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When the campaign becomes a race of commercials

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David Corn has an interesting, and largely persuasive, piece today, describing what may prove to be a high hurdle for Barack Obama’s campaign on Feb. 5 — at that point, the race moves away from his strengths as a candidate.

If the Democratic presidential race is between [Obama and Clinton] it boils down, in a way to this: Clinton says, believe in my resume; Obama says, believe in me.

Clinton is pitching herself as a woman of experience who can start working for you and our children on Day One. Look, 35 years of policy wonkery and advocacy. Look, a record of accomplishment…. Obama is selling himself as…himself. That is, Obama is insisting that he has the ability to create a new politics — a transformative, overcoming-the-divide politics — because of who he is, because of his character and considerable personal attributes. Sure, he points to his past as a community organizer and civil rights lawyers and to his work in the Illinois state senator and the U.S. Senate to bolster his argument that he possesses the right stuff. But his is not a campaign of resume-waving. He’s running on his soul. And Obama goes further than asking voters to hire him as their advocate. He issues an invitation: join me in this grand cause to change politics, change government, and change the nation. He speaks of his campaign as a movement and compares it to the great social movements of America’s past.

With Obama, it’s not about his career highlights, it’s about him. To buy his case, a voter must believe in him, have faith in him, place hope in him — must have (or feel) a connection with him. And this is where the problem kicks in.

That sounds about right to me. Obama’s win in Iowa was very impressive, but it came after months of campaigning in a small state, in a style that played to Obama’s strengths. Voters, to borrow a phrase, got to “kick the tires and look under the hood” of a large Democratic field. Candidates showed up at their homes. They got to ask questions, get answers, and interact with the field the way voters in other states can’t. These folks, after getting up close and personal with all of them for almost a year, and looking each of them in the eye, preferred Obama to Edwards and Clinton in a big way.

But the campaign conditions in Iowa won’t be repeated. Indeed, on Feb. 5, it’ll be the polar opposite — so long retail politics, hello wholesale.

http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/

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