Obama Momentum Accelerating Going into New Hampshire

Yesterday I defended my prediction after the Iowa caucus that Obama would win the nomination by noting his momentum, including his upward movement in the polls. A couple additional polls came out which demonstrate the increasing trend towards Obama. CNN now shows Obama with a ten point lead. Edwards has also dropped, consistent with my prediction that his political career is over. A USA Today/Gallup poll shows Obama with a thirteen point lead.

With such poll results, it is not surprising that Clinton’s advisers are now fearing a loss in New Hampshire, followed by a loss in South Carolina. Like Rudy Giuliani they are hoping for victories on Super Tuesday, but this will be very difficult after a string of losses. In the meantime. Obama will be the recipient of a tremendous amount of positive coverage, such as Andrew Sullivan’s column in the Times of London. Sullivan notes how Obama has compared to people such as Adlai Stevenson and John Kennedy. He has another comparison which among Republicans, and some independents, would be even more impressive:

The analogy that worries Republicans the most is a more recent one. Could Obama be a potential liberal version of Ronald Reagan? Could he do for the Democrats what Reagan did for the Republicans a quarter century ago?

It’s increasingly possible. Reagan was the cutting edge of the last realignment in American politics. With a good-natured, civil appeal to Democrats who felt abandoned by their own party under Jimmy Carter, Reagan revolutionised the reach of his own party.

He didn’t aim for a mere plurality, as Bill Clinton did. Nor did he try for a polarising 51% strategy, as George W Bush has done. He ran as a national candidate, in search of a national mandate, a proud Republican who nonetheless wanted Democrats to vote for him.

He came out of a period in which Americans had become sickened by the incompetence of their own government. Reagan shocked America’s elites by pivoting that discontent into a victory in 1980. And by his second term, he won 49 out of 50 states.

You can see the same potential in Obama. What has long been remarkable to me is how this liberal politician fails to alienate conservatives. In fact, many like him a great deal. His calm and reasoned demeanour, his crisp style, his refusal to engage in racial identity politics: these appeal to disaffected Republicans.

He is particularly attractive to those on the American right who feel betrayed by the Bush administration’s version of conservatism, just as many Democrats felt betrayed by Jimmy Carter’s liberalism.

These voters � nonevangelical, fiscally and militarily prudent, socially tolerant � do not feel at home in the angry, Southern, antiimmigrant Republican party of the past few years.

Almost a quarter of those voting in the Democratic caucus last Thursday night were Republicans or independents. In both categories, Obama beat Clinton by more than two to one.

In New Hampshire on Tuesday, independents are even more prevalent and may well represent 40% of the Democratic vote. (In both Iowa and New Hampshire, you can change your party registration on the day of the vote.)

Reagan won a national victory on the strength of “Reagan Democrats”. Obama could win with “Obama Republicans”. That’s remarkable in itself. When you realise he’s also a liberal urban black man whose middle name is Hussein, it’s gob-smacking.

Put these disaffected Republicans together with a spectrum of minorities and a black vote potentially greater than at any time in history, and you begin to see what Obama offers his own party.

The other strikingly Reaganite aspect to Obama is his appeal to the younger generation. People forget that the oldest president was extremely popular among the under30s.

Obama has an almost cult-like standing on college campuses. The youth vote is always touted every four years but never materialises on polling day.

Last Thursday, it came out in force. In Iowa, where the over65 cohort usually outnumbers the under30s by five to one, the old and the young were evenly divided. Among the under30s, Obama beat Clinton by 57% to 11%.

This generation, moreover, is a huge one: the Boomer Echo. Between Bush’s pushing them and Obama pulling them, the Democrats’ advantage could define a generation’s politics. And that’s increasingly Obama’s ambition. He has kept his ego in check, but he is clearly aiming not for a small win, but for a major mandate. He isn’t a Clinton in this respect or even a Bush. He is a Reagan, a Thatcher � of the left.

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