Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Carville blows the death hug

Just as the 2012 Republican primary was getting underway, the Obama campaign perfected what political commentators called the death hug. That meant heaping all kinds of praise on candidates like Romney for his moderate positions. The thinking was that this would drive a wedge between the candidate and their base - who hate anything associated with President Obama.

We all know that political consultant James Carville is pushing hard for Hillary Clinton's 2016 candidacy. And so he tried his hand at a death hug recently when he praised Senator Ted Cruz as "the most talented and fearless Republican politician" in 30 years. But he totally blew it!

Everyone knows that if Cruz enters the 2016 presidential primaries he'll be the most extremist candidate in the race. What Carville just did was give that candidacy the imprimatur of credibility. Not a good move.

I've been saying all along that I'll be watching the Clinton crowd to see if they've learned anything from President Obama. This indicates that they haven't. Carville is the epitome of hardball politics. Perhaps you can make a case that that was necessary when the Republicans were pretty regularly coalescing around moderate candidates like Bush the 1st and Bob Dole.

But that's the Republican Party of yesterday. What Democrats need to do today is to continue to drive a wedge between the lunatics and the more moderate wing of the party. That's what a death hug is meant to do. It means playing smart as much as it does being tough. Folks like James Carville haven't learned that lesson yet.


  1. Carville is proof that Bill Clinton made it on his own talents. Carville sucks when it comes to politics. 1992 is ancient history.

    Ted Cruz makes Pat Robertson seem normal. You don't have to play games to beat him. Just laugh on your way to the bank.


  2. Ooh. Nice redesign.

    I wonder if the reason such a line from Carville will fall short of what he (obviously) hopes is because of the relative lack of animus. If Obama praised Cruz, or hugged him, or something, that would get a reaction.

    Carville? Meh.

    But that Meh goes both ways - it doesn't give Cruz a measurable boost in legitimacy, either, because what stature does Carville have in the Hateapalooza? Not much right now.

    But I bet if Hilary runs, it'll start to matter a little more on both accounts. Plus we get to revisit Vince Foster and Whitewater! Great times...

    I wonder what your take is on the Ds in 2016? ISTM that there's the possibility of some real transformation on the back of Obama's electoral and legislative success (both in terms of the emerging coalition of voters, and in what's been shown to be possible in campaigning and GOTV), but it will require a candidate to work with it rather than against it.

    My instinct says many of the D frontrunners (Clinton, Biden?) will be too cautious to make the most of that. Am I seeing this right?

    1. For me its WAY too early to make any predictions about 2016. But as I said in this piece, I'll be looking for a candidate who learned something from PBO and can carry that ball forward.

    2. I'll be looking for a candidate who learned something from PBO and can carry that ball forward.


  3. Different political operatives have different skills, some of which are more appropriate in certain circumstances than others. Carville may have been the perfect person to run Clinton's campaign in 1992, but I haven't seen much evidence that he knows what it takes to run a campaign in a political environment that has changed a lot in 20 years.

  4. Carville only has one agenda, ride Hill/Bill as far as THEY can take him. He is shallow, the voters will smell it a mile away. If PBO taught us and the world anything it sincerity and authenticity is the only game in town.

  5. There is another kind of strategy at work here: praising the candidate on the other side that you most want to run against. Carville would know about this strategy because it was used by Republicans against Hillary in the run up to the 2008 election -- they wanted to run against Hillary and praised her at every turn, thinking that she would be easy to campaign against in a Presidential election. This strategy was also used used by Claire McCaskill against Todd Akin. It's not "not learning a PBO lesson," it 's just a separate strategy.