Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Problematic Election (Part 1)

The Presidential election of 2008 is unique for a number of reasons. First, in Barack Obama, we have the first ever African-American candidate nominated by a major party. In John McCain, we have the oldest person ever nominated by a major party. Hillary Clinton ran an historic campaign and became the first woman to almost win the nomination by a major party. There are a lot of firsts and a lot of history being made in this election.

However, the election of 2008 is problematic for at least two reasons that we will examine over the next two posts.

Problem #1: For the Democrats, a Strong Party and a Weak Candidate

Entering the Fall elections, the Democrat party overall is sitting in the catbird’s seat. For various reasons—low public approval ratings for Republicans, high profile scandals, an unpopular President, an unpopular war, a questionable economy, high gasoline prices—the public as a whole would rather vote Democrat this Fall. As much as I might think that much of Republican unpopularity is driven by a hostile, pro-Democrat media, the facts on the ground are undeniable…this is a Democrat year.

However, despite their potential strength, the Democrats have nominated an extremely weak candidate. Barack Obama has zero experience. He is from the extreme left of a left-wing party. His primary supporters are the radical fringe of that party. Despite all the change rhetoric and positive media attention, his constituency remains primarily African-Americans and affluent white radicals. He has made practically no headway with middle-class whites (the “Reagan Democrats”) which form the core of the Democrat Party and which the Democrats must have to win the presidency. He won the nomination by a close 15 round decision through his superior organization in the caucus states coupled with terrible strategic blunders on the part of the Clinton campaign. Practically every time Obama faced Clinton in states with large numbers of the Democratic core constituency, he lost.

Add to that the non-race to become Obama’s VP. Early speculation had Obama seeking an experienced politician that could deliver an important state. Two immediate suggestions were Ted Strickland and Ed Rendell, both popular governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively. Since both were Clinton supporters, it was thought that the selection of either would unify the party as well as deliver an important state. But, Strickland stepped out very quickly, disavowing any interest in being Obama’s running mate. This week, Ed Rendell also disclaimed interest saying that he had been “his own boss” since he was 31.

It is not hard to discern why either governor would decline the second seat on the ticket. Obama is, by no means, a shoo-in to win. Neither governor, both cagy politicians, wants to hitch their wagon to a horse that might not win and alienate the Clintons at the same time.

Obama’s choice of a VP is very important for him because of the scarcity of his experience and his limited appeal. That the obvious choices are removing themselves is trouble for his campaign.

Democrats will likely strengthen their control over Congress this Fall. Some speculate that in the Senate they could even reach the magical, filibuster-proof number of 60. A mainstream Democrat nominee for President would cruise to victory in such an environment and greatly add to Democrat control of the government. However, in 2008, nothing is easy. The Democrats nominated a very problematic candidate who could suffer a landslide loss in a Democrat year.

Tomorrow…Problem #2: For the Republicans, a Weak Party and a Strong Candidate

--Submitted by B. Bryant

No comments: