Category: US Politics
Posted: 02/26/07 22:16, Edited: 02/26/07 22:35
by Dave Mindeman
Tom Vilsack... he was there at the beginning, but also the first to go.... we really didn't even get a chance to know him! It was difficult for him to rise above the noise of the political establishment. Vilsack's withdrawal emphasizes the point that the 2008 Presidential race is already very serious. Candidates have to reach a viable level much more quickly than ever before. By this time next year, we will probably already have the selection process finished. The shifting to early primaries could make everything a done deal by March 2008.
I don't pretend to be any kind of expert, but I have been an observor for a long time. And since I don't have a particular favorite in this race yet.... let me throw out some observations and you tell me where I have it wrong.
Today's Democratic field....Hillary Clinton
: I suppose she is still the odds on favorite yet. She has some vulnerabilties (almost everyone considers her controversial in one way or another) but she has been through some pretty ferocious campaigns and that kind of experience is hard to duplicate. She also has Bill....probably the smartest and most adept politician to ever play the game. Her tactics on her own war vote are very calculated. She knows the left in her party is angry about that vote, yet she clings to the "I take responsibility for my vote" line. It hangs over her like a Damocles sword. But it could also be a gamble to make her seem more centrist and thus give her a better send off into the general election. Its a strong, win-it-all strategy, but it requires weaker party opposition. Barak Obama upset that apple cart. I expect that if Obama gains more traction, her rhetoric on her war vote will begin to change. She has a complicated campaign strategy, but the money and experience make her pretty tough to bet against.
: Obama has been riding a wave. He is a charismatic speaker and could be a true groundbreaker by being the first major party black nominee. He has convinced people that he believes in a new type of politics... one of inclusion and away from the old style political wars. However, last week, Obama was baited by the Clinton campaign and he bit...hook, line and sinker. That blast against David Geffen (as an Obama surrogate), by the Clinton camp, was a calculated tactic....blast the opposition by using the words of a supporter and see how they respond. Obama's staff (if not Obama himself) took the bait and responded in the old style way....blast back in kind. It will be hard for Obama to maintain his aura of being above the fray when he, or his staff, react in that manner. The Clinton camp plans to bring Obama's campaign down to earth with hardball politics....and, in this instance, the Obama campaign's inexperience was very evident. Frankly, it will be necessary for Obama to be in a tough primary battle... his previous electoral experience hardly extolls serious challenges. He needs to be battle tested if he is have a chance in the general election wars.... the Democratic field should provide that. It is also interesting to note that Obama has not made great inroads into the African-American electorate. That only proves that the African-American vote is not monolithic.... even though they vote strongly Democratic, they are much more discerning about which Democratic candidate they will support. Obama needs to make some inroads here. John Edwards
: For some time now, Edwards has been working hard preparing for the Iowa caucuses, and his strength there clearly makes him a top tier candidate. He has a complicated position on his war authorization vote... saying that his vote was wrong, but taking full responsibility for his "mistake". He uses that explanation to contrast himself with Senator Clinton..... who voted the same way, but won't admit to a mistake. This is a difficult position for Edwards to fully explain because it is not just the war vote itself that has to be justified.... he defended that vote throughout the entire 2004 campaign. Here is a quote from a transcript of an Edwards interview on Meet the Press for October 10th, 2004: MR. RUSSERT: If you knew today, and you do know, there is?there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, would you still vote to go to war with Iraq?
SEN. EDWARDS: I would have voted for the resolution, knowing what I know today, because it was the right thing to do to give the president the authority to confront Saddam Hussein. I think Saddam Hussein was a very serious threat. I stand by that, and that's why we stand behind our vote on the resolution.
Only after the Kerry-Edwards ticket lost the 2004 election did his rhetoric about being "wrong" emerge. He finally went public with an Op-Ed piece in November, 2005. Maybe prior to that he had no choice....maybe he couldn't talk about it during the heat of the 2004 campaign..... but the timing seems a little too safe. However, given all that, it still took some political courage to publicly say he was wrong. More importantly, Edwards' biggest strength comes from bringing longstanding, and sorely neglected, progressive issues to the forefront of his campaign. Not since, Wellstone and Bobby Kennedy, has a candidate made the plight of the poor such a prominent part of a candidate's vision. That is where his basis for support will derive from. But, can he raise the money to keep up with Clinton and Obama?....that's a legitimate question.
The rest of the field are long shots right now, but political winds can quickly change. The other candidates will need a growing deadlock among the top three for someone else to gain traction. They are worth a mention for now: Bill Richardson
: It's hard to believe that Richardson really believes he can be the nominee... more likely, he is positioning himself as a VP candidate. A presidential campaign gives him the exposure and a forum to make his positions clear. He could be of enormous help with the Hispanic community for any Democratic ticket....once his credentials are established, I expect him to drop out and wait for the VP call. Chris Dodd
: Dodd doesn't have a defined position different enough to make him stand out. One analyst had a cynical take on why he's running... as chair of the Senate Banking committee, he has access to the deep pockets of the banking lobby. Maybe true, but it doesn't seem likely he will be able to mount much of a serious campaign. Joe Biden
: Biden has a strong understanding of foreign policy and has been a vocal critic of administration policy for quite some time. But his position on getting the troops home is a little mirky. And his ideas, in general, don't seem to satisfy advocates on the right or the left. He is prone to verbal gaffes, especially under pressure. Again, his candidacy is probably a long shot....and ditto on being a VP. Dennis Kucinich
: Kucinich has the only real credentials of a true anti-war candidate. He is the only one of the current candidates, who has an actual vote against the war authorization and has been a consistent critic since then. However, he has never been able to be a competitive fund raiser.... which has always been a problem for a candidate coming out of the House.... especially one who doesn't have a leadership position. He walks the walk and talks the talk.... is that enough in these days of mega buck campaigns? Probably not... although you have to admire his principles. Wild Card:
I still have a gut feeling that Al Gore
is in this mix. He continues to say he is not a candidate, but he doesn't have to make that commitment. His name continues to pop up.... last night at the Oscars was an example. Solid, positive press without spending a dime. He still has his nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize coming up as well. He won't be a player as things stand now, but if the top 3 candidates beat each other up and no one emerges quickly as the leader of the pack, Gore has the credentials to step in quickly and clean up the mess. He could maybe wait till this fall....but after that he wouldn't have the time to mount a full scale campaign, at least one that can win without a deadlocked convention. Still, up to that point, he would still have to be considered at least a piece of the puzzle.