06 February 2008

Making Statements, and Having Statements Made For You

From the AP (via Yahoo):

Sen. Barack Obama predicted Wednesday that Republicans will have a dump truck full of dirt to unload on Hillary Rodham Clinton if the former first lady wins the Democratic presidential nomination, and said he offers the party its best hope of winning the White House this fall.

Now, when I read that, the way it's phrased made me wonder if what Obama didn't say is that the GOP won't have a truckful of dirt on him. Pretty bold, if that's the way things went down.

As it turns out, that's not the way things went down. Read to the bottom and you get Obama's actual words:

And you know I think what is absolutely true is whoever the Democratic nominee is the Republicans will go after them. The notion that somehow Senator Clinton is going to be immune from attack or there's not a whole dump truck they can't back up in a match between her and John McCain is just not true.

That's a whole lot different than the opening paragraph of the article. The trick is that Obama didn't specifically say, in some knowing way, that the GOP will have dirt on Clinton (which doubtless they will). What he said is that the GOP attack machine will go after whoever the Dem candidate is, and that any "notion" that Clinton will be "immune" from this is hogwash. Which of course it is. If anything, Clinton stands to get the worst of it, because she's got a longer political career behind her and the Clinton name alone generates hatred among the so-called Fever Swamp like nobody's business.

I'm not too interested in parsing why the reporter framed the article the way she did. There are too many unknowns to come to any substantive conclusion (though that sort of argument rarely stops me). I am actually much more interested in something else Obama said this morning, which also made it into the article:

"I have no doubt that I can get the people who vote for Senator Clinton. ... It's not clear that Senator Clinton can get all the people I'm getting," he said.

Whoa. I haven't found a transcript of his full remarks, but if this is really how this one went then look out. That's a huge claim, straight up and quite direct. And I'd love to see some numbers to go with it.

What seems plenty likely, to my ear right now, is that there may have been some discussion about the general election that we just aren't privy to in this snippet. In that context, I think Obama's right. Come November, if he's the one, then I suspect he will get almost all those would-be Clinton votes. Does it work the other way, then? Would Clinton be able to get as many of the same folks out to the polls as Obama appears poised to motivate? That seems like a pretty valid question to ask as the country took another step closer last night to the possibility of a brokered convention.