SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BALTIMORE AND WILMINGTON, DEL.(Amtrak en route to Philadelphia)--The Clinton team is trying to box Obama in at the Democratic debate tonight.
Chief Strategist Mark Penn sent out a memo titled "What are the Politics of Hope?" aimed at forcing White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) to either pull any contemplated punches--or wear the jacket as political attackers
In the meantime, Penn annointed frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as the candidate of hope.
But wait! that's Obama's thing! And Edwards!
"Losing ground in the polls, Senator Obama announced over the weekend that he will abandon the politics of hope and attack Hillary in tonight’s debate. Senator Edwards, who rose to prominence in 2004 by eschewing attacks on other Democrats, formally announced last night that he is going to attack Senator Clinton’s character," Penn penned.
The reality is there is a third way: one can draw distinctions without being negative or looking whiny--but it is difficult. While Obama has improved, debates are not his specialty. It takes him forever to even tell his Fired Up! Ready to Go! closer at rallies.
Below, the Penn memo....
To: Interested Parties
From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist
RE: What Are The Politics of Hope?
There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the “politics of hope.” But what does the term mean? What are the “politics of hope?”
Does the “politics of hope” mean launching attacks on one candidate? Or does it mean laying out a vision for the American people? Does it mean questioning a rival’s integrity? Or does it mean talking about the change we need?
The Clinton campaign believes the “politics of hope” should be about outlining how our candidate will reverse the policies of the Bush Administration and give America a new beginning for the 21st Century. That’s why Senator Clinton has spent the last few months detailing:
- Her plan for ending the war in Iraq.
- A health care plan that provides coverage for all Americans and that builds on the present system.
- A middle class economic plan that rebuilds the road to the middle class by making our economy work for all of us, not just some of us.
- A plan to make college more affordable by expanding the Hope Tax Credit and Pell grants.
- The American Retirement Security Accounts to enable people to save for retirement and take those savings from job to job.
- A plan to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act and provide a better work-family balance.
- How she would use aggressive diplomacy to avert war and deal with Iran.
Contrast that with the campaigns of our two leading rivals, both of whom made their names by promising a “politics of hope” and have now abandoned that promise.
Losing ground in the polls, Senator Obama announced over the weekend that he will abandon the politics of hope and attack Hillary in tonight’s debate. Senator Edwards, who rose to prominence in 2004 by eschewing attacks on other Democrats, formally announced last night that he is going to attack Senator Clinton’s character.
Considering that both Senators Obama and Edwards made their names by pledging to be positive, the last thing one would have expected was for either of them to go out and announce with pride that they were now going to go negative on a fellow Democrat. It’s unprecedented in my experience.
Of course, Hillary will not hesitate to set the record straight on the issues that opponents raise about her. But as we move deeper into the Fall we are seeing the clear contours emerge:
One candidate is defining the “politics of hope” while the others are abandoning them.
Want to guess which one?