A Real Race

To me one indication that the Obama phenomena is real is the simultaneous success of Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is a much less well known and a less attractive candidate on the issues to conservatives than Obama is to liberals. Huck seems to be a big government Republican – which also describes the present occupant of the White House – as small government Republicans often remind us. I think a critical factor driving the sudden popularity of both candidates within their own parties and among independents too is that they are fresh faces from outside the political establishment. And both natural politicians in their own right.

As I write this it looks like Hillary will win New Hampshire by 2-3 points, but the events of the past week have convinced me that she is much more vulnerable than I had previously thought. Even though I have felt that she was the most likely next president, I have been saying for some time that Hillary is the kind of candidate who has a natural limitation on how much support she can hope to get. In short, she’s beatable. There are a lot of people who just wont vote for her. What Obama’s and Huckabee’s challenges have shown me is that there is a real hunger for fresh faces. And that both Bush and Clinton fatigue are real, albeit elusive factors, in the this suddenly volatile race.

I got a new insight into this ‘fatigue’ phenomena reading this review by Noemie Emery of For Love of Politics Bill and Hillary Clinton by Sally Bedell Smith. The opening lines go right to the point:

Between January 20, 1993, and January 20, 2001, the Clinton White House was home to three boomers of boundless ambition, high expectations, and vast self-regard, all three of whom thought that they ought to be president. Of these, only one–Bill Clinton–really was president. But the other two–his wife Hillary and his vice president, Albert Gore Jr.–firmly believed that they should be and viewed Bill’s terms in office as the jumping-off place to their own.

Unfortunately, only one–Bill, again–was a born, or even a good, politician, making the two others dependent upon him, first to lift them to within striking distance of power, and then to help them campaign.

My first thought was – that’s the problem with Bush too, only double. Both he and his father only got to the White House because that other ‘natural’ of the late 20th century – Ronald Reagan – chose Bush senior as his running mate. Suddenly it’s clearer why I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for either Bush or Gore in 2000. And easier to see why the wheels seemed to so suddenly fall off Hillary’s campaign this week. A couple of relative outsiders with a fresh approach really ignited the public’s imagination. It feels good to have strong and talented candidates in the race even if they arguably lack experience.

So what happens next? With Hillary and Obama splitting the first two contests the race looks a lot more even than the press had us thinking going into the New Hampshire primary. The best analysis I have read of the remaining primaries on both sides of politics is by Jay Cost – aka The Horserace Blogger – here at Real Clear Politics. Cost explains the strategic ins and outs and how the present contests do and do not resemble the run up to Super Tuesday in 1992 when Bill Clinton made his famous comeback. Here is a taste:

I do not believe this race is over – and I say that as somebody who predicted that Obama would be a real threat to Hillary a while ago. Here’s my bottom line on the Dem race: Clinton has the money, the prestige, and the support to stay in the race through at least Super Tuesday, even if she loses all of the early contests. She also has, at least according to the latest national polls, much of the traditional voting coalition that has won her party’s nomination in year’s past. And remember – most Democratic primaries allocate delegates to the national convention proportionally, which means that losers still win delegates. So, Clinton could stay a close second through most of the season, and surge late to win the nomination.

Now we have a real race!

Addendum: Jay Cost has an eye opening follow up post here giving a back room analysis of who supported Obama and who supported Clinton and how she won in New Hampshire.


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