Plouffe on Hillary's supposed inevitability

To the surprise of no one, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe talked up his man while in town last night.

Scott MacKay reports:

In an interview, Plouffe’s argument for Obama drew on history and the soaring expectations Clinton’s poll numbers and campaign have set for her. Recent Cable News Network, Zogby and Gallup polls all have Clinton with leads of roughly 20 percentage points.

Public opinion surveys done before anyone votes in the primaries and caucuses can be deceptive, Plouffe said. “We view national polls to be largely irrelevant to this process,” Plouffe said. “This is a sequential, state-by-state process.”

Expectations of a Clinton victory will be so high, Plouffe asserted, that she cannot afford to lose any of the early primary and caucus states, such as Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina.

“If she does not win all of the early states she will be in trouble,” said Plouffe.

In the 2004 presidential election cycle, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was way ahead of the pack before Democrats voted. “In November [2003], John Kerry was considered dead in the polls and look what happened,” Plouffe said.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry rolled over Dean in the Iowa caucuses and in the New Hampshire primary and sewed up the nomination early, well before the Democratic National Convention.

Yet some observers think Obama has fumbled some opportunities.

As Steven Stark recently put it,

The Obama campaign does need to draw distinctions between its candidate and the front-runner. But it seems unable to understand that this election is never going to be decided by who or who didn't want to authorize the war back in 2002, or who's voting for what now - especially since Obama happened to miss this latest vote because he was apparently busy campaigning. These are distinctions without a difference unless he can point to very specific ways they will make an Obama America different from a Hillary America. Saying you're against "power over principle" and a "blustering foreign policy" don't cut it.

Far more important, Obama is undermining the premise of candidacy. He's promised to bring America together with a new kind of politics. Attacking Hillary is "politics as usual" -- and her campaign had no trouble pointing that out almost within seconds after he'd delivered his remarks.

What Obama needs to do is to draw clear differences without attacking his opponent. The way to do that is by showing how an Obama America would be different from Bill Clinton's America. Yes, Democrats are proud of Bill but there's a lot that he did and stood for that they would also like to change. Hillary can't disassociate herself from Bill: By subtly contrasting his hopes for America with the prior Clinton Administration's aspirations, he draws the necessary distinctions in a positive way, without mentioning her by name. (In fact, he doesn't even have to mention him either).

Obama has to make voters want to turn the page on both Bush and Clinton. Sure, it's easier said than done. But this, in fact, is his only path to victory.

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