As veterans of this blog know, I have long been a Barack Obama fan. Not always, though. When Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate, in 2004, he was in a Democratic primary crowded with better known and better funded candidates. Son Number Two called my attention to him as someone worthy of support, but I didn't want to waste my vote on someone who had no chance. He seemed to come out of nowhere to win the Democratic primary that year, and then, when he gave the electrifying speech at the Democratic convention that year, I was convinced that this is a man destined for great things.
The knock on Obama has been that a black man cannot get enough votes from the white majority to win a presidential election. I didn't buy that argument even before the Iowa caucuses last night. Obama won white votes in the Democratic senatorial primary in Illinois, enough to defeat better funded and better known white candidates, and elections of people like Wilder, the black governor of Virginia, the capital of the old Confederacy, show that things like race are not as important as they once were. Sure there are overt racists who will not vote for Obama because of his race, but they weren't going to vote for the Democratic candidate in any event, certainly not for Hillary Clinton.
I have also long disliked Hillary Clinton. I went to hear her speak on the campus of the Big U in our town in 1992 when her husband was running for president, and came away impressed only with what a bad impression she made. Although she has my sympathy for how badly she has been treated by her husband, the media and professional Hilary Haters, like Rush Limbaugh, I do not think she has the capacity to lead. Not to say she isn't smart, but there is a difference between brain power and leadership.
As I have observed politics over all these many years, I have come to believe that a candidate's ability to reach people trumps almost everything else. The candidate has to come across as understanding the concerns of ordinary people and to be likeable, someone you'd want to have a beer with (if you were a beer drinker.) Hillary has a tin ear for how she comes across, in contrast to her husband who is almost magical in his abilities.
Hillary's campaign seems to have been built primarily on her inevitability as the Democratic candidate, the one with the money, the organization and the toughness to beat the Republicans. Lately, she has embraced "change" as a mantra, but she has a fundamental problem having to argue both that she is the most experienced candidate and she is the candidate of change. Although it is not impossible for an experienced person to also be an agent of change (think Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act of 1964,) those two concepts are not usually associated. Bill Clinton could probably make the sale on that idea; Hillary cannot (or more precisely has not up to this point.)
Obama has that undefinable ability to reach people. As does Mike Huckabee. I noticed the banner behind the stage on which Huckabee gave his victory speech last night in Iowa read, "I Like Mike." Dwight D. Eisenhower won the presidency twice with the almost identical slogan (minus one letter) "I Like Ike." Another thing I noticed, having watched both the Obama and the Huckabee victory speeches last night is that their messages were almost identical. Huckabee could have been reading from an Obama script as he proclaimed that people were tired of the bickering in Washington; that Americans were one people, that we should not be tearing each other down, etc.
I don't think Obama has the nomination wrapped up. Clinton still has a substantial lead in the opinion polls in New Hampshire. She has her husband stumping for her full time. She has money and organization. But she has lost the argument on electability and inevitability, and without those what are her assets? I do not believe she will get many votes because of her likeability. With five days to turn things around in New Hampshire, what is she going to do that she hasn't already tried?
If Obama does win New Hampshire and wins South Carolina, then I think the battle is all over and Obama will be the Democratic nominee.
Which leads me to my next subject: "Heartbreak." Time after time, I have gotten excited about a president, only to have become disillusioned. I thought Jimmy Carter really was going to make a difference. After four years of his bungling, I voted for Ronald Reagan, as a protest. I really did think Bill Clinton was going to make a difference. Actually, he did accomplish many things, including getting rid of a deficit that had been predicted to balloon indefinitely for years; getting an economy to boom nonstop for eight years; passing legislation that helped people like the Family Medical Leave Act and other things. But his inability to keep his pants zipped, eventually distracted from his many accomplishments.
Nevertheless, I haven't learned my lesson. I still have hope. Go Obama, go.