Monday, January 15, 2007

Can Obama win? Yes - but would we want him to...

There was an interesting thread on politicalbetting yesterday debating whether Barack Obama can win the US Presidency. The consensus seemed to be no, but I think they are wrong. Obama can win, the interesting question for me is would I want him to?

First things first, can he win? I think so. It increasingly looks like the Democratic nomination will come down to a fight between Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Obama. Although personally I think that Edwards might sneak it (he has the experience of a national campaign, is massively charismatic and the early caucus in Nevada and primary in South Carolina favour him) the way that Obama has quickly achieved rock star status amongst the democratic activist base, his well documented ability to deliver barnstorming speeches (the second part of his speech to the DNC in 2004 is here and still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up) plus the desire by many liberals to make history and select an african-american means that he has a excellent chance on making it through the primaries, assuming no skeletons come out of the closet.

In the General, unless the current political mood changes massively, whoever is the Democratic candidate probably starts with a following wind. Many on this side of the pond see John McCain unbeatable, and he may turn out to be. However, given the dislike he stirs up within the Republican base, and the increasingly strong challenge he faces from Mitt Romney and possible right-wing insurgencies from Newt Gingrich and Senator Sam Brownback, he is likely to have tack right to win the nomination potentially alienating his support amongst independents and blue dog democrats. Also as a strong and vocal supporter of the surge approach being taken by President Bush to Iraq, his chances of even making the starting line in 2008 potentially hinge on Bush's gamble paying off.

You also have to play in Obama's positives. As well as those noted above, the chance to vote for an african american is likely to drive up black turnout (assuming Obama can continue to avoid being seen as an Oreo), key for winning states like Ohio. The Republicans will struggle to paint him as a godless liberal out of touch with the values of the heartland. Obama wears his faith on his sleave (note this article that makes great play of his reading the Bible whilst overseeing debates in the Senate). An approach that almost paid off for Harold Ford (another young african-american democrat) in the 2006 senate race in Tennessee, the first time that a Democrat has been competitive in a senate race in the state for many a long year; and Obama does not need to win Tennessee to win the election.

So why might I not want him to win? Well obviously he would be preferable to a Republican. Even Giuliani with his liberal (for the GOP) positions on guns and gays would still be appointing Republican judges (and to get the nomination would probably have had to sell his soul to the Christian right at some point). However, I suppose, as a European liberal, I am squeamish about anybody who wears their religion on their sleeve, especially in such a calculated way. The author of the Washington Times article linked to above was obviously briefed on Obama's reading matter (down to the book of the Bible he was reading, Luke, New Testament & nice and fluffy). Plus although he talks a good game it is unclear what Obama actually stands for accept for "Hope". The little record he does have is patchy to say the best, for example sponsoring subsidies for liquefied coal an oil substitute that according to who you believe is dirtier than the oil it replaces.

So while I disagree with the good folks of politicalbetting that Barack can win, I'm not ready to be swept up in Obamamania just yet.


Blogger Joyce said...

Two things: Hilary also has the experience of a national campaign, having been a really active part of both of her husband's runs.

And I REALLY want a president who can make my hairs stand up again. Clinton, Bartlett, Kennedy, don't mind, but it's the thing that I expect of a leader, someone who can make me feel good about the country that I've grown so cynical about. That's something that both Gore & Kerry lacked and why I was sort of 'meh' about them.

12:45 am  
Blogger Matt said...

For now, I'm just excited about the possibility of a race between Obama, Edwards and Clinton - because they're all very charismatic in different ways.

If I was going to pick my preferred choice (and I'm not American so obviously my choice doesn't count), Edwards would *probably* just edge it for me. But Hillary or Obama would get me excited for the actual election too.

Someone put a comment on my blog suggesting an Edwards-Obama ticket... Any ideas about probable pairings once the nomination is won, or is it just too early to say?

10:00 am  
Blogger Tristan said...

For a liberal you're pretty much stuck in the US at the moment...
Clinton is no liberal, she's a statist through and through.
McCain and Guiliana - they have too much baggage in the form of the Republican Party to be able to be liberal, even if they wish to be...

Both parties are dominated by statists - the Republicans want to control your personal lives, the Democrats your money. Where's a candidate saying they'll get out of your pocket and your bedroom?

I will reserve judgment until I know more, but Obama looks like the best option for the Democrats - if it really goes pear shaped for Bush then he stands a good chance, but otherwise perhaps he'd be best as a running mate for Edwards? That would set him up for a run in his own right next time round.

1:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would frankly be amazed if the winner doesn't seriously court Governors Mark Warner or Bill Richardson for VP. Both are highly popular in their own states with excellent CVs. Warner probably won't take it (he's a shoe in for governor again in Virginia and could certainly grab the Senatorship if the other Warner, Republican Senator Warner, stands down) but it would be crazy if he wasn't offered it.

Obama probably doesn't have the votes unless Edwards or Clinton collapses early in the race (or the other "drop out" candidates endorse him). He'll carry Illinois but he's really fighting Clinton off whilst Edwards can probably expect out of all of the front runners to do well in the South and Mid-West.

The biggest boon for Edwards though will be the primary schedule which almost always tips the balance in favour of the socially conservative states. Once he has a few primary wins to his name then he becomes the man for the others to beat and will have a significant funding boost.

The surprising thing about this election is the number of "jump ins" that are occuring in the Democratic party. Witness Chris Dodd and Tom Vilsack - both of whom are big "Who's?" to the public at large.

I've long been of the opinion that there are few in the field to get excited about at the moment. Its hard for me to see the American public getting excited about any of them either right now.

2:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidentally, he has just announced his candidacy on his website about 15 minutes ago.

4:08 pm  

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