Handicapping The 2008 Presidential Race
At this juncture, it is almost impossible to handicap the 2008 presidential race. In either of the two major political parties, today’s frontrunner could find themselves in the unenviable position of having to reassess their chances by the time of the primaries. What has become apparent politically speaking is that there has been a cataclysmic paradigm shift. The old political playbook might as well be discarded. This is a brand new day. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have proven that. Mr. Romney remains down in the polls, but the former Massachusetts governor is the Republican presidential candidate with the most money. He is millions ahead of frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani, and former frontrunner, Sen. John McCain, who has come in a disappointing third in the presidential fundraising sweepstakes.
Sen. John McCain is a prime example of the paradigm of which I speak. Going into the race, McCain was the acknowledged frontrunner, admired as a maverick that wasn’t afraid to speak his mind; now Rudy Giuliani is the frontrunner. McCain has apparently lost his mind. His head is so far up George Bush’s butt, that it’s hard to tell where Bush ends and McCain begins. McCain seems to be in support of every move Mr. Bush has made, and continues to make, relative to the war in Iraq. Mr. McCain’s rose-colored view of how things are going in Iraq, serves to hasten his political obsolescence. His statements on how safe it is to walk the streets of Baghdad would be laughable if he wasn’t seeking the highest office in the land. I’m afraid grandpa has had his day and will not play in 2008.
Rudolph Giuliani has a troublesome past that precedes his perceived heroism on Nine-Eleven. His poor judgment prior to that fateful day is why first-responders were unable to communicate with one another in the Twin Towers that day. He supported a no-bid contract for the Motorola radios, despite the objections of higher up in the Fire and Police Departments that reported to him. Moreover, let’s not forget that it was Rudolph Giuliani who recommended disgraced former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik for the top Homeland Security position, in spite of having some knowledge of Mr. Kerik’s questionable past. Mr. Giuliani was steadfast in his refusal to meet with Black leaders, regardless of the issue. The disintegration of his marriage to Donna Hanover was played out on the front pages of the tabloids. He brought present wife Judith, then his mistress, into Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence, while Ms. Hanover and their children were still living there. Today there is a major brouhaha over the racist comments of broadcaster Don Imus, who characterized the Rutgers women’s basketball team as nappy-headed hos, but Mr. Giuliani characterized the city’s first Black mayor David Dinkins, as a washroom attendant. When these fact and others become common knowledge, I seriously doubt that Mr. Giuliani will enjoy the standing that he now enjoys. His efforts to accentuate the positive will not get him past his numerous negatives. The old political playbook will be of little help to him. He may not even make it to the primaries.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Hillary Rodham Clinton is finding herself in the race of her life. Prior to Mr. Obama entering the race, Ms. Clinton had the limelight pretty much to herself. For her entire political career and all of her husband Bill’s, Ms. Clinton has played by the political playbook. She abandoned her Republican roots to become a Democrat. Her liberal leanings have been tweaked to the point of not being recognized at all. She has clung to the center and at times strayed to the right, all in the name of positioning herself for the ultimate prize, the presidency. Following traditional wisdom has not prevented political upstart, Mr. Obama from nipping at her heels. The Clintons are known fundraising champions, yet during the first quarter, Hillary has raised $ 26 million, only one million more than Mr. Obama who came it at $ 25 million. What is interesting is, Mr. Obama received his money from more grassroots sources than did Hillary. Obama has created a playbook of his own. Instead of carefully honing an image, he has chosen to be as forthright as possible, and to focusing on the issues that resonates with the American people. Thus far his color has not become an issue, it is such a non-issue that he has been greeted as the second coming.
Former Senator John Edwards is another non-traditional candidate whose populous positions have resonated with the American public. He emerged victorious from the debate over whether he should continue with his presidential bid in light of his wife’s health issues. The cancer that he and his wife thought was in remission, returned with a more virulent strain, one that is fortunately controllable with proper medication. Again, Mr. Edwards comes off as truthful and straightforward. Where he has made mistakes, like his past support for the Iraq war, he has apologized and said it was a mistake. Ms. Clinton on the other hand has found it next to impossible to be contrite. Possibly, she is afraid of being characterized as a flip-flopper. This is a new day, but Ms. Clinton might need a flashlight to see the light. The Clinton slash and burn style is no longer effective.
The, you’re either with us or against us Clinton attitude, is proving unpopular with donors. Some of who choose to donate to more than one candidate.
Bill Clinton is probably the last successful old-school presidential candidate. The old playbook has served him well. Combine Mr. Clinton’s natural charisma with the tried and true tactics from the old political playbook and you might have a plausible explanation for his success. What worked for Bill however, may not work for Hil. Her insistence on positioning herself in such a way as to please everybody has her pleasing nobody. Up close and personal, she is articulate, warm and friendly. Unfortunately, that is not what she projects to the broader public. It is not fair that she has been judged in the manner she has, but having said that, she is judged nonetheless. In order to succeed by the new playbook Ms. Clinton will have to overcome herself. It is true that she has more experience than Mr. Obama, but she lacks his naturalness. She lacks the easy manner and quiet confidence that Mr. Obama demonstrates. Ms. Clinton comes off as stiff and contrived. No one but her closest confidants can tell where she really stands on any given issue. She plays her cards so close to the vest that it is impossible to tell what kind of hand she is holding. Whoever ultimately emerges, as their party’s choice will have done so by abandoning the playbook, by ignoring traditional wisdom.
Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.
Cedric McClester is an award winning journalist who has written for local, national and international publications. He has a Masters of Science Degree in Education from New York’s Fordham University. The Boston born journalist is married and resides in New York. Mr. McClester is the author of the leading selling book on the topic of Kwanzaa, the African-American cultural holiday. His latest effort is a childrens book entitled: The Legend of Nia Umoja, on the Gumbs and Thomas imprint.