Sunday, January 21, 2007

Strengths and Weaknesses of the "Big Three"

Now that all three of the alleged frontrunners for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination have officially announced their candidacies, it's probably a good time for me to run down the litany of strengths and weaknesses that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards bring to the table, along with some more compressed thoughts on second and third-ring Democratic contenders. Let's start with the woman who this past week's polls indicate has a commanding lead among Democrats nationally

Hillary Clinton Strengths: Without a shadow of doubt, the biggest gun in Hillary's arsenal is the monstrously intimidating political machine she has at her disposal. Just as George Bush's loyalists did whatever needed to be done to crush the insurgent John McCain in the early primaries of 2000, Hillary's network of political thugs will be just as ruthless if not more so in squashing her primary rivals should they have the audacity to threaten her perceived entitlement to the nomination. Beyond that, early polls suggest that the black community is surprisingly loyal to Hillary, even with Barack Obama in the mix. Every candidate who is challenging Hillary has no idea what they're up against. The Clinton machine will be a fundraising engine more than happy to steamroll anyone who stands in Hillary's way.

Barack Obama Strengths: Obama's charismatic fresh face, pure and simple. The country is in the mood for something new, and at least superficially, Obama offers that. And once a political figure has planted a favorable seed in the minds of voters, it often takes alot to undo that. A national media swooning over Obama's every word will also help to keep his headlines favorable barring a stunning gaffe.

John Edwards Strengths: A very favorable early primary schedule, where Edwards is well-positioned to score victories in both Iowa and Nevada, the first and second states holding caucuses, with South Carolina, the state Edwards was born in, holding its make-or-break primary soon afterward. And primary voters savvy to the political winds of Middle America are likely to recognize that Edwards is probably the only candidate of the "Big Three" that has a prayer of winning the general election against ANY of the Republican frontrunners.

Now for the weaknesses of the three candidates.....

Clinton's Weaknesses: Where to begin.... First of all, Bill Clinton was a smooth and charismatic politician. That does not mean his wife is. In fact, the only reason she's even a serious contender for the nomination is her last name. She certainly didn't get to where she is today because of her political skills. Furthermore, she's coming out of the gate with more than 40% of voters holding an unfavorable opinion of her. That's an almost certain death sentence as every candidate's unfavorables go up under the spotlight of a negative campaign. And the very ruthless political machine supporting her will be called out for its thuggish tactics. James Carville will not get away with "swiftboating" Barack Obama the way Karl Rove did to John Kerry in 2004 or John McCain in 2000. Even if Hillary does prevail, she'll come out of the primaries with her hands bloodied. And of course, the biggest question of all regarding Hillary's electability....How many of the 31 "red states" in the last election cycle can you picture voting for Hillary Clinton in 2008? If your arithmatic is anything similar to mine, the answer is "far fewer than the 19 "blue states" from 2004 that Hillary is likely to lose to a competent GOP challenger."

Obama's Weaknesses: He's a man with nowhere to go but down. Charisma can get you far in a Presidential campaign, but not all the way, at least if you're a Democrat. As Obama's personal and professional liabilities start becoming common knowledge, his unfavorables will start rising. Obama can be expected to lose some low-lying electoral fruit based on his middle name ("Hussein"...don't think Karl Rove would let that little nugget go unnoticed by the coal miners of West Virginia) and his past cocaine use, but his biggest personal liability is his current tobacco use. The growing ranks of tyrannical busybodies in Obama's own party will be relentless in hammering this seemingly benign bad habit into an irreconcilable character defect....and it may work. Furthermore, Obama is not battle-tested. He's had cakewalk election victories in his uber-liberal Chicago district in the Illinois Legislature and to the U.S. Senate in 2004, where he faced the hapless Alan Keyes after previous opponent Jack Ryan was washed away in a sex scandal a few months before the election. Obama's lack of political experience will certainly be exploited by his opponents in the primaries and in the general election if he gets that far, but his lack of experience in competitive campaigns is what I really expect to see on display, particularly when he's trying to slay the Hillary dragon.

Edwards Weaknesses: His economic populism is a solid selling point for socially conservative Middle American voters, who believe the Democratic Party has lost touch with its working class base and has become the party of abortion, gun control, and gay marriage. However, that same economic populism will not be a selling point among the wealthy northeastern liberals who write all the checks that fund Democratic campaigns. Edwards will be perceived as an anti-business candidate by the deep-pocketed business Democrats whose support for the party is based on any number of issues, but slowing the growth of free trade and instituting new anti-poverty programs are not included in that list. Along that same theme, Edwards has a huge immigration problem, starting with the primaries and continuing in the general election if he gets that far. Edwards needs big wins in Iowa and Nevada one week apart if he's gonna seriously contest the nomination, but he'll be walking a logistical tightrope on the path to those victories. Iowa's industrial unions are largely critics of liberalized immigration reforms, but the services workers' union that dominates Nevada's Democratic caucuses has an entirely different agenda. Edwards' support for "comprehensive immigration reform" would likely hurt him in Iowa, but would be necessary for him to score the service workers' union support in Nevada. Edwards' larger problem on immigration is that, if he comes out in support of McCain-Kennedy or some variation of "comprehensive immigration reform" that's light on border security and heavy on "guest worker" provisions, it undermines the very premise that is the foundation of Edwards' campaign.....combatting poverty. McCain-Kennedy is a deliberate means of growing poverty in America, and growing it substantially. Edwards will have zero credibility on his anti-poverty platform if he comes out in favor of "comprehensive immigration reform"...and every indication is that he will.

The other guys:

Bill Richardson: I'm with Sara in pulling for a Richardson candidacy, as I expect he would be a very tough opponent for any Republican candidate except McCain, who would likely come out on the winning end of a divided American Southwest and deny Richardson states like Nevada and Colorado that he'd need to win nationally. I'd like to think Richardson could be a contender here, but I have a hard time seeing how he gets a foothold against the Hillary-Obama-Edwards juggernaut.

Joe Biden: I'm not sure why, but there are plenty of Democrats who genuinely dislike Biden. I have mixed feelings about him. He's very smart and centrist enough that he wouldn't instantly alienate 47% of the electorate, but he has a hard time controlling his anger and his dripping condescension towards those who disagree with him. Hard to imagine that Biden could keep his unappealing side hidden through the course of a yearlong high-profile candidacy.

Christopher Dodd: A non-starter. He's a good Senator and a smart politician, but there's absolutely nothing about him or his resume that would indicate he should be taken serious
as a Presidential contender.

Dennis Kucinich: Another vanity run that will allow Republicans to represent Kucinich as the yardstick with which the entire Democratic Party should be measured. I like this guy, but the only purpose he serves in a Presidential primary is making everybody else look moderate by comparison.

John Kerry: I hope Kerry runs again just for comedy value. Unfortunately, I think he might even see the writing on the wall at this point.

Tom Vilsack: Unlike Kucinich, Vilsack seems smart enough that he wouldn't be making this Presidential run based entirely on ego. Even prepping himself for a Vice-Presidential run seems unlikely to be fruitful, particularly if Vilsack loses his home state in the Iowa Caucus, which seems very likely at this point. My guess is that he's attempting to score a Cabinet position in the administration of the eventual winner. That is most likely the best he can hope for.

I know I'm forgetting somebody here, but it's most likely irrelevant as the big names of this race are likely to monopolize the fundraising and push most of these candidates out of the running long before the first vote is cast in Iowa. While the Republican field is pretty much wide open, I'm moving back towards the position that I held before the November midterms....that the built-in advantages make this nomination Hillary's to lose. God help us!

4 Comments:

Blogger Akillah said...

First of all, your article is an inacurate representation of the issuses at hand. Whoever wrote this article didn't even address position on policies, nor did they discuss anything else of any importance. This article was nothing more than a character assassination and a lame regurgitation of the same type of sophomoric nonsense one would expect to hear on a reality t.v show.

3:03 PM  
Blogger rationalpsychic said...

I wonder if you would be willing to readdress these issues now in light of new information.

12:06 AM  
Blogger vanesa said...

who ever wrote this, definitely hates Obama.

I wanna see you talking now, after he has done all the things you thought he couldnt have done cuz of his "weaknesses".


Did anybody notice how short Obama's strenghts section is?


i dare to say the writer is such a racist ¬

3:39 PM  
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10:58 PM  

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