Monday, August 25, 2008

Democratic Buyer's Remorse

In the midst of Barack Obama's latest controversy, this time over the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, I suggested that "Democratic buyer's remorse may be this year's October Surprise."

While my quip was prompted by
unrepentant 1960s radical William Ayers, the possibility of Democratic buyer's remorse enveloping both officials and the rank-and-file of the party appears increasingly likely.

The scale of Barack Obama's liabilities may be so grand, the range of his controversies so vast, and his depth of experience so shallow that the Democratic electorate may not need until October to realize it picked badly in the nomination contests this year.

Stuart Rothenberg makes the suggestion in his essay, "
Should Democrats Be Feeling Any Kind of Buyer's Remorse?":

As Democrats kick off their national convention to nominate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as their nominee for president, there is little or no evidence that activists or insiders are having second thoughts about the party's standard-bearer.

In other words, buyer's remorse has not settled in, and it probably won't unless Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) nips Obama at the wire 10 weeks from now.

Yet only the most uncritical party insider could avoid asking himself or herself the obvious question as delegates gather in Denver: Did Democrats, who two years ago placed no higher priority on selecting a candidate than on picking someone who could win back the White House in 2008, really pick the right person to carry the party's banner this year?

Obama remains the favorite to win in November, but he has not yet come close to locking up the race, even with a political landscape that is slanted so completely in his party's favor.

Because of that, it's hard not to wonder whether his party would be in a far more secure position to win the White House if Democrats in Denver were preparing to nominate Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner or any of a number of other Democrats, possibly including New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

On one hand, voters remain very unhappy with the Bush administration and with the direction of the country, and Obama remains one of the party's strongest messengers for "change."

Moreover, the Illinois Democrat's ability to excite younger voters and mobilize African-Americans is unmatched when compared to other potential Democratic nominees. Unlike what Clinton or Biden could have done as the party's presidential nominee, Obama may be able to change the traditional political arithmetic this year, benefiting Democrats up and down the ballot in many states.

But Obama's shortcomings, most particularly his limited experience, his difficulty connecting with older, working-class white voters and his inability to ease voter doubts about his ability to handle foreign policy crises, make him inherently a riskier choice for the White House.

The Senator's supporters, of course, argue that events have proved the soundness of his judgment, and he'll have plenty of opportunities during the next two and a half months to do what Ronald Reagan did in 1980 -- convince undecided voters that he has the toughness, astuteness and levelheadedness to protect U.S. interests abroad and deal with tough, even ruthless, adversaries.

But at least at this point in the campaign, with the surge in Iraq apparently paying dividends and the Russian invasion of Georgia reminding Americans of the dangers that still exist internationally, Obama looks far more fragile as a nominee than he did five months ago, riding the wave of change.
Rothenberg's putting it mildly, but read more at the link.

A key point from the article: As much as Democrats want to focus on "
Bush's third term," John McCain's been successful in making this summer's media coverage a referendum on Barack Obama's fitness to serve.

And don't forget about the trouble in Hillaryland!

It turns out that
some of Clinton's top advisers will skip Obama's acceptance speech at INVESCO Field.

Not only that, Hillary's delegates are being told
to vote their conscience, in Denver, which could make for some hot times on the convention floor, particulary since the sparks have already started to fly: Delmarie Cobb, a Clinton delegate from Chicago, has apparently been slurred as an "Uncle Tom" by Emil Jones, Barack Obama's South Side political mentor. It remains to be seen if the Clinton-Obama disunity will be settled in time to salvage the promise of the Democrats' historic primary season earlier this year.

the presidential horse race remains tied, and 27 percent of Hillary's supporters say they'll support McCain in November, up from 16 percent in late June.