Published in The New York Post on April 12, 2007.
Why is Sen. Barack Obama moving up in the ’08 presidential polls and in the financial sweepstakes? Because he is, in every respect, the un-Hillary.
Most surveys have Obama progressing from the mid-teens to the mid-20s over the past two months. The Rasmussen poll now shows only a five-point separation between the Illinois senator and the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton. Financially, he has raised more primary funding in the first quarter of this year than any other Democrat.
Every candidate gets the votes of those who dislike his opponent, and the Gallup Poll of March 25 found that as many voters cited anti-Hillary reasons for backing Obama as mentioned arguments in his favor.
But Obama has gone beyond just the Anyone But Hillary crowd. His persona is attractive precisely because it embodies everything people dislike about the former first lady.
In isolation, Obama’s signature presentation – soft-spoken and intellectual – would be boring. He might, in other times, have won the Al Gore award for putting the electorate to sleep. But in 2007, it seems to be what voters are looking for.
Turned off by Hillary’s shrill advocacy, they love Obama’s reasonable demeanor. Alienated by her pandering – she has reverted to being a Cubs fan when in Iowa – they welcome his almost aloof, dignified style.
Driven to snicker at Hillary’s scripted public style, they enjoy Obama’s casual, off-the-cuff manner.
Irritated by Hillary’s aggressive partisanship, they really like Obama’s refusal to go negative and his policy of lavishly praising his Democratic opponents and only criticizing Bush on specific issues, never personally.
While the Clintons project a high-wire-act marriage, America glories in the fact that Obama seems to be in a stable relationship with an unassuming and personable woman.
As the Clinton money machine seems likely to steamroll over all opponents, Obama’s operation has an improvised, homemade flavor to his.
While her campaign projects the image of desperately reaching out for every available dollar, his seems to simply make itself available to receive the outpouring of money.
If America is tired of the Clintons, it is eager to learn more about the new kid on the block.
Clinton’s campaign makes high-profile attacks on her opponents, as when attack-dog Howard Wolfson unloaded on David Geffen for criticizing Bill’s pardons. But Obama goes out of his way to avoid negative campaigning and to decry the state of American politics.
In contrast to Hillary’s activism, we see Obama’s thoughtfulness and intellect; we note a depth in him that we often don’t see in her.
Of course, Obama will go through the inevitable denouement as the media closes in. But he has passed through the initial stage of novelty as the first black candidate with a serious chance to win. And now he has passed to the next level – as an attractive alternative to Hillary Clinton. He now is playing jujitsu by using her strengths against her.
He is the un-Hillary, the opposite of what you don’t like in her.
That is a very good place to be in the Democratic presidential primary.