Their themes have been reduced from pithy paragraphs, to high concept, down to one word each: Clinton is selling “fear.” Obama is selling “hope.”
When Clinton says she and Republican Sen. John McCain have crossed the “threshold” to be qualified to be Commander-in-Chief, she is clearly trying to make people worry about that other Democrat, the young one without so much baggage. The same goes for her 3 a.m. ringing telephone ad.
Clinton’s language is being aimed at voters in the upcoming primaries, somewhat, but perhaps more at the Super Delegates. She seems to be suggesting to them that Obama will be way too vulnerable to a fear-driven, swift-boat campaign from McCain or others acting on his behalf in the general election.
When Barack Obama says he wants to change the way Washington works, his words have extra meaning. He is less beholding to traditional Democratic power brokers/king-makers than any candidate who has gotten the nomination in a long time. He is calling for “change.”
While change might sound like a good thing to people without power, change can be a scary word to folks with something to lose. That would include some Democrats who might still prefer a more seasoned donkey at the top of the ticket, especially one that owes them a favor.
Obama is telling the Super Delegates most of the voters want to see a more collegial and results-oriented style in the way programs and policies are put together in DeeCee. Moreover, Obama is telling them his leadership style and momentum will produce coattails to help them win their elections in November.
Clinton’s “kitchen sink” strategy has, at times, seemed rather unconcerned about whatever damage it might do to the Democratic Party. It’s hard to believe many of the Super Delegates have enjoyed that part of the race.
Maybe the only thing that could make it OK to shamelessly slime a fellow Democrat in the primaries would be if it was being done to save the party from a blowout loss in November.
Clinton's easy use of fear tactics in this campaign has not been so different from the way the Bush administration has milked fear every way it could after the explosions of 9/11. Her idea of change seems to be going back to the 1990s, back to when The Clintons were in The White House. She’s selling change as safe nostalgia, rather than what she might say would be a blind plunge into an uncertain future.
Fear or hope?
It’s a classic choice.