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Early Obituary

When I did my post yesterday about the extraordinary blogospheric reaction to Barack Obama's South Carolina "gospel tour," I hadn't yet read Chris Bowers' take at OpenLeft. But typically, Chris offers the definitive explanation of the widespread unhappiness with Obama on the Left, with a 3824 word obituary of his campaign which also concedes the presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton.

Even if you disagree with Chris, it's well worth reading as another example of the different optics different people bring to common political topics. From the very beginning, Obama's candidacy was almost universally hailed as offering the prospect of an unusual electoral force. Some thought that his African-American identity, his early opposition to the Iraq War, and his New Politics rhetoric, tied to a repudiation of Bush-era polarization, could produce a Bobby Kennedy-style mindbending coalition appealing to the Left and Center within the Democratic Party and to independents beyond it. As he explains in the current post, Chris Bowers saw the same phenomena quite differently: Obama's strongest appeal was to a left-bent "creative class" (represented by, though not co-extensive with, the "netroots")--antiwar, anti-establishment, and secular--which could be combined with African-Americans to produce a mass progressive movement.

To Obama-as-RFK observers, his paens to bipartisanship and his conspicuous outreach to faith communities have been logical if sometimes poorly executed, and could bear fruit in an expanded Democratic base. To Chris and others, they have been daily irritants to Obama's strongest supporters, compounded by his disengagement from congressional fights that many netroots folk have considered life-or-death matters. The McClurkin incident, in this view, was the final straw. And according to Chris Bowers, at least, this means the one realistic alternative to HRC has imploded.

Barring a miraculous victory in Iowa, I think that Obama is done and Clinton is the nominee. I don't see how Edwards comes back with only $1.5M to spend on ads in Iowa. Further, Richardson hasn't made any gains in the state in four months, and everyone else trails Clinton by about 25% in the state right now. Seriously, I think it would take a miracle for it to change. From the start, Obama was the only one with a real chance, but now has just suffered too severe a blow with the white, progressive creative class that he needed to win the state. After five months of losing ground among this group, the vicious, deserved, and nearly blogosphere-wide criticism of Obama today seems like too much to overcome. It is the nail in the coffin for his campaign. He just can't win the primary without those voters, and I don't see how he gets them back now.

Not everyone, of course, thinks the "white, progressive, creative class" is the key to victory in Iowa, and moreover, it's not immediately clear that mass members of this "class" are as tuned into or agitatated by the McClurkin inicident or Obama's other alleged sins against progressivism and partisanship. Chris ties his analysis of Obama's stubborn refusal to stand up for that "class" with his gradual decline in national polls against Clinton, which is a plausible but hardly unassailable interpretation. Given recent polling in Iowa, and Obama's excellent field operation there, a win would hardly represent a "miracle." And then, just as many voters are beginning to pay closer attention, an Obama-Clinton one-on-one match-up might be a different proposition than it appears to be today. Chris Bowers' obituary for Obama's candidacy is definitely too early.

But I can understand the netroots angst he represents, best expressed in these lines:

It is ironic, really. During 2006 and early 2007, I always thought that the netroots would end up being the downfall of Hillary Clinton's campaign. However, it turns out that losing the netroots has been the downfall of Barack Obama's campaign, resulting in the rise of Hillary Clinton.

And for some netroots folk, that's an irony difficult to bear.