January 6, 2007
Whom Does Obama Help?
Lost among all the hype over Barack Obama is the reality that his candidacy for President, if it were to fully materialize, would only serve to reinforce Hillary Clinton’s grip on the Democratic nomination.With Virginia Governor Mark Warner dropping out last October and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh’s withdrawal before Christmas, Ms. Clinton’s vulnerability on her right has all but disappeared. While the Obama boomlet certainly speaks to the desire among the press and many in the Democratic Party for someone other than Senator Clinton, what an Obama run would do is suck a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm away from Hillary Clinton’s No. 1 threat to the nomination — John Edwards.There are five names that continually poll above five percent among Democratic voters: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, John Edwards and John Kerry. Though Mr. Kerry still enjoys a high level of name ID from the ’04 campaign, whatever slim hope he had of a repeat was destroyed by his pre-election gaffe on the troops in Iraq. Assuming Mr. Gore is a “no go,” that leaves the trio of Clinton, Obama and Edwards.While Mr. Edwards ranks between second and fourth place in national polls, he leads in the most recent Iowa polls and is poised to do well in the early contests in Nevada and South Carolina. His announcement from New Orleans and all his activities since 2004 make it clear he intends to run a strongly progressive campaign aimed at capturing support among the newly energized left of the Democratic Party. The problem is this is exactly the same constituency an Obama run would invigorate. Which means in the end Mr. Obama would simply split the progressive, “anybody-but-Clinton” vote between him and Mr. Edwards, further strengthening Mrs. Clinton’s odds of capturing the nomination.For Mrs. Clinton, this scenario would have the added benefit of allowing the perception to form throughout the primary campaign that she was the “centrist” or “moderate” choice of Democratic voters — a perception that would serve her well as she transitions to the general election campaign in the spring of ’08.
It is ironic that some of the strongest promoters of an Obama candidacy are motivated by a dislike of Senator Clinton, but are unwittingly helping her secure control of the Democratic Party by pushing the young and untested Mr. Obama.
I can’t shake the feeling that Obama is nothing more than 2008’s Howard Dean: someone who came out of nowhere to look unstoppable and then crashes and burns. Now, he won’t have the self-destructive tendencies of Dean (Yea-ahh!) , but he’s still largely unknown at this point. When people start looking at the fact he’s been rated as to the left of Hillary Clinton, I think hios star will fade a bit.
While I’m here, I’ll go on record as saying the nominees in 2008 will be Hillary and McCain. And I will be pulling my hair out.
Source of above quote: OpinionJournal.com’s Political Diary (email subscription only)