Sunday, August 10, 2008

Democrats On Edge as Obamania Cools

The Democratic National Committee has announced that Michelle Obama will give the opening-night address to the party's Denver convention in two weeks.

The buzz also has it that Chelsea Clinton will introduce her mother, Hillary, when the New York Senator giver her address on the convention's second night (Chelsea will speak instead of her father, Bill, a switch
approved by Barack Obama himself, perhaps as a matter more of relief than retribution).

While the national party conventions have been criticized in recent years as anti-climactic, the closeness and controversies surrounding election '08 have placed a premium on campaign choreography and candidate image. With the Democrats first to hold a nominating convention, and with Obama's novelty wearing thin, the totality of the events in Denver - both inside and outside the convention hall - could dramatically impact the Democrats' presidential prospects after Labor Day.

The Guardian provides
a nice synopsis:

Before flying with his family for a week's holiday in Hawaii yesterday, Barack Obama expressed concern about taking a break in election year. "During the middle of a campaign you're always worried about taking some time off," he said.

He may have good reason to worry. He leaves behind a Democratic party that over the past fortnight has been showing signs for the first time of nervousness about the November 4 election.

For them, this is supposed to be the Democrats' year, an inevitable march towards the White House after the catastrophic defeats of 2000 and 2004. Almost everything seems to be going their way: unpopular president, disenchantment with the Iraq war, a faltering economy and an inspirational Democratic candidate.

What is worrying the Democrats, in spite of all these pluses, is that Obama's poll lead has remained stubbornly small. A tracking poll by RealClearPolitics published yesterday has Obama on 46.9% compared with John McCain's 43.3%.

"I think there are a lot of Democrats who are nervous," said Tad Devine, chief strategist for the Kerry White House bid in 2004. "I think they thought this election would fall into their laps."
Sarah Murray explains the thaw in Obamania:

Obama has bestrode the news cycle like a Colossus since he entered the presidential race a year and a half ago. Whenever he hit low points like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright debacle, Obama’s instinctive response was to deliver a stirring speech… But there comes in politics a moment where what was once exhilarating (a presidential nominee who is the hopeful embodiment of 21st century America) becomes predictable and commonplace.”

There’s still plenty of room to spice things up though and alleviate that boredom. “In the next month, Obama will have twin opportunities to restore a sense of surprise and wonder to his campaign. A pedestrian vice-presidential rollout (especially if it is a make-no-waves selection like Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh) and an eloquent-but-empty convention speech could signal trouble. Obama needs to give independents and loosely affiliated voters new reasons to vote for him, since he appears to have reached a temporary ceiling a bit shy of 50 percent in most public polls,” [
Salon's Walter] Shapiro says. Before this the goal was to “dominate the news cycle” but “Obama may be a victim of too much too soon.” At any rate, it seems like a good time for that Hawaiian vacation, Shapiro notes.
Well, Obama better be rested and ready, as he's got a lot of work ahead. Today's Gallup poll showed the Illinois Senator just barely on the upside of a statistical tie, 46 to 43 percent over John McCain.

Related: Steven Warshawsky, "Why Barack Obama Will Not Win."