2007 is here and so is the presidential cattle show. Already, the weakest of knee and bladder have departed from the field — Frist, Feingold, Bayh. And yet there is still enough beef on the hoof, boundless ambition, and tabloid tales to make 2008 a standout cycle in the making.
With a nod to James Bond, nobody does it better than the Clintons. Love them or hate them and their outsized personas, the Clintons are the Bonnie and Clyde of American politics. Nixon was eviler. But, the Clintons are so much more fun with their tropism toward living lavida loca, their self-righteousness, their self-pity, their narcissism, their sense of entitlement, and their smarts. Give the Devil her due.
Although Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy will define the race, Hillary Rodham Clinton remains vulnerable. Like the George W. Bush, Clinton is a divider; not a uniter. Gender remains problematic. For all of the trumpeting surrounding the elevation of Nancy Pelosi to House Speaker, Democratic women challengers faired poorly in 2006. Tammy Duckworth, a certified war hero, could not win the seat vacated by Henry Hyde.
By contrast, Edwards is the lone white Protestant male in the race. He is also graced by his wife Elizabeth, who is a mom, a lawyer and a cancer survivor. It is a small leap of faith to view Elizabeth Edwards as a foil to Clinton and the Edwards’ marriage being contrasted to the Clintons’ union. It is also easy to imagine the Edwards appearing together on Oprah, and talking about the time they spend together, how they confronted Liz’s cancer and nurtured each other after the death of a son. Tellingly, Kate Michelman, formerly of NARAL and a reproductive rights advocate, is backing John Edwards over Clinton.
Still, the questions remain as to whether Edwards wants the job bad enough to do whatever it takes to win, and whether he is willing to make a lifelong enemy of Hillary. Edwards, a trial lawyer, should be able to summon at least a dollop of passion and venom to make Clinton feel pain, and the voters to take notice. However, Edwards had his clock cleaned by Dick Cheney in debate. Edwards cannot afford to allow callow sunniness to stand in the way of the prize.
As for Barack Obama, Obama simply does not have it in him to go for their jugular. Last week, he was the flavor of the moment. Today, Obama must compete with Clinton and a State of the Union Address. Already, his poll numbers sag, and he lags behind Clinton among African-American voters. Obama may be the candidate of the Democratic intellectuals. Adlai Stevenson, only more buff.
Yet, Obama’s potential problems are also Clinton’s. Obama has corruption/shady land deal questions of his own to answer, namely his ties to Antoin “Tony” Rezko. Rezko was indicted last November for influence peddling. Rezko is also a long time fan of Obama, and it was Rezko who sold Obama the plot of land which Obama used to extend the size of his yard, according to reports that appeared in the Chicago Sun Times. Sadly for Clinton, each time Obama gets asked about Rezko, Clinton will be asked about one of her own ethics kerfuffles.
In contrast to the Democrats, the GOP campaign looks cluttered and boring. In assuming the mantle of front runner, John McCain surrendered the excitement that made his 2000 run interesting. For its part, the Romney campaign exudes precision, not joy. So far, the most exciting moment of the nascent GOP presidential effort was the appearance of the Giuliani campaign dossier in the pages of the New York Daily News, and a lame game of finger pointing. This will not be enough to bring the Republicans to a presidential three-peat.
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