The Washington Post’s David Broder believes after watching Democratic Presidents-to-be talk this weekend that the race remains wide-open:
The good news for the nation’s Democrats is that neither of the supposed front-runners for the party’s 2008 presidential nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, stole the show when all 10 of the likely contenders spoke last weekend to the Democratic National Committee.
Clinton and Obama got good receptions from the crowd at the Washington Hilton, having filled many of the spectator seats with their young supporters. But they didn’t blow away the field, which will help keep things loose for a while, allowing more grass-roots activists time to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of all the entrants.
Political history is peppered with “front runners” who, when it came time for the convention, weren’t. So Broder is likely correct. Some of his other assessments:
One of the losers in the weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of “Duty, Honor, Country,” forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military. The larger disaster was the long harangue of former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, a strident critic of almost everything and promoter of a folly — a national initiative process — that not even a deranged blogger could love. Someone has to give him the hook before the real debates begin.
“Deranged blogger?” Hey, he reads my posts! MORE:
Obama delivered a lofty address, decrying negative campaigning — a speech that put him squarely on the record against cynicism and in favor of hope. People listened intently but at some point, the man from Illinois is going to have to put some policy meat on the bones of that compelling personality, lest he feed the suspicion that he doesn’t have much to say.
Obama has so far run an embryonic campaign that focuses on a new tone for American political debate, which increasingly has begun to resemble the more strident radio talk shows. And right now the press is in its “Honeymoon” period where it does stories about someone coming out of nowhere and exciting people. Obama should be prepared for the next stage The Candidate Stumbles (or, even worse, The Candidate Self-Destructs)…which is often followed by The Candidate Makes A Comeback.
By comparison, Hillary Clinton looked like what she is — an old pro, maybe a bit hesitant at the start of her first national campaign for herself but someone who draws confidence from giving voice to her own ideas. She stole the headlines for the weekend by pledging that if the current Congress does not find a way to end the war in Iraq, “as president, I will.” Of course, she also said that if she had been president in 2002, she wouldn’t have started the war in the first place — a statement that invites Obama and others to ask, “Well, then, why did you vote for it as senator?”
Oh, it’s going to be fun, and, with luck, it will keep going for a long time.
It could be a lot longer than some things. Assuming it’s over before it has totally started assumes there will not be breaking-events, developments beyond anyone’s control and serious political mistakes made by one candidate or another.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.