While I was against Obama running initially, I’ve converted and I’m guessing he’s in and I’m on board (no not the campaign, as a supporter–I do accept free drinks).
Four posts by others point out why they think Obama is in a very good position.
Jerome Armstrong: On the ’08 Presidential field
Dan Conley: A Life All It’s Own
Pastor Dan: Obamarama
Let’s start off with what should be a fairly non-controversial statement unless you live within 10 miles of Washington D.C.
Hillary Clinton is not going to be the nominee. It’s great for Republican fundraising and it’s great for overpaid over the hill consultants, but that’s about it. She has no personality, no presence, and people don’t like her. They’ll say they’ll vote for her as long as she is the Democrat they know the name of the easiest, but once the other candidates raise their profile, she’s toast. For some reason no one has noticed that absolutely no grass roots Democrats are behind her and while the grassroots can be oversold, you have to have some support and buzz.
We can also stipulate that Evan Bayh and Joe Biden are wasting our time. I don’t care enough about them to worry if they are wasting their own time, but they are definitely wasting our time. Neither has a compelling argument to be President other than being ‘experienced’. Never mind much of that experience is being wrong about everything, but what the hell.
Biden is my favorite to watch though. There’s the great story of Joe Biden meeting with Iowa activists and spending all of his time grooming himself. Not just his hair on his head, but while pretending to talk to an A level activist, he groomed his chest hair out the top of his shirt.
The level of pomposity to do that is truly evidence that God has a sense of humor.
John Kerry was a horrible candidate once and he will be again, but without the shield of Dean to surprise everyone. Not to mention that foot is really hard to remove from his mouth.
Chris Dodd, who I happen to like a lot, is dead in the water. There is no space for him to occupy and I doubt he’ll even make it to Iowa. Richardson simply isn’t compelling–his ability to hit national security is limited by Clark.
That gets us down to Tom Vilsack, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, and Barack Obama. I like Vilsack a lot, but I just don’t see how you get traction. I tend to believe being from Iowa is a huge problem because it means people cede Iowa to you and then you don’t get the chance to field a strong grassroots organization to overcome other disadvantages. This is especially a problem for Vilsack who ran an incredible campaign in 1998 to become Govenor of Iowa. The very place he could do the best is the place he takes off the table.
Clark I like a lot and he’ll have to field a strong operation that he didn’t last time. He still needs to demonstrate he can do that–as Markos said, he’ll need to start a buzz early and build upon it.
Edwards is a favorite, but he has three significant problems. Many of the people who seem to most strongly support him seem to criticize Obama for a lack of experience. There’s an irony there. That said, he’s an excellent candidate and I voted for him last cycle. Second, he voted for the war and was an early vocal proponent even though he has renounced that since.
The final problem is one not talked about very often. Elizabeth Edwards is a person you love and pledge your undying loyalty to, or she’s a pain in the ass who is petty, vindictive, and overly demanding. She’s driven away many a consultant from one who was quoted explaining why Senators weren’t supporting Edwards–there was no criticism–just a description of what Senators thought, to Steve Jarding and Mudcat Saunders to David Axelrod (see Conley’s post here).
I know people who would take a bullet for the women as well and when they went to law school, one classmate always said they knew one of them would run to be President, but everyone thought it would be Elizabeth. The problem then? Campaigns cannot be run when the entire staff has to answer to someone outside the traditional hierarchy. It creates fear and people tend to avoid taking risks.
A final option is if Al Gore gets in the race. I’m torn on this because I remember him being a giant ass in his primary against Bill Bradley and frankly his condescending tone drives me batty. Probably because he has been mythologized by the 2000 election debacle and not many blogs were around to document the obnoxiousness of that primary, he’s seen positively. He’d be a strong contender in that race though I think many of his annoying traits might surface again.
Of the above, there’s only two who I can’t stand and wouldn’t feel enthused about in a general election and that’s Bayh and Biden. Even Clinton I could deal with, but I don’t believe that’s a real concern.
Finally, Barack Obama. I’ll stipulate his legislative record at the federal level is thin and that he doesn’t have executive experience. Then again, only Richardson, Bayh, Vilsack, and Clark have run large organizations. Only Dodd and Biden have long legislative records. Kerry has a decent record on investigations such as BCCI, but his legislative record is weak. Clinton’s experience legislatively is weak and her experience in the administration was damn near disastrous.
Compare him to what Democratic voters in the primary want and he comes away doing very well. He was against the war and wants us out starting soon. He thinks the war is a failure and its time to move on. He is strong on health care, his foreign policy experience is slim, but substantial for someone with his experience, he actually has real ideas for energy policy, and he led on reform. He was a strong voice for immigration reform that values a path to citizenship for those who work in the US.
Other than giant screams of triangulation which does not actually rest on what he said when taken in context, he fits with what most Democratic primary voters want and he is inspiring. For some inspiring language doesn’t count for much, but the primary power of the President is to persuade and that is not something to dismiss. To some activists it’ll seem as though he’s not fighting the way they want him to do, but his abilities to communicate go beyond simply fighting the same fight better, he wants to fight an entirely different fight on his terms, not the press’ or the Republicans’.
Edwards looks to be putting together a strong labor team, but Obama is likely to do well with SEIU which has been one of his strongest supporters in Illinois–in fact, if you want to point to a reason he did well in the primary, it wasn’t Blair Hull’s implosion, it was the SEIU’s support and a strong volunteer corps along with great media and a good plan. When you talk to people in Illinois, unless they were Hull partisans, virtually no one believes Hull’s numbers were going to improve significantly or take the remainder of votes out there. Then again, maybe some people think SEIU is all about private jets.
Stoller has suggested he’s weak with the netroots, but that would be true of just about anyone at this time in a race other than those who have run before. I have some concerns about the online strategy the campaign might try, but in 2004 he hired much of the Dean team after the primary, but the entry of Keyes made that unnecessary.
But I think Stoller misses a larger point—candidates can improve their relationship with the netroots, but many of the strongest operations come from individuals on the net doing it on their own with campaigns coming in to open up communication and responsiveness.
Finally, as much as I believe in on-line activism–John Kerry had very little presence in 2004. 2008 will increase the importance of online activism, but it isn’t everything.
Let me add one other thing—Stoller says there is no Dean in the race. That’s true. Obama is to the left of Dean in general. What’s most strange about the complaints about Obama is here is the guy who was against the war from the beginning, trumpeted the EITC and civil rights and death penalty reform in Illinois. Dean’s record was relevant in Vermont when it came to civil unions. Why isn’t sponsoring SB 101 relevant in Illinois? Or how about passing a serious racial profiling law? Extending CHIP? I know early education and care aren’t big issues to the young male dominated blogosphere, but how about many bills to improve the quality and affordability of care for infants and toddlers?
Oh, and he introduced a bill for public financing of judicial elections in Illinois and a Constitutional Amendment for universal care in Illinois. I mean, if filing a bill counts by Sirota’s position, that’s a hell of a record. In fact, what he did pass was impressive.