Thursday, January 31, 2008

If I Were A Pundit...

Since politics seem to be consuming much of my life these days (in addition to school) I wanted to share a few thoughts that have been randomly passing through my mind and that I don’t think have been reflected in the political punditry I’ve been reading. I’ll preface my comments by disclosing that though I’m an active Hillary supporter, I believe my observations are fairly objective, at least from a Democratic point of view:

1) Obama’s campaign is both hindered and helped by the fact that he’s tapped into a new and inspiring generational movement, which is in many ways a continuation of the Dean movement from 4 years ago, though clearly more resilient. Obamania has helped the candidate in obvious ways – he’s generated an aura of electricity and inspiration around him that draws huge crowds to his events and a host of politicians stumbling over each other to endorse him. He’s also transcended the grit of daily politics through his oratory and helped to bring out record turnouts at the polls. Like Dean, Obama has harnessed the Internet much more effectively than any of the other candidates through Facebook, YouTube, etc. (though all the candidates could take lessons from Ron Paul on Internet fundraising). However, Obama’s movement also makes his path to the nomination more difficult in some ways. Our electoral system hasn’t caught up with the digital age – people don’t vote online – and as a result, Obama is left with the task of convincing everyone out there in netherworld of the Internet to channel their energy to getting to the polls. The vast majority of Obama’s movement base – especially the online base - moreover is young voters (at least outside of the Southern states that have significant African American populations), who can also be flaky voters when it comes time to actually getting to the polls or sending in an absentee ballot. Imagine if everyone under the age of 25 could simply vote online – Obama would likely win the primaries by a healthy margin. Obama’s young demographic cluster also has the potential to turn off older people (who traditionally are more reliable voters) because a young movement to them may also seem like a rebellious or inexperienced one. For these reasons, Obama’s endorsements by members of the Democratic establishment, ironic though it may seem for a candidate who stands on a platform of bucking traditional party politics, are critical for him if he hopes to pull a more diverse demographic into his camp on election day.

2) Though Hillary’s win in Florida hasn’t resulted in a momentum surge for Hillary nor has it received much treatment in the press (and to the extent it has, much of the media has focused on the fact that Florida’s Democratic delegates will not be counted at the party convention because the state violated party rules by holding its primary too early), it is a significant win. It gives Hillary a foothold in Florida if she advances to the general election and a claim that when the rest of the party ignored Floridians she chose not to. This claim is important because Florida will be a swing state in the general election. If Hillary can argue that she has a chance of delivering Florida for the Democratic side over McCain, it underscores her electability argument. Obama properly chose to downplay Florida, but because McCain will be a powerful attraction to independent voters in the state (especially since he’s already been endorsed by Florida’s governor), Obama faces longer odds of winning the state.

3) Going into the primary season the general consensus, given President Bush’s declining popularity, was that this election is the Democrats’ to lose. Here, however, is one of the great ironies of the whole primary process: The Republican nomination has been up in the air because voters have been trying to choose between a middling set of candidates, while the Democratic nomination has remained undecided because voters are torn between two terrific candidates. Now that Republican voters have a clear front runner in McCain (and, to voters’ credit, I do believe McCain represents the most formidable candidate possible for the Republican ticket), the Republicans will have a head start in preparing for the general election. This means that the Democrats are already starting off at a disadvantage despite fielding an impressive and historic array of candidates (this includes all of the candidates with the exception of Mike Ravel).

I have many more musings to share, but my school books and bed are both beckoning me over my shoulder and I imagine I've written enough by now for the readers that have made it this far. Homework or bed. Bed or homework. Hmmm......