May 8, 2008
Having won the Indiana primary election by only a two-percent margin, Hillary Clinton's candidacy is fading fast, and Democrat insiders are calling on her to pull out of the race. Since she is over 100 delegates behind Barack Obama, she needed a decisive win to maintain the recent surge in momentum stemming from the Rev. Wright mess. Now Barack is back in the driver's seat, and only a major gaffe or scandal could ruin his chances now. The North Carolina primary wasn't even close.
The big question was whether Hillary could get traction by "out-pandering" Obama, mobilizing the traditional Democrat "base," consisting mainly of working class union members, and the answer seems to be no. Her advocacy of a "gasoline tax holiday" was classic unmitigated populist gall, eliciting harsh scorn from market-oriented policy wonks. Well, what do you expect? Expecting an Old School Democrat like Hillary (or Bill!) to refrain from pandering to populist impulses is like expecting a dog to refrain from chomping down on a raw steak; it's practically in their DNA. Hillary gave Obama the perfect opportunity to appear rational and statesmanlike, and he seized upon it eagerly, criticizing her "gas tax holiday" idea. For once I agreed with him on a major issue!
Nevertheless, Hillary is vowing to press on in the race, and I can't blame her. (See Washington Post.) She has come way too far in the campaign, and is too close in the total delegate count, to give up now. What's more, most polls are showing that she would do as well or better than Obama in the general election. Whatever you think about conservatives' hidden motives or the effects of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos," the process must play itself out. There is no reason for it to get nasty, though that's probably just what will happen, given the high stakes involved. In the end, though, it probably won't matter, and Obama will almost certainly face a rested and refreshed -- though still vulnerable -- John McCain this fall.
In the Staunton City Council race (which is officially non-partisan), two Republicans won out of four contested seats: incumbent Dickie Bell and newcomer Andrea Oakes, who fell just short in her first such bid two years ago. Congratulations to both! So, at least conservatives will have a little more representation in the city government, which has been dominated by free-spenders for several years. One other incumbent won (David Metz), along with another newcomer: Ophie Kier, who somehow garnered an endorsement from Delegate Chris Saxman. Yard signs for Metz and Kier seemed to be associated with each other, suggesting they lean toward the Democrats' side. Two other men with ties to the GOP failed: Rusty Ashby, a financial advisor, and Bob Campbell, a country singer.
In the Sunday News Leader, there was a full-page newspaper ad by the "Citizens Committee for Common Sense Government in Staunton" (basically Libby Welsh, but possibly others) endorsing Bell, Ashby, and Campbell, and it appears that campaign finance laws may have been violated; see the News Leader.
In Waynesboro, where council members are elected according to ward, anti-tax conservatives won handily in two contested races (Bruce Allen and Frank Lucente) and picked up a third uncontested seat (David Williams). It was a high-profile campaign with many newspaper ads. This election result will bring about a major shift in that city's government, presumably meaning less public money for downtown redevelopment efforts. Chris Graham, of the Augusta Free Press, who ran against against Bruce Allen in Ward B, had received considerable support from Mayor Thomas Reynolds and from the head of the Wayne Theatre Alliance, Bill Hausrath. See the News Virginian.