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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

The Clinton Dialectic

Prior to Iowa caucus results and the New Hampshire primary, the Democratic primary race evolved to a point where there were two fundamentally different competing dialogues. The Clinton camp was running on experience while Edwards and Obama were running on change.

Obama and Edwards beat Clinton in Iowa because their message of change overwhelmingly resonated with Iowans. According to the polls it initially appeared as though change had taken hold in New Hampshire as well. Yet after the votes were counted it became clear that the Clintons somehow narrowly edged out Obama. What happened, and how did they do it?

After Iowa the Clinton camp executed a message modification to address a significant desire for change among the electorate. I call this modification the Clinton dialectic. The Clintons effectively synthesized the competing messages of experience and change into one. Their new message was that change was only possible with the right kind of experience. Clinton touted her 35 years of working for change and how this experience was indispensable for achieving change in the future.

The Clinton dialectic moved them beyond the Iowa dynamics of two competing and opposing dialogues, and instead facilitated ownership of both. The primary race was no longer about experience versus change, but rather change versus change. The Clinton camp characterizes this new dynamic as Obama as a symbol of change versus Clinton as a change agent. The stark message contrast that existed in Iowa was now as clear as mud.

The Clinton camp muddied the New Hampshire waters enough to provide last minute undecided voters an alternative that was both change and experience. Obama and Edwards are working to combat this new narrative by claiming Clinton’s financial ties to lobbyists and her Washington experience negates her capacity to be a significant agent of change. How well the Clinton dialectic will work out in future primaries remains to be seen.

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