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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Stepped On

One of the lesser-appreciated Dark Arts of modern politics is counter-scheduling: the anticipation of an opponent’s Big Event with a Bigger Event that sops up media attention. We witnessed a classic example yesterday, when the Obama campaign arranged a flag-waving rally as a backdrop to John Edwards’ endorsement just before Hillary Clinton appeared on all three major networks for interviews in the wake of her landslide win in West Virginia.
John Nichols at The Nation has a good summary of how this particular deal went down, which not only stole the media spotlight from HRC, but made her remarks sound less like a victory statement than an implicit admission of ultimate defeat.
I’m sure the Obama folks spent much of the day chuckling over this coup, but it’s not so clear that the Edwards endorsement will bring that many tangible benefits to the front-runner. He can’t “deliver” pledged delegates, and a lot of his early superdelegate support had already bled away to Obama (particularly in NC). And those who expect the endorsement to cause a rush of white-working-class voters in KY to Obama will probably be disappointed, given the very limited impact of earlier “key endorsements” in this contest.
But Edwards’ move, like that of a growing number of previously uncommitted superdelegates, does increase the perception that Obama is the putative nominee, and that does have value. Indeed, it will be interesting to see if Obama overperforms expectations in KY and OR next week by attracting voters who simply want to be with a winner. In this odd, momentum-less nomination contest, that would be something of a first.

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