Thursday, December 14, 2006

Obama-watch - 1

In the Chicago Tribune:

Saying he finds himself at "an interesting moment in time," U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said today he believes he would be a "viable candidate" if he runs for the presidency but said he is not going to let public hype dictate his decision.

Obama (D-Ill.) also said he has no interest in being "the un-Hillary" — a reference to Democrats who may be looking to coalesce around a single opponent to challenge New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is considered the early front-runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
Can anyone tell me what the former First Lady's appeal is? Would she seriously have a political career if she weren't Bill's wife? Think for a few seconds about this line of successive Presidents: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. That's what the Hillary supporters are advocating. Perhaps Jeb Bush could run after that. And then Chelsea in 2020?
There's an amusing article about the dynastic nature of politics in the US here, but I'm digressing:
Neither Clinton or Obama has announced a presidential bid. Obama, a Chicagoan who was elected to the Senate in 2004, said he expects to announce a decision next month after a family vacation in Hawaii.
A two year campaign won't be easy, but will give him the time to raise a decent warchest. I'm fairly sure he'll go for it. Carpe diem and all that. His considerations?
"Do I have something that is sufficiently unique to offer to the country that it is worth putting my family through a presidential campaign?" he said.

"Politically, I think I would be a viable candidate. That's a threshold," Obama said. "I wouldn't run if I couldn't win." He said a presidential victory was "conceivable."

He called Sen. Clinton a tough, disciplined and smart politician who would make a "capable president." But he said her campaign money and infrastructure advantage was "not my concern" and expressed confidence that he could raise money and assemble a potent campaign team.
The big "viability" question is whether America would vote for a non-White President or not (Obama is mixed-race), but I'm optimistic on this score. I don't believe the colour of Obama's skin is as significant to his candidacy as either his inexperience (he's only been a Senator for 2 years) or his "liberalism" (his voting record ranks him as one of the most liberal members of Congress). Black candidates have tried and failed before (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Alan Keyes) but all were far too extreme politically to ever be serious contenders - Jackson and Sharpton to the proper, bonkers left; Keyes (who coincidentally Obama crushed in the 04 Senatorial race) to the religious right. Although on the liberal side, Obama is still firmly in the mainstream.

In many ways, Obama now is much like a fresh-faced Tony Blair a dozen years ago: dynamic, passionate and a master of oratory (remember those optimistic days?). Naturellement, JFK is the other easily drawn parallel - handsome, well-spoken Senator etc etc. American politics is ripe for a change at the top and it will be fascinating to see if the young Hawaii-born hopeful can make it all the way.

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