Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Charlie Cook in Chevy Chase

Councilman Mier Wolf introduces Larry O'Rourke and Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook has one of my dream jobs: he's a political prognosticator for a living. Although he normally gives his opinions for a living, he kindly shared his views of the political landscape at a community event at the Leland Center tonight. I always knew he had a lot of knowledge about politics on the ground. I hadn't known he was so entertaining--a political Garrison Keillor.

He has a real flair for explaining complex political events with easily understandable analogies and good stories, skills this classroom teacher could only envy. I won't report too much of what he said. It hardly seems fair to steal the political thoughts of someone who sells them as his livelihood. But I thought he shared some interesting views on why Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary and on the upcoming general election.

First, like me and many others, he believes that race does not explain why Obama lost to Clinton in New Hampshire. He argues that the last minute shift among college-educated women in New Hampshire is not plausibly explained by a racial voting. He also thinks that Clinton's moment of choking up in public helped her look more human to the electorate.

He also mentioned something which reflects less well on Sen. Clinton. Apparently, the Clinton campaign sent out a flyer to independent undecided women the weekend before the primary claiming that Obama had failed to stand up for choice in contrast to Clinton. Cook brought and read from a copy of the mailer. Someone also called in on WAMU who was in New Hampshire mentioning this today but I hadn't wanted to give it credence based on one phone call to the radio.

It certainly shows that the Clintons can fight hard and rough--some will undoubtedly also say dirty. I'm not sure how well this will play with Democrats since Obama is clearly pro-choice and the flyer does more than suggest otherwise. On the other hand, the campaign has moved on to the other states so it remains to be seen if this issue will get more press coverage or anyone will care.

On a different note, Charlie Cook explained that he thought it would be a close election even though the fundamentals support the Democrats. He indicated that he thought McCain would be the toughest Republican to beat for either Clinton or Obama, an assessment I share, though Cook noted that McCain is vulnerable on the question of his age.

Of course, the question remains whether the GOP will be savvy enough to nominate him in the first place. Romney just won the Michigan primary.