Obama’s problem

May 16, 2008

Forget for a moment Obama’s childish tantrum at Bush’s speech before the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Michael Barone identifies a more serious problem:

…Obama has not had a good March, April, and May. Starting with the March 4 primaries, he’s trailed Clinton by 346,004 popular votes, and the blog estimates that he’ll lose the still-to-come primaries by another 186,497 popular votes. That would put Clinton ahead of Obama not only counting Florida and Michigan, but also counting Florida and Michigan and the imputed totals in the Iowa, Nevada, Washington, and Maine caucuses.

One more point. The Obama campaign makes much of the fact that its candidate leads Clinton in “pledged delegates,” those chosen in primaries and caucuses. He has—by 153 more of those, according to the latest RealClearpolitics.com count. As this Wall Street Journal articles notes, Obama has picked up a net 145 delegate advantage in caucuses and a net delegate advantage of exactly seven delegates in primaries. Seven. And as the article also notes and as I noted above, Obama did much better in caucuses than in nonbinding primaries in the two states that held both, Washington and Nebraska. Obama and many, possibly most, superdelegates believe that he has a moral claim on superdelegate votes by virtue of his lead in pledged delegates. But that lead comes almost entirely from caucuses, which have many fewer participants and are presumably less accurately representative of the mass of Democratic voters than primaries.

His weakness in open elections, as opposed to caucuses, which reward organization, portends real problems for the Prince of Hope and Change in the general election. He doesn’t appear to have a broad popularity, in spite of what his activists would have us believe. Too many gaffes (FDR and Truman negotiated with Hitler and Tojo?), a mounting number of lies (first saying he would negotiate with Iran without preconditions, then denying he ever said that), and evidence of elitism and questionable judgement regarding his associations all work together to give voters doubts about him, and it shows in the data Barone cites.

Obama may well be the nominee, but Democratic strategists taking a sober look at Obama the candidate in light of the last three months has to be worried.