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December 4, 2006
How Desperate Are The Democrats?

As I note below, Hillary Clinton has sucked most of the oxygen out of the discussions over the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008, despite some major misgivings. A significant portion of the party wants to find some alternative to Hillary, and Barack Obama has materialized to help fill that need. Using terms like "rock star", Democrats have boosted Obama as a potential savior who can help bridge constituencies:

Senator Barack Obama’s announcement that he might run for president is altering the early dynamics of the 2008 Democratic nominating contest. The move has created complications for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as she steps up her own preparations and is posing a threat to lesser-known Democrats trying to position themselves as alternatives to Mrs. Clinton, Democrats said Sunday.

The declaration six weeks ago by Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, has set off a surge of interest in Democratic circles, which party officials expect will only be fueled in the coming week as Mr. Obama prepares for a day of campaignlike events in New Hampshire next Sunday.

At the least, Mr. Obama’s very high-profile explorations have contributed to a quickening of the pace across the 2008 Democratic field. On Sunday, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana said that he would create a presidential exploratory committee this week. And Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa went so far as to announce his candidacy two years before Election Day, in what his aides said was a calculated strategy to grab a moment of attention before Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton blot out the sun. ...

But more than simply picking up the pace, Democrats increasingly believe that Mr. Obama has the potential of upending the dynamics of the 2008 contest more than any other Democrat who might run — short, perhaps, of Al Gore, the former vice president, whom some Democrats are pressing to run.

Obama has made quite a splash since winning election to national office in 2004. He made a stirring speech at the national convention that year, and he has expanded on that promise ever since. Magazines love to feature his face on their covers, and his thoughtful bearing plays well on talking-head political shows on television. He has practically made "hope" a synonym for his career, stealing it from Bill Clinton, the Man from Hope.

However, Democrats appear to be getting carried away, to their detriment. Obama, while politically adept, is an untested neophyte. He won one gimme election against a ridiculous campaign by Maryland's Alan Keyes, besting a Republican state party in Illinois that has collapsed over the last few years from scandal and incompetence. Obama has done little legislatively, understandable for his freshman status, although he did co-sponsor the Coburn-Obama on-line budget database. To call him "untested" is an understatement of large proportion.

Obama is only 45 years old, a young man with plenty of time to gain more experience at the national level. At any other time, party leadership would counsel patience and seasoning. Even if the Democrats win the next two terms in the White House, Obama would only be 55 years old for 2016 -- still a very young man in presidential terms. He could take the time to run for governor in Illinois to gain executive experience and broaden his resume. He has time on his side.

That's why this Obama boomlet looks like desperation. Take a look at the field so far. They have Hillary as a front-runner despite serious misgivings about her electability, and after that come Al Gore and John Kerry, two failed presidential candidates. John Edwards wants to try again, leveraging his one term in political office anywhere into a second attempt at the brass ring. After that, the field narrows to such household names as Tom Vilsack and Evan Bayh. Vilsack actually has the edge as an executive from Iowa, but even though he gained mention as a possible VP candidate in 2004, most people still have no idea who he is.

Democrats want to take a freshman and vault him not just to the varsity but to make him the captain of their team. It might work -- or it might turn out to be a disaster that would ruin Obama's chances to build a real coalition later based on a broad body of work. The Democrats may want to consider that before they start using their seed corn for their next battle.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 4, 2006 6:00 AM

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Senator Barack Obamas announcement that he might run for president is altering the early dynamics of the 2008 Democratic nominating contest. The move has created complications for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as she steps up her own preparations and... [Read More]

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Ed Morrissey has some thoughts on the chances in 2008 of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (whose middle name apparently must not be spoken).... [Read More]

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