Wednesday, June 04, 2008


As I write, it appears almost certain that Barack Obama will shortly be confirmed as the Democratic nominee for the 2008 Presidential Election.

Although determined to hang on, Hillary Clinton now resembles Road Runner who has crossed the end of the cliff, but is refusing to let gravity take over.

I was reasonably early in alerting readers of this blog to Obama's charms, but nowhere near as early as my friend Chicago Addick. As early as July 2004, he proclaimed that he may have just watched a speech from a future President of the USA.

As the father of an American citizen, I am proud that a large swathe of this often unfairly (and sometimes fairly) criticised country has seen fit to elect such an inexperienced, but electric candidate as its Presidential nominee. Of course there are doubts about his abilities, but it has been fascinating and hugely rewarding to watch his incredible campaign.

In the so-called 'Land of the Free', it seemed bizarre that just two families could potentially provide 28 consecutive years' worth of Presidents (had Clinton won in both 2008 and 2012). At least that particular outcome has now been dismissed (although it may still be 28 from 32, see below).

I am a self-declared Obama supporter and when asked why, I simply admit, "I don't know, but I just know I want him to be President." Therein probably lies both his greatest strength, and his potential achilles heel when he now faces the brutal electoral machine known as the Republican Party. He has to do more now than merely be both intriguing and inspiring.

His oratory is truly extraordinary. If he was merely reading the football results, you'd probably find yourself weeping with joy because East Fife had won away at Dumbarton.

It was unfortunate for Hillary Clinton that her whining style tended to remind many voters of their demanding mother/mother-in-law/wife/girlfriend* (*delete as appropriate). She was however also an outstanding candidate, and if Obama loses to McCain, she is surely the automatic Democratic choice for 2012.

However it would be a potentially irreversible tragedy for the Democratic party if they were to produce two such outstanding candidates, yet fail to win an election after eight years of George W..

Some idealists are keen to see her join up as Obama's vice-presidential candidate. As a united pair they would surely be unbeatable, but is it a realistic outcome? As the most ambitious political family since...erm, the Bush family, I'm not convinced that the Clintons 'do' vice (except Bill of course).

It's also not clear what Hillary has to gain from such an arrangement, since if successful in November, she would not become a viable full Presidential candidate until 2016, by which time she will be 69, just three years younger than John McCain. It's far from obvious too that Obama would accept such a compromise.

McCain is of course constantly pressured by the media because of his age. He has even attempted to turn it to his advantage, appearing on Saturday Night Live to declare the importance of his 'oldness'. Some aspects of his campaign are untouchable due to his genuinely heroic military past, and whilst he has distanced himself somewhat from the Bush presidency, he hardly represents a true fresh start.

If a failed war, economic recession, and public sector infrastructure that is not fit for purpose does not stir the American people to vote for change (not withstanding genuine doubts about Obama), then one is really forced to despair.

However McCain is likely to pitch his campaign in terms of his ability to be a safe and (likely) one-term President, able to steer the economy out of recession whilst maintaining strong foreign policy leaderships, both tasks to risky to place in the hands of Obama. In the meantime, the Republican Party can find a more youthful candidate to take them forward in 2012 (Mitt Romney perhaps?).

I would make McCain a slight favourite to beat Obama. Hillary Clinton's refusal to exit the Democratic race, should be viewed in terms of her (correct) belief that she would be more likely to beat McCain in a straight run-off. More Clinton supporters are appalled by Obama than the other way around.

Some Clinton supporters won't vote; others might even vote Republican. You don't have to travel far away from places like New York City to realise that this is a highly conservative country, not naturally attracted to Obama's urban educated style. Will enough Independents be swayed in his favour?

Obama has a real problem garnering support amongst middle-aged women, working class voters and Hispanics. He's seen as 'lofty', ironic given the relative difference between their respective and recently published tax returns (the Clintons earned $109m from 2000-2007).

Obama's core support amongst the young, blacks and the educated may not be enough to win the key swing states such as Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. However, he has proven to be a fund-raising phenomenon, tapping into liberally-minded new money on both coasts.

With a media campaign in full motion, and with his famous oratory now able to be directed squarely at Bush/McCain rather than Clinton, he may do just enough to win. I'm can't be sure what America needs right now, but it's certainly not more of the same.


At 8:21 AM, Blogger Dave Peeps said...

If I were voting it would be no contest between Obama and the wife of a former tarnished President. However, you get no prizes for coming second and I don't see America ready yet to elect a black man to lead them. If it were to happy, I will make a bet on a black leader here by 2030.


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