The obvious strategy for Obama: A subtle attack on Hillary's tax-return cover-up
UPDATE, 1:10 P.M.: I posted this at 11:36 a.m. PST, which is 2:36 p.m. EST. This is what AP reported four minutes later.
Barack Obama's campaign took fresh aim at Hillary Clinton Wednesday for refusing to release her tax returns, asking in a memo circulated to reporters, "What does Clinton have to hide?"
"In the face of her unwillingness to release her tax returns, Hillary Clinton has made the false case in this campaign that she is more electable because she has been fully vetted," the memo stated. "When it comes to her personal finances, Senator Clinton's refusal to release her taxes returns denies the media and the American people the opportunity to even begin that process."
The delegate count and the dynamics of the race still make Barack Obama the strong favorite to win the Dem nomination, but the chances that Hillary Clinton can credibly take the fight all the way to the party's convention in Denver appear far higher after her wins Tuesday in Texas and Ohio. Clinton seems likely to claim another big state next month -- Pennsylvania, where the electorate is a lot like Ohio's -- buttressing her talking point about her record in big states. A revote in Michigan would probably favor Hillary, and perhaps Florida, too.
So how can Obama regain the momentum that led many to think he would wrap up the nomination this week? He can't keep his focus on John McCain. He has to respond to Hillary's attacks but do so in a way that doesn't seem harsh or nasty. He needs to preserve his image as a sunny, positive idealist.
The solution is obvious. Barack should go on the attack over Hillary and Bill Clinton's refusal to release their tax records -- but subtly, by framing it as part of his "electability" argument. He could say that Democrats need to know ASAP whether there is a big skeleton just waiting to emerge from the closet. He could argue that Hillary's insistence that the returns are a "non-issue" and a distraction and thus won't be released until the general election campaign isn't good enough -- that she owes Democrats the chance to see what fresh fodder the returns will provide McCain and the GOP political machine.
Obama wouldn't even have to bring up all the many reasons from the Clintons' past to cause worry about what the tax returns might reveal. The media would do it for him. Pundits of all stripes would also pounce on her self-evidently self-serving claim that releasing the returns now would divert attention from more important issues. And many of the pundits who found/find Bill Clinton too slippery to stomach will be happy to speculate about what the Clintons are hiding. The stories about how Bill rounds up money abroad for his foundation and his library have already raised plenty of eyebrows. You don't have to be a Clinton hater to wonder if some of his foreign donors are motivated by the implicit idea that they're bribing the spouse of a likely future president.
"I think the American people deserve to know where you get your income from," Obama said last year.
Here's what he could say now, to great effect:
"If we want to win in November, I think our party deserves to know where all its potential nominees get their money -- now, not after the convention. We face a tough fight against John McCain. The last thing we want to do is nominate someone who will then immediately give Sen. McCain a big club to use against her. That's why I released my returns. There will be no surprises with me after I am nominated."
I think this approach is now just about Obama's only hope for an early knockout. Otherwise, the Dem fight will drag on. And on. And on. And on. And on..
Posted by Chris Reed at March 5, 2008 11:36 AM
If Hillary 'huckabee' Clinton wants to take it all the way to the convention, she is most welcome. She thinks its either her or nobody . She is hell bent of destroying the democratic party if she does not get the nomination. She can go ahead and destroy the party but she will never be the president
Posted by: Siam at March 5, 2008 01:59 PM
What are the Clintons hiding? Is there a skelaton in the tax returns?
Also Hillary's leaking of a foriegn government memo is illegal. What won't she do to win? Now she is proposing a Clinton/ Obama ticket to muddy the waters...not so fast. Obama will not go for it.
Obama needs to bring out the big guns, and attack Hillary where she is vulnerable.....everywhere. Honesty, Integrity, where are those traits in Hillary Clinton?