So much for the bipartisan-hand-holding-love-fest.
Did Obama's message of conciliatory unity cost him the New Hampshire primary? Sure looks like it. According to exit polls, 30% of Democrats identified themselves as "dissatisfied" with the Bush administration. Obama narrowly won those voters, 39%-38%. However, among the 62% of participants in the Democratic primary who described themselves as "angry" with the Bush administration, Clinton won 39%-34%. And thus, we have Clinton's 2.6% margin of victory almost precisely.Voters are angry. They respond to the message of change, but talk of merging ideologies into cooperative progress with Bush's Republican Party seems to fall on deaf, frustrated ears.
I hold Obama to a higher standard than I do Hillary or Edwards. I have wanted to see he or Edwards succeed in nomination since this time last year, and Edwards fell out for me when he chose public funding. I have only three criticisms for Obama, but for me, they are often hangups. One, I still am not convinced what sort of general election campaign we could expect from him, considering his social security reform messages last summer (completely unnecessary talk, for a Democrat) and the insistence on bipartisan messages without first enforcing the Democratic identity. Two, his failure to seize the opportunity, with Chris Dodd, to reinforce a progressive ideology and protect our Constitution with the FISA filibuster. Those were votes in your pocket, man, and for a very important battle. Where the hell were you? His absence (thankfully) didn't effect the outcome of the showdown, but I worry that he didn't see it as an opportunity to show leadership. On FISA, his actions were inline with Clinton's. I expected her absence, I found his disheartening. Third, and probably most important (and also an encapsulation of the former two) is what appears to be an inability or unwillingness to cohesively promote a campaign of change while more aggressively working toward a stronger Democratic Party brand. Dean started the work in 2004, and Obama can/should finish it. Will he?
This isn't to say these are concrete problems with Obama, only that he hasn't expressed these ideas properly, often enough, or (exampled in the FISA showdown) at all. We may be looking at a very long primary which would widen the fissures in the GOP yet prove an opportunity for Democrats to further explain themselves and the party to voters (something they have been waiting to do since the 60's).
He/She who misses the least opportunities to define the identity and contribute to a political realignment instead of bipartisan promises will grab the nomination.