Thursday, January 10, 2008
An Opening for Barack

David Gergen

Senior Political Analyst



If voters here in the San Francisco Bay Area are representative, the race between Hillary and Barack could be extremely close here in California on February 5 -- and could also hold the key to the final outcome. Two nights ago in Oakland, where I spoke, an audience of 3,000 slightly favored her over him; last night in San Mateo, just south of the city, an audience of 2,000 raised their hands about 55-45% in his favor.

Hillary is clearly well-regarded here, especially among women, and her victory on Tuesday night has rehabilitated her candidacy. But it is also obvious that Barack has ignited a passion for his candidacy, too, and that despite his loss, he has an opening that wasn't there before Iowa.

The exit polls in New Hampshire showed that even in defeat, Barack was viewed favorably by over 80 percent of Democrats and that 46% of voters thought he was the candidate most likely to win in November versus 36% who said that about Hillary. And here's where I think he now has an opening: some 28% of the Democratic voters in New Hampshire thought Hillary could unite the country but about half felt the same way about Barack.

What I have sensed in California is that people are hugely eager to find a president who can bring the country together again. They know how essential that is in order to address challenges from Iraq and Iran to health care and climate change. Barack has made the case for change. Hillary has made an effective counter argument that she is the only one experienced enough to know how to change. What I see in California -- and what polls from New Hampshire suggest -- is that Barack now has an opening to argue with great effect: yes, but I am the only one who can bring the unity that actually makes change possible.
Posted By CNN: 8:21 AM ET
  16 Comments
David,
I agree...this is going to be a great race between Obama and Hillary. I think it's going to go down to the wire.

But I have to say on the change thing that Hillary to me has Obama beat! I mean she knows alot of people in Washington that she can get to help her make these changes whereas Obama doesn't. And in order to make change you need others that will be willing to help you. Obama hasn't been around long enough to be able to persuade these people to help him. He lacks that! I know he makes alot about Hillary being "in" with the Washington "insiders". But honestly I thik being in with them is the only way that you will ever get any change done! If you are the outsider like he goes by then they won't take to you and we will end up with what we have now in congress...a stalemate!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 9:43 AM ET
After NH I think anything can happen in this race. However, I don't at this point agree that Barack can unify the country. I've heard his oratory and thought he was one of the best speakers I've heard since the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. but Hilliary will talk specifics and tell you what her changes will be. Barack is still up in the stratosphere with his and I've yet to hear what he would change and how he proposes to do it.

I think in the race ahead the candidates need to vocalize what they view change as and how they will do it - what their plan is. Obama has given us hope that it can be done but as someone has already said "Hope is not a plan". Show me a plan if you want my vote.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Blogger Annie Kate : 9:43 AM ET
David,
Before Senator Obama can convince more people that he is the only one who can bring the unity that actually makes change possible, he needs to present his plan for that to the public, not just his position statements.

Senator Obama is one of my state senators, and I have sent him several emails on various issues I have been involved in. I have received email "form letters" back from him/his office, and several are not even on the topics I wanted to get his stand on. In addition to Senator Obama, I have also sent the same emails to Senator Durbin and others and have always received very specific replies.

Am I just having bad luck, or is Senator Obama being evasive to the specifics?
Posted By Blogger Jan from Wood Dale, IL : 9:52 AM ET
Hi David,
I can't wait to see how John Kerry backing Obama today will change the polls. What do you think?
Thanks David, I always enjoy your comments.
Posted By Blogger Betty Ann : 10:13 AM ET
I'd like to hear from Obama just how he intends to implement his ideas and who, with experience, will be part of his administration that can assist him. Eager is good; experienced and eager is better. It's a wait and see right now - crucial for both Clinton and Obama to explain how they will get it done.

Sharon Jenson
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 10:24 AM ET
David,

Not that you need me to validate your opinions, but I totally agree with your assessment re the mood in CA. That said, I can tell you that I have a lot of women friends who will not vote for Hillary, or who have said that they won't no matter what. At some point they turned against her during the Clinton years and there is no looking back for them. I do not share this view, but whew, she does invoke some feeling I can tell you.

I am very glad that CA, as the largest state, will have a chance soon to weigh in and make a difference (hopefully)in the nominating process. Not that I am looking forward to the junk mail and telephone calls and TV ads.

And may I also suggest a theme song for some candidate who wants to start using one or perhaps change their song? I suggest the hit song from that Haley Mills classic, The Parent Trap--"Let's Get Together, Yeah, Yeah" (We can have lots of fu-un.)

Charlotte D, Stockton CA
Posted By Blogger Charlotte : 10:47 AM ET
Hi David,
Senator Obama will have to clearly articulate his plan and vision in order to win the nomination. Senator Clinton must do the same. I think the winning candidate will be able to articulate the most clearly how he/she is the best candidate to bring about the "change" in unification the country seems to want.
Posted By Blogger pamina : 11:30 AM ET
David,
It's very interesting that the crowd in Oakland favors Hillary. I would think it to be the opposite because of the high African American population there. I can tell you that people here in Northern California are very excited to have their vote count. For so long we have been discouraged from voting because it's thought that our vote doesn't count due to late primary dates, or the race being called before we even go to the polls due to our time zone. All these things result in low voter turnout for one of the states with the highest amount of electoral vote.

Finally our voices will be heard.
Posted By Anonymous Robin, San Francisco, CA : 11:39 AM ET
David - Wrt "What I have sensed in California is that people are hugely eager to find a president who can bring the country together again. They know how essential that is in order to address challenges from Iraq and Iran to health care and climate change."

It's a sweet thought, to 'bring the country together' to solve these issues. But do you honestly think the insurance companies (and the pols they own) are going to be amenable to reason and compromise? or are they going to haul out Harry and Louise again, and raise the spectre of Soooocialized Medicine and (boo!) rationing?

The US is now ranked nineteenth out of nineteen nations on the quality of our healthcare, but if you think that means the healthcare profiteers are going to give an inch without a humongous fight, you're way more of an idealist than I am.

And healthcare is only one issue that has entrenched and immovable special interests refusing to budge; the climate-change denialists and the warhawks are hardly going to change their tune because a 'uniter' is elected.

It is, yes, a fairytale, to expect that these interests are going to give up their profitable ways because the majority of the population wants change.

And can I remind everyone that George Bush was going to be 'a uniter, not a divider'? How's that working out for us?
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 11:48 AM ET
To me, "bring the country together" is another way of saying "think the way I think."
Posted By Anonymous aj huntington ny. : 2:41 PM ET
Hi David,
I am very interested in seeing what people think about the electablity issue. over time, we have seen how angry certain block of the american public is with the Clinton; and as a sign of warning, half the country will not vote for her. this is/should not be a surprise to any one having seen how divided the counrty was in the late 90s and continue into the Bush administration. During this period, the country has since been face with seriou problems but no agreement among elected officials in DC to work together and solve these huge problems.

We owe it to our children to make this country a peaceful place by electing a president who is willing to reach accross party line to find americans not Dem/Rep to work together to find solution that benefit all american.
Posted By Anonymous kerk : 4:51 PM ET
I am a older Latino in california and I think that from the new hampshire election that media would make sure that what they say or how they look at there polling is being done in a way that it get the information from the whole latino community, and not to race to the conclusion that all latinos will vvote or even split there vote for Mr. Obama! My mother and sisters and even my daughter continue to give their support to Mrs. Clinton and so do most of there friends and as i see it I too still support her along with my friends and brothers who are all latino. I just thought I would bring this to your attention and don't assume all latinos will vote for Mr. Obama . I also suggest you do the same in other latino communities even in nevada because I have friends there also who feel the same way
Posted By Blogger andy : 4:54 PM ET
I am 19 years old and fairly new to all the political hub bub. But I must say that in the SF/Bay Area, I think Obama has a a fairly sizeable edge over Clinton. I'm not looking at polls when I say this. I'm using the fact that Barack Obama sold out the Civic Center in the middle of November, when he came to San Francisco. Roads were completely blocked off, people flooded the streets for blocks and many of them at the end of the night were turned away. However, when Hillary came to the Civic Center just a few weeks prior, her volunteers working in the front, were giving tickets out for free. If this is an accurate tool to determine the amount of support for a candidate, then I'd say Obama has Hillary crushed in the SF/Bay Area.
Posted By Anonymous Mark : 5:22 PM ET
Although both Hillary and Obama's answers to our country's issues are to let Congress handle everything --God forbid!-- Obama is far left of Hillary, and Democrats should check that fact out before blinding following "Mr Change"
Posted By Anonymous ronnie - knoxville, tn. : 5:22 PM ET
I can't believe some of the comments in this forum about where does Barack and Hillary stand on the issues. Both candidates do have a comprehensive website that offers input and feedback regarding the various issues.

So when people ask where's the detailed plan at; well just take some time out of your schedules to review their websites for the answers. It's right there in plain black and white folks. So please stop complaining so much, and spend more time researching what's actually out there to you.
Posted By Anonymous Roy / Salt Lake City, UT : 7:58 PM ET
I was very young when I watched the inpeachment of Bill clinton on international television. One thing which I picked up was that he was a good liar.

I noticed that Hilliary keeps saying that she has 35 years experience on change, but I have not seen specifics on this, and the media has not been exploring it either.Yet I see when Bill clinton on the eve of the NH primary makes a comment on the media not pressing Obama, and as Obama said took liberties with his words, the media did not scrutinize this either.

The media should do its own analysis of statements made by candidates and their supporters, before giving them so much air play. Other wise the lie and cry politics of the Clintons will win the nomination for them. They seem to have a tract record of dishonesty. I am not sure if a claim to have the type of experience needed for change is superior to the intelligence and persona needed to make change. I think Obama has the latter over Clinton.

I believe the American people have experienced a Clinton presidency and the international shame the inpeachment brought with it. I believe if the American people want to be taken seriously on the international scene it cannot elect Hilliary Clinton as president. She is just a puppet for Bill. Electing her would be essentially electing Bill. Integrity is very important to world leadership, and sadly, the Clinton name is associated with a lack of it on the international stage.
Posted By Anonymous shelley, London : 10:03 PM ET
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