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February 13th, 2008
09:06 PM ET

David Gergen: Who Is A Better Executive Now?

His three thumping victories yesterday sure gave Sen. Barack Obama the momentum he has has been looking for – perhaps enough to break open the races.  But it also did something else:  it showed that he is a far better executive than any of his rivals have been willing to concede.

One of the important arguments of this campaign is that if you want charisma, vote for Obama, but if you want competence, vote for Clinton.  Well, that notion has just been demolished.

Sen. Clinton remains the candidate with the best grasp of policy; no one can beat her on that score.  But in the management and execution of her campaign, she has a clear case of political malpractice on her hands.  Her campaign has overspent and underperformed week after week.  She said in New Hampshire that she had found her voice, but she still hasn't found her message.

And how can one possibly explain how they knew they were coming into a challenging set of primaries after February 5, but did nothing to prepare other than to offer a lame excuse: Wait for March 4?  Why didn't they fight places like Nebraska, Maine, and Virginia to a draw?  No wonder she is shaking up her staff.

By contrast, it now is becoming increasingly clear that Barack has built an excellent campaign organization.  From virtually standing still, they overnight created a $100 million start-up that has seemed highly professional and collegial, at least to the outside world.  They have paced themselves with great skill, putting into place a strategy that would last all the way to Denver not just to Super Tuesday.  They have been outstanding in the way they have raised money.

And they have understood that if they could build up a string of victories after February 5, that the psychology of winning would start to overwhelm the math of delegate counting; now they are creating a contagious optimism among their followers.  All of these are signs of executive ability on Barack's part – just the kind of competence that Hillary Clinton has said is so necessary in the White House (and she is right).

This race still isn't over.  To repeat a theme of recent entries on the 360° blog, Hillary Clinton is a resilient, often valiant fighter for the causes in which she believes.  She may yet rally.  But forget the argument that this race is about charisma versus competence.

Barack Obama is proving that he has both.

– David Gergen. CNN Sr. Political Analyst


Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
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