early and often

Clinton, Obama Fine-tune Pandering in Final Days Before Indiana Primary


Photo: Getty Images

If you needed an illustration of how close the Democratic race has become, look no further than Guam. Guam held its primary on Saturday (for reasons unclear, since it doesn’t get to vote in the general election), and Barack Obama won by seven votes. That’s a high-school-class-treasurer type margin. And the candidates know it might be that close in Indiana tomorrow, which is why they’ve mixed up their game plans a little bit. Obama is eschewing the raucous chanting crowds for small-town American-as-apple-pie photo ops, like taking his kids roller-skating, shooting some hoops, and visiting a house his great-great-great-uncle lived in. Next up might be sharing a big banana split Sunday with Indiana’s oldest WWII veteran (we’re guessing). Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has transformed herself into a raging populist. On Sunday, when asked if any economists supported her plan for a gas-tax holiday, she said, “Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to put my lot in with economists.” (Because what would they know about economics?) And later that night at an Indiana Democratic Party dinner, she told the crowd we needed to “hold these Wall Street money-grubbers responsible for their role in this recession.” So tomorrow Indiana will decide which is more effective: pandering with Kodak moments or pandering with bad ideas.

• Carrie Budoff Brown writes that Obama has taken a 180-degree shift from the time when he would give speeches in front of massive crowds, in an effort to combat the hits on his character from the Reverend Wright controversy and the characterization of him as being “out of touch.” [Politico]

• John Dickerson follows Obama to more intimate, personal campaign events in his final days, including the one at a roller-skating rink where his daughters skated, and says that if “the point of the scene was to make the candidate look just like any other (well-dressed) Indiana father,” then they succeeded. [Slate]

• Karen Tumulty calls Obama’s closing days in Indiana “low-key, intimate, a series of Kodak moments,” and suspects Obama is trying to show people he’s just like them, despite what they’ve heard about his pastor and his patriotism. [Time]

• Walter Shapiro is surprised that Obama is basically sticking to his standard message of change, a new kind of politics. Meanwhile, “Hillary the policy wonk has taken a vacation” on the gas-tax plan, but it may “pass political muster on Tuesday.” [Salon]

• Craig Crawford, meanwhile, is surprised that Obama has kept on the attack over the final weekend while Clinton made headlines by promising to work her heart out for Obama if he wins. Obama’s attacks are puzzling because, for one thing, they haven’t worked in the past, and they also make him look less like the “inevitable” candidate he claims to be. [CQ Politics]

• Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny write that Clinton is ramping up her populist tones while at the same time trying to “portray Mr. Obama as out of touch.” Clinton has became “angrier by the day,” railing against energy traders, China, OPEC, “and even the federal government.” [NYT]

• Ben Smith calls for Clinton to take it easy on the populist rhetoric, pointing out that a lot of those “Wall Street money-grubbers” are “also known as her donors and constituents.” [Politico]

• As for deriding the value of economists because none of them support her gas-tax-holiday plan, Ezra Klein says it’s not just economists: It’s “economists, environmentalists, energy experts, budget types, and anyone who has spent a couple minutes thinking through the implications of the policy.” [American Prospect]

• John Cohn remembers when Clinton relied on expert opinion to support her plan for health-care mandates. But even if voters know that she’s pandering, simply calling Obama “elite” may remind them of Bittergate and Reverend Wright. [Plank/New Republic]

• David Weigel notes that Clinton not too long ago appeared on the cover of Fortune under the headline “Business Loves Hillary” and feels her pandering is more offensive than typical political pandering because she and Bill “spent eight years running the country” and she knows “a tactical strike on ‘money-grubbers’ won’t happen.” [Hit & Run/Reason] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

Clinton, Obama Fine-tune Pandering in Final Days Before Indiana Primary