Obama wins, Clinton struggles

I thought Senator Clinton's speech tonight was a notch below what she has delivered on other nights. She looked and sounded tired. Not a great sign for her campaign as it enters this next critical phase.

McCain is raising his game up. He was much better tonight than previous nights, and is growing in confidence and finding his voice.

20,000 people for Obama tonight in Houston. 20,000. He also seemed a little tired tonight, and a little long, but man the visuals of the event were great. He talked more about America's role in the world, and of the economy tonight than previous nights. His narrative continues to evolve.

Now 2 debates in the next week, and a two week all important battle for Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont.

Lots of stats tonight but the biggest one may be Obama's win with those who voted on the economy by more than 10 points. As I've been writing for some time if Obama were to win he would have retool his economic message, and better connect with the struggle of every day people. Winning on this issue has been the core strength of the Clinton campaign to date. Well tonight that changed, and this may have enormous implications for the March 4th contests. As CNN reports:

The exit polls showed 43 percent of Democratic voters said the economy was the most important issue in deciding their vote -- followed by the war in Iraq at 29 percent and health care at 25 percent.

Fifty-five percent of those who cited the economy voted for Obama, compared to 43 percent for Clinton.

An overwhelming 90 percent of the Democratic voters polled said the nation's economy is either "not so good" or "poor."

If you are in DC tomorrow please do come by our event at 12:30 at the Phoenix Park Hotel. Joining me will be Joe Trippi, Amy Walter of Hotline and our own Peter Leyden and Andres Ramirez. It will be a spirited discussion on this historic election season.

Wed am Update: Early analyses focus on Obama's growing ability to blow apart the very effective Clinton strategic triad of women, traditional Democrats and Hispanics. Obama won 49% of the women's vote last night, and won those making under $50,000 by ten points. Given his enormous margins of late, and the 25-30 swing towards Obama in the national polls, it was inevitable that his dramatic gains had to start coming from her coalition. Given that the economy and the struggle of the middle class will be one of the two or three defining issues of the 2008 elections, if Obama can maintain his new connection with these voters it has very important implications not only for the Democratic nomination but for the general election itself.

John McCain is going to have a hard time getting back in the game on economic issues. The economic policies of the Bush era have left a typical American family earning less than they earned in 2000, and may be leaving McCain with a slowdown or even a full blown serious recession just in time for the general election. Despite McCain's early efforts, this election is not going to be about tax cuts and new found conservative austerity plans. It is going to be a much bigger conversation, one about our common economic future, about restoring broad-based prosperity in a much more global age, or as we say at NDN, about creating an economic strategy for 21st century America that makes globalization work for all Americans. The Democrats are increasingly talking this way. It is not even clear yet that as as a national Party the GOP - or their new leader John McCain - even understands - let alone has plans to address - what has happened to average Americans in this terribly disapointing age of Bush. No matter his history, if John McCain doesn't develop a compelling economic narrative that speaks to the concerns of the struggling American middle class he will not be President of the United States. Security alone will not cut it this year, not in this economy.

Obama on Infrastructure

Crisscrossing Wisconsin today in advance of what may be his next primary win next Tuesday, Barack Obama delivered what aides billed as a major economic policy address. Most notable about the speech following a tour of a GM assembly plant in Janesville--a venue loaded with meaning given the huge losses just announced by GM--was Obama's support for a $60 billion National Infrastructure Bank to rebuild America's infrastructure and his support for a $150 billion energy and technology investment plan to create five million jobs in the new green economy.

Against the backdrop of an economy in turmoil, Obama's message of creating the conditions for long term economic revival was refreshing. The bi-partisan stimulus package signed today to forestall or blunt a recession is certainly needed. However, short term relief is no substitute for the long term leadership needed to get America moving again and to ensure that benefits of globalization flow to all Americans.

The Bush Administration has focused exclusively for seven years on short term appearances at the expense of long term economic growth. Lost has been any sense of vision or leadership for the future. In November, in a paper I authored for NDN on rebuilding America's infrastucture, I offered support for the Dodd-Hagel legislation to create a National Infrastructure Bank and a new Green Act to green the federal government. Obama's support for a bank along the lines suggested by Dodd and Hagel and his $150 billion plan to invest in new energy technologies--like a similar plan proposed by Senator Clinton--is the sort of bold stroke needed to set America on a path of future growth.

A growing consensus is emerging among venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, politicians and increasingly the public that the green economy will be central to America's economic future--this at a time when the once far off dangers of global warming are coming home--as hurricanes rage and the summer ice line of the Artic continues its alarming retreat.

Money and energy are now pouring into efforts to halt climate change and create a post carbon economy. The changes will be profound and overwhelmingly positive--quiet, exhaust free electric cars, a smart and more decentralized electric grid--and new modes of living. As a new NDN Fellow and director of a new green project, I am going to be exploring these issues in coming months. Nothing could be more exciting for me and it is exciting to hear that Senator Obama views building the green economy as central to his economic agenda.


The evolution of the Obama campaign

A lot of the initial chattering commentary over night has referenced Obama's incredible speech in front of 17,000 people in Madison last night. How you can see him growing, evolving, reaching, summoning even more, all right in front of us. That part of the emerging drama of this race is tracking the maturation of the most moving and remarkable public speaker America has seen in a very long time.

Last night he added a whole very compelling riff on McCain, and as I've written, it may turn out that McCain is one of the worst candidates the GOP could have fielded this year. But the most important new part of the speech was his discussion of the economy, of the middle class struggle, something that the campaign has had a very hard time taking to the same level as the rest of his stump. Given how important the economy is this year, it is remarkable how far Senator Obama has come given that his economic messaging has been less than it should be. But later this morning he is giving what the campaign is billing as a "major" new economic speech. For those tracking the evolution of the good Senator from Illinois, this speech - which I think was previewed a little last night - will be an important moment in assessing his continued growth.

He also appears to be in the process of successfully addressing one of his other weaknesses - Latinos. He broke 40% last night in both MD and VA, and actually won Latinos in Virginia. The real test of his new efforts in the Hispanic community will of course come in Texas on March 4th, where both campaigns are already on the air with Spanish language ads (scroll below to listen and watch). Obama doesn't need to win Latinos to win Texas, he just needs to get close, something he did last night, and did in both Arizona and Colorado. As Andres wrote last night, the Clinton campaign is very aware of the centrality of the Hispanic vote as her primetime event last night was very very Hispanic focused.

Of all the stats the one that stood out to me most this morning - and that should be terrifying GOP strategists - was that Senator Obama won more votes in Virginia than all the Republican candidates combined. Yes, Virginia, a state Democrats have not won in a general election since 1964. As Senator Obama has been saying, "something is happening out there." One of the most interesting trends to watch is how the recent Obama surge not only put him ahead of Clinton but of McCain as well.

Finally, while I loved his speech last night, my favorite line is the one from last week "we are the ones we've been waiting for." The campaign took the line and turned it into an incredible video which you can watch from the link.

Update: The Post's Jonathan Weisman has a good piece looking at whether the formidable Clinton triad - women, traditional Dems, Hispanics - broke apart last night.





Dr. Robert Shapiro's take on the economy

In his first video blog (below), Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, Chair of NDN's Globalization Initiative, takes a quick, two minute look at the state of the economy:

There was an article in the New York Times recently on these very same issues that is worth checking out.

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