3 Presidential Candidates: April 21, 2008

Deciding How to Play the End Game
On Iraq, Economy and Other Issues

By Harry Kelber

(The Fifth of Five Articles)

On April 22, the long-awaited Pennsylvania primary will take place, whose outcome may directly end the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton or allow her to continue her quest for the Democratic Party nomination, but still in a perilous position.

Senator Clinton has to face the grim fact that no matter how well she does in Pennsylvania and the remaining primaries and caucuses, she cannot surpass Senator Barack Obama's elected delegate count. Her desperate tactic of choice is to try to undermine his standing with the voters by proving that he has neither the experience nor the stamina to withstand an onslaught by Senator John McCain in the general election.

She has thrown the “kitchen sink” at Obama, putting him on the defensive on a series of issues that range from his pastor’s un-American remarks to his San Francisco’s “elitist” put down of small town people to his failure to wear a pin of the American flag on his lapel. Clinton’s ultimate hope is that the superdelegates will agree with her that Obama is too weak a candidate (although she said “yes! yes! yes!” to a question, when pressed at the last debate about his ability to win the presidential election.)

Undoubtedly, her series of negative advertisements and statements about Obama’s “values” has cost him some voter support (how much is not clear), but it has diminished, rather than enhanced her own image with the voters, as latest polls show. In the NBC-WSI poll, Senator Clinton has a 37 percent positive rating, her lowest since March 2001, when she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.

Clinton pins her hope that the superdelegates will reject Obama and favor her as the Democratic nominee—a slim reed. At one point she was leading Obama by about a hundred supporters among the 793 superdelegates, but that margin has shrunk to 250 for her and 228 for Obama with 315 still uncommitted.

The principle task for Senator Obama is to deal persuasively with issues that voters, especially blue collar workers and union members, are concerned with and to be prepared to handle Senator Clinton’s relentless attacks more deftly than in the last debate.

The Obama campaign can cite some encouraging data from the polls regarding the general election. When voters were asked if the three presidential candidates could unite the country if elected, 60 percent of all voters believed Obama could be successful in uniting the country; 58 percent said McCain could do it, while only 46 percent of the voters said the same of Clinton.

While Senators Clinton and Obama are in a pie-throwing contest to reveal each other’s shortcomings, Senator McCain is enjoying the spectacle, and picking up ammunition he can use against whoever is his adversary in the general election. The Democrats’ internal strife gives McCain time to solidify his right-wing base, part of which had been vehemently opposed to his “liberal” policies.

McCain candidly says the United. States should continue the war in Iraq until victory is assured, no matter how long it takes and whatever the cost in lives and money. He dismisses those who advocate an end to the war—the majority of Americans—as short-sighted and, by implication, unpatriotic. Essentially, he would continue President Bush’s policies in Iraq, in a war that is mired in ethnic violence, corruption and incompetence and that has been going on for five years, with no end in sight.

While criticizing executive pay and corporate wrong-doing, McCain said he would reduce the corporate tax from 35 percent to 25 percent and make the Bush tax cuts permanent. His campaign aides said that the tax cuts could be paid for by spending cuts.

But an analysis by the Democratic National Committee concluded that McCain’s proposed tax cuts, coupled with the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he wants to continue, would put the federal budget trillions of dollars in the red.

McCain indicated he was for free trade, and that the benefits of opening up new markets outweighed the cost of losing some manufacturing jobs. (Actually, there has been a loss of more than two million manufacturing jobs.)

McCain would like to shrink the size of the federal government, which means he will support cuts in services for the poor, sick and elderly. And McCain, like President Bush, does not show any interest in dealing with the nation’s unions. Nor does he have a plan to provide health care for the 45 million people who don’t have health care.

The general expectation is that, barring some extraordinary development, Senator Obama will be handed the nomination by the superdelegates.

* * * * *

The 2008 presidential election is one of the most unprecedented ones in American history. While there have been women and African-Americans who have aspired to be president of the United States, none has reached the pinnacle of opportunity as have Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in their competition for the Democratic Party nomination. The winner has just one more hill to climb: victory over the Republican Party’s nominee, Senator John McCain.

The 2008 election, whatever the outcome, will be remembered as a milestone in American politics, where at long last, a woman and an African-American can be seriously considered for the most important job in the world

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