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Losing It

Democrats despair as Obama's campaign falters.

12:00 AM, Sep 17, 2008 • By MICHAEL WEISS
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As bellwethers of liberal demoralization about this election go, I've not yet come across anything so clanging as the following comment from Hannah Rosin, responding to the phenomenon of Sarah Palin: "One of my many depressed Obama-supporting friends suggests a tidy solution: Repeal the 19th Amendment." That would be the one that extends the franchise to women, and the point was driven home by the forum Rosin chose for relaying this morose alternative: the XX Factor feminist blog at Slate. I'll save you the trouble of searching out any black conservative's anguished recommendation that the 15th Amendment be put on hold until after John McCain is elected.

Yes, it's rather moonlight and self-pity in Democratic circles now that the prospect of an Obama administration may not be the certainty it seemed only weeks ago. "There is a growing sense of doom among Democrats I have spoken to," the Financial Times quotes a party fundraiser who formerly supported Hillary Clinton. "People are going crazy, telling the campaign 'you've got to do something'." Evidently, even congressional candidates from Obama's party have taken to distancing themselves from him and declined also to attack John McCain. Perhaps most telling of all was the banal remark from Bill Clinton, taken by Michael Crowley at The New Republic to be inspirational, that Obama would still win "pretty handily."

If you didn't know any better, you'd say an Obama falling-off is in progress. "Another election lost," runs the grim thought through the minds of perspiring Democrats, many of whom have misplaced their nuance once again and rushed to defend every line of attack on the Barack of the Right, from suggesting she owes her political career to an absence of abortions to demanding a post-natal Warren Commission to determine her true from fabricated offspring. So far Palin has proved impervious to even legitimate complaints made against her, and there are some women I know who hate everything she stands for but can't help but love the fact that she stands in high heels. Camille Paglia admires Palin's Wild West style of feminism and compares her to Madonna--and not the one with which social conservatives typically identify.

In his almost jaw-dropping inability to stand up to the revitalized McCain campaign (at least not without allowing it to dictate the rules of every engagement) Obama appears more and more like a hapless professor in a chaotic classroom, the kind who'd love to get to the lesson plan but is reduced to meekly asking everyone to "settle down now." Mark Cunningham of the New York Post offers a shrewd explanation for the disarray: It's David Axelrod's fault. Obama's chief strategist is used to managing urban campaigns where the stakes are not only smaller but the contestants are barely distinguishable from each other. And in the ultra-specific give-and-take of a primary, having a city-boy genius who can split differences and siphon off votes is an asset. But in a national contest against a well-organized and Machiavellian party machine, which specializes in the "vision thing," it's a liability:

New Yorkers may recall that [Axelrod] was on the Freddy Ferrer team - and how the class-warfare theme of "the Two New Yorks" managed to lose the 2005 mayoral race in a city that's overwhelmingly Democratic. (Yes, Bloomberg had his billions - but he was beatable.)

Nor did the same shtick do much for Axelrod client John Edwards, who didn't exactly score big with "the Two Americas" in the Democrats' 2004 presidential primaries.