obama is toast, the third and final chapter


Loyal orgheads know my opinion on Obama: there’s much to admire, he’ll probably be president one day, but he faces an incredible uphill struggle against Hillary. Even if he manages an upset in Iowa, her superior name recognition, quasi-incumbency, and near absolute lock on major Super Tuesday states such as New York and New Jersey means that Obama’s campaign will probably be dead by February, if it survives that long. And we already have the signs of a strong, but ultimately futile run: he’s lagging behind Hillary in nearly every national poll and in every state except Iowa and Illinois, increased name recognition among Democrats doesn’t increase his polling, and he’s not doing well among key democratic constituencies like white women. Basically, his candidacy is not propelled not by the core of the party, but by disaffected educated whites and African Americans. That’s a recipe for a Bill Bradley-esque second place finish.

People will ask, as the LA Times did, why Obama’s political skill hasn’t translated into what matters the most, good polls and likely votes (headline: Polls don’t reflect Obama’s star power). The answer is simple: Hillary is not an ordinary candidate, she’s a deeply entrenched incumbent. People look at the six years of Senate service and the high negative ratings (mostly from Republicans) and seem mystified by her stubbornly high poll numbers. It’s not such a mystery if you consider that she has a long career working at the center of the Democratic party. Let’s look at her career:

  • Organized student strike at Wellsley for more black representation.
  • Elected college president at a very elite college.
  • Worked on editorial board of Yale Review of Law and Social Action
  • Worked as a student on the 1972 McGovern Campaign.
  • Helped manage the 1976 Carter campaign in Indiana
  • Helped found a government child services agency
  • Served on various corporate boards and prominent lawyer
  • Worked for various child advocacy groups such as the Children’s Legal Defense Fund
  • Helped manage most of Bill Clinton’s political campaigns (1978-1996), including runs for state attorney general, Congress, governor and president.
  • Spearheaded health care initiative, seen as a tragic but worthy initiative among core Democrats. (1994)
  • Policy related work as First lady (1993-2000)
  • Two successful runs for Senate (2000-2007)

This is the resume of someone who has worked at the core of the Democratic party for almost forty years. While her direct electoral experience is fairly limited (two Senate runs against cream puff opponents), her contacts in the party run very, very deep. With no vice president running, she’s the closest thing to an incumbent in the Democratic party. Given the clout of the Clintons, she’d probably have a decent chance at beating a fairly popular former vice president like Gore. In other words, Hillary is the de facto incumbent. The only way a challenger, like Obama, can win is if the core image of the incumbent is destroyed by repeated extreme policy failure, off the wall scandal , or self-inflicted George Allen-style meltdown. And that probably won’t happen with Hillary.

The story that summarizes Obama’s current conundrum is from a new book called Obama: From Promise to Power by David Mendell. One chapter describes Obama’s run against Bobby Rush, a South Side politician, a former Black Panther, and was seen as a sort of local elder statesman. Not surprisingly, Obama was thrashed by Rush, losing by 30%, indicating the power of the incumbent. Mendell summarizes the situation when one elderly woman simply said “Bobby just ain’t done nothin’ wrong.” And that’s the fundamental problem with Obama’s campaign. For the average Democrat, Hill just ain’t done nothin’ wrong.

Written by fabiorojas

October 30, 2007 at 3:54 am

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  1. […] as a way of life: As I mentioned in another post about Hillary’s popularity in the party, she’s done nothing but politics since she was in college. Most of her jobs have been in […]


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