August 21st, 2007
09:02 AM ET
11 years ago

Analysis: Change v. experience

WASHINGTON (CNN) – So what are Democrats looking for – change or experience?

Some years, voters are looking for experience. That’s what got Richard Nixon elected in 1968, when the country was in turmoil because of racial violence and the Vietnam War.

Other years, voters are looking for change. That’s what got Jimmy Carter – a one-term governor of Georgia – elected in 1976 after the Watergate scandal.

And now?

“I don’t want ‘Bush-Cheney Lite.’ I want a fundamental change,” Illinois Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama told supporters at a campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, D-New York, makes the case for her experience. In a recent interview about her foreign policy differences with Obama, the former first lady told CNN’s John King that she knows “diplomacy takes a lot of hard work.”

“I think that Senator Obama does represent change. Senator Clinton has experience,’’ Bill Richardson said in the first Democratic debate in Iowa. The New Mexico governor added, “With me, you get both.’’

Which do Democrats want? They’re not sure.

In a recent CBS News poll of likely Democratic primary voters, 40 percent said experience was more important and 44 percent said new ideas were more important.

But Democrats looking for experience are not unsure which candidate offers it. In the CBS poll, Democrats who preferred experience over fresh ideas supported Clinton by a three-to-one margin – 49 percent for Clinton and 16 percent for Obama.

Senator Obama argues that judgment is more important than experience. “Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and many of the people on this stage that authorized this war,” Obama said in the latest debate.

He also implied that Clinton’s experience could be seen as baggage. “We’re going to need somebody who can break out of the political patterns that we’ve been in over the last twenty years,” Obama argued.

Clinton’s response? She knows how to handle baggage better than anybody else. “The idea that you’re going to escape the Republican attack machine and not have high negatives by the time they’re through with you, I think, is just missing what’s been going on in American politics for the last 20 years,” Clinton said in the Iowa debate.

But Obama’s not the only candidate challenging Clinton on the change issue.

“Do you believe that compromise, triangulation, will bring about change?” John Edwards asked rhetorically during the July CNN/YouTube debate. “I don’t.”

Clinton seems to be holding her own on the change issue. Among Democrats in the CBS poll looking for a candidate with fresh ideas, 38 percent supported Obama while 35 percent favored Clinton.

This month’s CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll asked Democrats which candidate they thought would bring needed change. Clinton had a solid lead over both Obama and Edwards – with Clinton, Obama, and Edwards garnering 40, 27, and 15 percent, respectively.

Many Democrats remember the Clinton years fondly. Especially in contrast to the Bush years. “I want to change the cowboy diplomacy of the Bush administration,” Clinton told CNN’s John King. “But I want to do it in a way that I believe will work, that will get results for America,” she added.

Back to the future? That’s one way to talk about change.

The CBS News poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,214 adults nationwide who were interviewed by telephone on August 8-12, 2007. The polls margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

—CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider

soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. pam Eugene Or

    I think it is a very valid point that the polls use land lines. If they were cell phones (people under 50) the results would be very different. I believe you would see that Obama has a hughe advantage and is more than likely ahead of HRC in the peoples minds. If you follow these bolds you will see almost immeadiatly that the comments by far and away favor Obama. Get with the times. Obama 08 is a winner! I like him more every day.

    August 21, 2007 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  2. Eugene Elliott, Orlando, FL

    Figures that the goof that referred to the Democrats as Demons, would try to say that Kerry and Gore were lesser people than W if in not so many words. W is not nor ever could be fit to carry the luggage for either of them or any of the Dem's that have announced. Kerry's failure in the race was based on being too much of a gent to sue the Swifties for slander and get a gag order + millions in damages. Or to go for the throat of his untreated alcoholic opponent in the debates. The only thing I want is one of these democrats to stop trying to sell out the AMrican workers with their immigration position. Capture, punish and expell. The punishment would be to help build the wall and lay the minefield along the border. Shame Romney is such a weasel, he at least supports the workers of this country in this one area, if no others. But he will not target the real terrorist and end the oil war, balance the budget, refinance social security & medicade, break the hold of the energy and insurance companies or bring the jobs home from China. Maybe Prince Andrew would like the job.

    August 21, 2007 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  3. e.t.w. Reno,NV

    Hillary/experience? Being the first lady doesn't give you experience as president. I think change is needed, but I don't see any one candidate so far that is a REAL change from the politics of the past decade.

    August 21, 2007 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  4. David, Salinas, CA

    I agree with Jesse Belcher of Arlington, VA that Governor Bill Richardson deserves more attention than he’s getting. Richardson is a genuinely good guy with one of the most impressive resumes of any of the candidates.

    Here’s a link to his web site:

    August 22, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  5. Steve, Gilbert, Arizona

    I love all the emphasis in the various campaigns about the importance of "experience."

    Cheney and Rumsfeld had years of experience under 3-4 presidents, and look at the mess they caused!!

    August 24, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
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