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Obama's BIG Mistake

They aren't giving up.

When I turned on my computer this morning, it was overflowing with email from women who supported Hillary Clinton. And still do.

After her electrifying speech Tuesday night, they were more certain than ever that they were right in their choice, that she was – as is – more qualified to be President than Barack Obama, and certainly a better choice for Vice President than the one Obama made. And that certainty made them even angrier at what they perceive as Obama's slights towards Senator Clinton, his failure to vet her or call her or reach out to her donors and supporters.

Will they ultimately vote for Obama-Biden anyway?

Maybe. Some of them will and some of them won't. Some of them, by the time November rolls around, will convince themselves that the war and Roe v. Wade and global warming are all more important than being right and getting your first choice; that as between the risks of Obama and the risks of McCain, the latter are greater than the former. And some of them, frankly, if you take account of the intensity of the e-mail messages, are ready to vote for McCain and start working for Hillary in 2012. Right now.

However they end up voting, the bottom line is that this Convention is not “working” the way it's supposed to for Barack Obama. What he wanted – and what he needed, at the very least — was a celebration of his nomination, an introduction to the country that would convince them that Harvard Law School and bestselling books, a fancy house and Ivy League wife notwithstanding, he understands the problems of average Americans of every race, and has specific plans and the necessary experience to solve them. That was what John Kerry tried to do four years ago in Boston. Most Democrats left that Convention convinced that he had. But in retrospect, even that wasn't enough.

What happened the last time around — even after a unified and feel-good Convention which reassured most Democrats (and there weren't many doubters to begin with) that they had nominated the right candidate and had the right ticket, and a Convention which, in the old-fashioned way, united the top two vote-getters from the primary season and left both sets of supporters feeling like winners — was that the Republicans got the better of he Democrats. The Democrats tried to make the case for Kerry-Edwards. The Republicans spent their time making the case against John Kerry. Everybody says they hate negative ads, and the Republican convention was nothing if not a four day negative ad. But as we learn time and again, no matter what people say about negative ads, good ones work.

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice?

Democrats might not be united behind Barack Obama, but they are certainly united in what they think about George Bush and the GOP. What Obama needed in this convention was an effective assault on George Bush and John McCain, an argument, repeated over and over again — the way negative ads have to be in order to work — about why McCain was wrong, why he was tied to the high gas prices and faltering economy and failing war and mounting foreclosures and ridiculous health care bills that the majority of Americans are most concerned with. That message has been heard on occasion, but it has not been the message of this Convention. Not even close.

The story coming out of this Convention is not Obama v. McCain, much less the follies of McCain and Bush, but Clinton v. Obama. That was inevitable once the schedule was set, probably inevitable once the Obama team decided they didn't have to take on Hillary's debt and didn't have to treat her with kid gloved respect with which winners usually treat losers who have a lot of delegates.They didn't reach out to her delegates and donors and make them feel like they were important. As late as a week before the Convention, Barack Obama himself was saying that they were dealing with Hillary's top staff, not her supporters. Big mistake. Almost as big as thinking you can control Bill Clinton. It is nothing short of unbelievable to me that they thought, until Monday, that they could tell Bill Clinton what to say. Why would he listen? How could they even think that he would? What does he owe them?

And so it goes. The McCain campaign, which was sort of a mess a month or so ago, rudder-less and message-less and slow to respond, is not a mess anymore. The ads demeaning Barack Obama as a mere celebrity, a rock star and not a leader, have effectively undercut even his supporters' confidence in the wisdom of putting on a rock concert on Thursday night, complete with Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. And Barack. If Barack Obama could have moved his acceptance speech to a school auditorium or a factory floor, that would have been great. Turning it into a rock concert is not so great. He doesn't need to look like a guy who can hold a crowd of 70,000. Everyone knows that. The question is whether that's all he can do. The McCain people are spinning that Obama will come out of the Convention with a fifteen-point lead. They know full well that there is no chance of that. The only question is whether he'll come out with any significant lead at all, and how long it will take the Republicans who convene next week in the Twin Cities to slash into it. Because of this I am sure: slash they will. They're good at it.


Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first female president of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "The Case for Hillary Clinton," "How to Get Into Law School," "Sex & Power," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women."

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the "Blue Streak" column for FOXNews.com.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission. A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership. Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.