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Ticket blogger Don Frederick on Clinton, Obama, McCain turning points

Here's a switch: This is an article written for The Times print edition today by The Ticket blogger. So we're re-publishing it here online. (The other blogger's article is available here.)

Regardless of what I did for a living, I would have been following this presidential campaign — obsessively.

It’s a deep-seated disorder, one that probably took root when the 1960 John Kennedy-Richard Nixon faceoff unfolded before my nDon Frederick Top of the Ticket blogger on latimes.comine-year-old eyes.

As this similarly memorable race played out, I was allowed a vantage point made to order for such a character defect: Blogger.

It’s an evolving craft, with few set-in-stone rules. There’s a seat-of-the-pants quality to it — snap judgments and gut reactions predominate; more thoughtful analysis and sweeping perspective are best sought elsewhere.

Still, the post-now/move-on nature of blogging enables one to tap into a campaign’s daily rhythm. And it hones a sense for the unexpected twist or turn that alters its flow.

In the lengthy journey that culminated in Barack Obama’s election, three such times stand out for me — three moments when, from my bloggers perch, the campaign’s established course got rocked (to greater or lesser degrees).

The first occurred just before Halloween a year ago, when Hillary Rodham Clinton was still the accepted frontrunner in the....

...battle for the Democratic nomination and the fight for the Republican nod was a free-for-all.

The latest in a stream of debates among the Democrats — notable mainly for the mastery Clinton had displayed over policy matters large and small — was nearing an end when the late Tim Russert of NBC asked her about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

To the shock of all concerned, she stumbled, offering an uncharacteristically muddled answer that became the evening’s headline. Nevermind that at a future debate, Obama would provide a comparably confused response; the bar at that point was lower for him than her.

Her bungled answer did not sink her candidacy; more serious problems, such as a poorly conceived strategy and a poorly managed staff — as well as Obama’s appeal and superior organization — would do that.

But her misstep was the first public chink in her armor, and from then on the aura of inevitability that had surrounded her diminished.

Once voting started in the primary season, Obama became the clear Democratic leader with a string of victories in February. Clinton, though, hung in. And then, in mid-March, what had been a shadow in Obama’s past was thrust into the spotlight.

Stories had been written and aired about the controversial minister at the church the Illinois senator had attended for years. But Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. became a full-scale furor when clips of vitriolic comments from the preacher’s past sermons went viral, courtesy of YouTube (a technology that had not existed when America last elected a president).

One-time rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton She lost

In the world of the blogs — and in the campaign in general — Wright became topic No. 1. Suddenly, Obama’s status as a “post-racial” candidate was cast in doubt. Instead, attention was focused on the nation’s long-standing racial divide.

Obama, of course, responded with a speech on race that defused the crisis for him and demonstrated a command under pressure that would become even more apparent as the campaign proceeded.

And proceed it did, evolving into a surprisingly close race by September. Despite a plethora of political winds blowing against John McCain, the Republican nominee actually inched ahead of Obama in some national polls.

Then came a weekend of behind-the-scenes chaos on Wall Street. That Monday — Sept. 15 — the public learned that several venerable financial institutions had either imploded or undergone restructuring. And in a campaign appearance in Florida that morning, McCain sounded precisely the wrong note. “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” he told his crowd.

He added, in his very next sentence, that he recognized “these are very, very difficult” times. But within the blogosphere, the jolt from his initial comment — and the feeling that this was a major miscue — was palpable.

Obama and other Democrats had been handed a line with which they would lash McCain again and again. And try as he might, his efforts to detach himself from President Bush became that much harder.

--Don Frederick

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Photo credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (3)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I definitely agree with your first point, Hillary Clinton's stumble over that one question was used to flog her by her harshest critics.

I disagree with the Reverend Wright issue and the "speech" that followed as being a moment in the race. The bigger issue at play was that Barack Obama had managed to collect a rainbow coalition of questionable charactered people who supported him in the past. At that point, people were so incensed over Caucus improprieties that were never reported, MSNBC's sexism, and media bias. Rather than deftly only attack those of the same skin color as themselves, Barack's detractors made the mistake of attacking Barack's supporters that didn't match their own skin color. This defused the attacks almost on impact. Why is a white person attacking a black preacher? It makes no sense.

As for the Stock Market collapse, I think a commercial showing how Giddy Barack Obama was as the stock market tumbled day after day might have taken the edge off.

But the non stop attacks against Sarah Palin led by MSNBC I think was the real deal breaker. It wasn't what Barack did, it was what MSNBC did for him.

And will we ever find out if Mr. Soros had a hand in any of the stock market tumbling? He has a history of manipulating economies via stock trades.

Blaming MSNBC for Palin's downfall is ludicrous. She did herself in every time she opened her silly mouth.
And blaming Soros for the stock market free-fall is WAY over the top.
People are tired of Republican liars. And the PUMAs should all go back to their lairs. They are merely Republican abusers in sheeple's clothing.

There are many things that that Blogosphere can do for us, for example, supply little known but important facts.

Here is just one fact that has yet to be reported by the MSM:

Sarah Palin returned to Alaska from the lower forty-eight by clicking her new red Pradas together three times and repeating, “There is no place like Nome.”

"After the Election: Unreported Facts You Need to Know"


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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