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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Stanley Greenberg has seen the future and its name is Obama

The following is a column by Randall Beach


Pollster and political strategist Stanley Greenberg has spent much of his career working for Bill Clinton, but he was all but writing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign obituary Thursday night during a little dinner party in New Haven.
Greenberg’s informal talk session was the hot ticket among the 26 celebrity dinners held to benefit Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership. Only 16 of us were able to get into the host home of Kel and Will Ginsberg, adjoining East Rock Park.
We were treated to a periscope peek into the country’s future as Greenberg sat in the living room after dinner and told us what to expect.
For starters, Tuesday’s big Democratic primary contests in Ohio and Texas will all but put Barack Obama over the top, Greenberg said with complete assurance.
Even before dinner, Greenberg had told me Ohio is a toss-up but Obama will win Texas and then “It’ll be over.” The only question at that point, he said, will be whether Clinton decides to withdraw from the race.
“If Obama gets more delegates (than Clinton) in Texas, he will have the most delegates and voters at the end of the whole process,” he told our group.
What about the super delegates, those now-well-known party officials who can vote however they want? “They will go with the candidate who has the most votes (Obama) and they won’t wait six weeks ’till the Pennsylvania primary.”
Greenberg wasn’t upset as he told us all this, despite his years logged with Bill Clinton. His wife, U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, of New Haven, endorsed Obama shortly before the “Super Tuesday” primaries Feb. 5 and was at his side during the big Hartford pep rally the day before it.
When I asked Greenberg about the delicate psycho-dynamics of his spouse’s going over to the other side, he smiled and acknowledged, “All my friends are in the Clinton camp.” But he said he had not had any recent private conversations with either of the Clintons.
Greenberg now spends much of his time working for Democracy Corps, which he co-founded with Bill Clinton’s pal James Carville. It provides opinion research and strategic advice to progressive organizations.
Early in his talk, Greenberg stated flatly, “Hillary will not win (the nomination). The country, especially Democrats, is going to vote for change. She never became part of that. She was experience, not change.”
The people in the room weren’t upset by his prediction either, except for one hold out. When Greenberg asked for the Clinton supporters to raise their hands, only one person did so.
As for the general election, the likely match up between the Republicans’ John McCain and Obama, Greenberg said the winner “will likely be Obama. The country has moved dramatically toward the Democrats.”
But he added, “Voters have to feel Obama can be commander-in-chief. There will have to be a reassurance.”
Greenberg also sees the Democrats picking up about another 30 seats in Congress, the same number they gained in 2006. “So we will see continued change.”
Noting the electorate’s disappointment with President Bush, Greenberg said, “I think the conservative coalition has already been shattered in this election.”
He said the public is responding to Obama’s leadership style and the idea of bringing everybody together around the table after years of polarization.
“People are desperate for authenticity,” he told us. “This helps Obama. People think he’s real.”
The upsurge in young voters is part of this, he added. He said pundits were stunned when the younger voters in the Iowa caucuses outnumbered the older ones, helping Obama begin his surge. “This will carry over to the general election,” he said of the youth vote.
Greenberg said the war in Iraq will remain a dominant political issue, especially because people realize its cost (up to $150 billion a year) is hurting the economy.
He warned, “The country is going to be broke” because big bucks will continue to be spent in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
“Most people are struggling, and they’ll continue to struggle, even if Obama is elected,” he told us.
But no matter what happens, Greenberg said rather gleefully, “This is the most exciting election of my lifetime. The level of interest is astonishing. It will be a transforming election. It will change our politics and hopefully our policies. We won’t be the same.”
There was a mood of quiet expectation, maybe even of hope, in that living room.
Randall Beach can be reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

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