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January 28, 2008

Presidential Wannabes – The Democratic Field

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

My last column dealing with the presidential race broke down the GOP field and offered worthless advice, but no less worthy than the advice being offered by big whig media pundits. This week, the fickle finger of foolishness is pointing at the Democratic Party presidential wannabes. They’d be wise to duck.

First up, the national polling leader for the party of the Donkey, is New York Senator Hillary R. Clinton. Senator Clinton has built a campaign to run like an incumbent. Her ads and debate speeches all focus on her experience in the White House of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Forget the intervening years of the Bush 43 presidency; she wants to conjure up imagery from her husband’s years in the White House.

I find it a little odd that all of this experience, from healthcare (not such a great experience, as I recall) to her trips abroad, was merely because she happened to be married to a guy who became president. Her surrogates make light of Sen. Barack Obama’s lack of real experience, but her own weak record of executive experience leaves some major questions unanswered. Setting that issue aside, Senator Clinton retains a strong hold on her national polling lead, in spite of Senator Obama’s impressive come-from-behind in Iowa.

Senator Clinton needs to avoid more of these sneak attacks on her opponents in this primary season, because even when it’s a Clinton surrogate, the media turns it back on her. Many Americans didn’t like her from the outset, so she can least afford the moniker of the mean-spirited candidate.

In recent weeks, as the heat of the caucuses and primaries is increasing, Senator Clinton’s husband and spokesman-in-chief, former President Clinton, has stirred up the racial hornet’s nest while trying to define and contrast his wife and her chief opponent.

Mr. Clinton has tried to make the case that Senator Obama’s defense of his Iraq War opposition is a “fairy tale.” Black activists and leading Democratic Party operatives hear the phrase “fairy tale” in relation to the Obama campaign and assume it refers to the possibility of electing the first African-American president.

Every time the Clinton’s try to explain what they really mean, they dig themselves into a deeper hole. As an example, Senator Clinton has fired more senior campaign workers than most campaigns combined due to misstatements and errors in judgment.

All of these mistakes (whether intentional or accidental) aside, Hillary Clinton remains the frontrunner nationally. Watch as she begins to morph into the more conservative candidate that she and her advisors believe will be necessary to win a national election.

Senator Barack Obama is a fresh face and one of the most eloquent and passionate speakers to emerge on the national stage in the last few decades. He evokes images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he exhorts a crowd to see a future of promise and opportunity for all people.

He connects with blue-collar workers, women, and minorities. His campaign maintains a strong connection to his recent book, focusing on the question of hope as the principal reason to elect him President of the United States. That’s a good thing, because if the traditional reasons we usually consider someone qualified to lead the country are considered, the junior senator from Illinois comes up sorely lacking.

No executive experience, no real business experience, just a record of relatively obscure history in the Illinois state legislature. The question facing Democrats in the upcoming primary states is this: Is Barack Obama’s legacy of hope a sufficiently compelling basis to elect him president?

A statement on where we are as a nation is that Iowa voters answered that question with a resounding yes. Even the skeptical New Hampshire primary voter seemed to be sensitive to that message, keeping it very close between Obama and Clinton.

The odd man out in this presumptive two-person race is former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards. Trial lawyer sharp, with a flair for oratorical eloquence (albeit not as impressive as Senator Obama), Mr. Edwards seems to be the prototypical Democrat candidate. In another reality, it would be hard to imagine him not leading a national Democrat ticket. This year is far from that, though.

Senator Edwards has a firm grasp on many organized labor groups, but shares others with Clinton and Obama. One possible scenario has Senator Clinton and Obama fighting a back-and-forth primary battle, trading convention delegates through Super Tuesday and beyond. John Edwards may be the most powerful Democrat in America if he can stay in the race until the convention. At that point, he may be the ultimate kingmaker!

The best Democrat in the field, and arguably the most qualified person to run for president in decades, New Mexico Gov’ Bill Richardson, has packed up his kit bag and headed back home.

A sitting Hispanic governor, a former U.S. Energy secretary, former U.N. ambassador, and respected negotiator, Bill Richardson seemed to have it all. Even his policy positions seemed to reflect a more traditional Democrat view.

His major problem seemed to be that he isn’t a woman or an African-American. His name never caught on, in spite of his impressive resume.

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich makes for interesting media coverage, but anyone who believes he has a shot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should be out looking for the UFO’s Representative Kucinich claims to have seen. Maybe his chances would have improved had he been kidnapped by aliens, or at least it would be easier to understand why he says the things he does! (He withdrew last week.)

Same goes with former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. In fact, I’m not even going to waste time telling you why he can’t possibly be elected. The fact that most people didn’t even know he was in the race says it all.

So, it’s down to Clinton vs. Obama, with just enough momentum from the Edwards campaign to keep him on the radar until the convention. If he’s there this summer, you can anticipate some real fireworks.

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