding an incredible wave of interest and support. On Twitter, for example, check out this chart showing mentions of "Obama" in the last day:

3. John McCain continues to perplex me with his abject approach to the web. Can anyone explain how it is possible that the most recent post on his blog is from two days ago? Hello? And when I try to join "McCainSpace" by hitting the buttons on his site for it, I eventually get to an error page for this url: http://.johnmccain.com/.

4. Hard to believe just how much has happened in just over six months in the Democratic primary. Recall that in mid-November, Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee. Here's a representative example that I stumbled across as I was cleaning some old magazines off my desk, from Harold Meyerson writing in the American Prospect, 11-19-07:

...You would not think this would be Clinton's time. And yet, manifestly, it is. The caucus-goers of Iowa still have time to alter that equation, of course, but so great is Clinton's lead -- nationally, as of late October, she was commanding roughly 50 percent support in most polls, leading Obama by a 2-to-1 margin and Edwards by 4-to-1 -- that Iowa is shaping up not just as Obama's and Edwards' first chance to derail the Hillary Express but quite possibly their last. If Clinton wins Iowa, it's hard to imagine where or how her rivals could stop her.

Remarkably, Clinton has widened her lead by winning over the very voters whom Obama and Edwards had reason to think would be theirs. Looking at the ABC/Washington Post polls for 2007, Clinton's support among moderate and conservative Democrats has held steady: She had 44 percent support among them in February, and 46 percent in October. Among Democratic liberals, though, her support has jumped from 40 percent earlier in the year to 54 percent in October. Obama, meanwhile, has seen his support among liberals decline from 36 percent in midsummer to 25 percent in October. And among Democrats who favor an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, Clinton holds a commanding lead over Obama, 45 percent to 26 percent.

So the candidate of the Democratic establishment, who voted for the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq and, more recently, for a resolution that Bush might invoke to justify war in Iran, has become the clear front-runner in a party screaming for change and peace. That Clinton has managed to pull this off is a tribute to the strategic and tactical brilliance of her campaign, and to the mistakes, misfortunes, and limitations of her rivals'.

In fairness to Meyerson, who I think is a pretty sharp commentator, his article laid out a lot of reasons why the election could be Obama's to win. But still, it's worth recalling how nearly everyone thought, as late as six months ago, that Clinton would be the nominee. Once again, I would argue that the internet was the big factor that made the difference for him (along with a smarter strategy that included planning to run in more states, building a broader networked base of people of modest means rather than just big donors, and Clinton's own strategic errors).