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Feb 11, 2007 1:04 pm

Obama declares

What do we know about Obama's past?

His father was a leader from a small tribe in Kenya, his mother a white American from Kansas.

Did you know that Obama's mother spent her teenage years on Mercer Island in Washington State? No, of course not. Neither did I until Obama came here and told the crowd about his Mercer Island connection. I'm betting you won't hear much about this in the coming months. Kansas sounds better than Mercer Island.

Voters clearly don't know anything much at all about Obama except that they like his personality and the emphasis on "hope."

Political scientists refer to this as low-information reasoning. In the absence of real information voters use a few facts and anything else they can conjure up from the cursory coverage they've seen and develop an impression of somebody. Because of what's known as Gresham's Law of politics new information based on personality trumps old information about issues. So personality is key in the early stages of a campaign.

But personality is never enough. At some point the voters will demand to know more, especially when rivals attack the candidate's record (or lack of a record).

Vide: Gary Hart in 1984.

It will be at that moment that we'll know if Obama is the real thing or just another passing celebrity phenom.

My fear is that he's not a passing phenom and that there's a real chance the Democratic Party will nominate him.

This would be bad for him and bad for the country, for reasons outlined in previous posts.

For his sake and ours: I hope he loses the race.

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Stephen Kislock - 2/26/2007

Gee, if only we could give these good people a Third Term of G. W. Bush. You talk about H. Clinton, B. Obama and D. Kucincih, 12 years of War and Debt, what would you want?

James Ottavio Michael Castagnera - 2/14/2007

This year could potentially have been a political black hole. The 2006 mid-term elections are behind us. The 2008 presidential election is almost two years away.
Political junkies, fear not! A trio of presidential wanna-be’s are keeping us well entertained.
First into the media-circus tent was Hilary Rodham Clinton. Senator Clinton is smart, gutsy and accomplished. Her name has landed among Forbes Magazine’s most powerful people and Time Magazine’s top 100. Never mind all that, though. Senator Clinton is unelectable… even if a majority of Americans are ready to send a woman into the oval office. Yahoo recently asked “Would you like to see Hilary Rodham Clinton as the next president of the USA?” The web-provider chose this as the best answer posted:
“I would consider myself a leftie and I think it would be a horrible choice if she ran for a number of reasons.
1. We already know who will vote for her (the same people who voted for Kerry) and we know that Kerry lost.
2. She won't gain any support from the Republicans.
3. We need someone who pleases BOTH sides of the party, not just the one (that) will vote for (her).
4. We need someone from the south, who will appeal to them, not another ‘Yankee’.”
I can’t say it any plainer.
Then there’s Senator Barack Obama… another bright, capable candidate and the subject of this Blog. He’s equally unelectable. Assuming Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice kicked open the doors of America’s corridors of power, and that therefore a majority of Americans are ready to send an African-American into the oval office… Obama is still a neophyte, where national politics are concerned. Two years in the U.S. Senate does not a statesman make. True, he’s about the same age as JFK was when the latter entered the White House in the year Obama was born. The big difference is that Kennedy had 13 years of Congressional service under his belt when he ran for the presidency.
Obama is being compared to a rock star. If I were he, I’d be a bit nervous about that. The Beatles and the Stones had staying power, but one-hit wonders are infinitely more common. My prediction: Obama-fatigue will set in by mid-’07.
The third performer in this three-ring circus is Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Back in the 1970s, when I lived in Cleveland, Kucinich was a one-term wonder in the mayor’s office. The wonder was that he survived his two-year term. At 31 he was the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. His youth showed. He added a second strike to his count by appointing aides and advisors even younger and less experienced than himself. Kucinich’s ‘children’s crusade’ went south so fast that, one year into his term, angry voters failed to oust him in a recall election by a margin of only 236 votes. Kucinich served out his second year and then was voted out of office. This was in 1979.
A few years later, Kucinich moved to New Mexico, where in his words he was “on a quest for meaning.” He returned to politics from these ‘wilderness years’ in 1994 and has been in the U.S. Congress for the past decade. In 2003 Ralph Nader called him “a genuine progressive.” So much for his presidential chances.
While Clinton, Obama and Kucinich keep us all entertained during the year ahead, the Democratic Party power brokers presumably will be sorting out the serious contenders for the 2008 presidential sweepstakes. Meanwhile, my advice is to sit back and enjoy the show.

John Richard Clark - 2/14/2007

I believe black boomers will end up unhorsing Barack Obama. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have said as much recently. Sharpton ridiculed Obama's senatorial victory in Illinois, saying that any random candidate could have accomplished the same thing against Alan Keyes, a member of the conservative lunatic fringe.

Obama will get a polite reception in black churches in the South, but the Civil Rights Generation has many implicit questions he has to answer: Why should we support you? What have you accomplished in your career? What makes you think you have anything to offer us that we don't already have? What dues have you paid to make you think you are one of us?

The Civil Rights Generation is skeptical about Barack Obama. It is one thing to be glib and personable on Oprah; it is another thing altogether to look John Lewis or Mel Watt or Jesse Jackson in the eye and convince them you are their political heir. He will have to make a strong case.

If the black community in the South rejects Barack Obama, his candidacy is DOA.

Nonpartisan - 2/11/2007

He was so preachy, so holier-than-thou with regard to ordinary voters.

Makes me wonder whether he's trying to do what Woodrow Wilson did in 1912 -- a sort of attempt to out-mature all the other candidates in order to compensate for his own lack of experience. In Wilson's case, he was trying to seem the mature Progressive to Theodore Roosevelt's crazed radical; Obama could be trying to do the same with John Edwards as foil.

If that's the case, Obama will have a significant problem trying to be the most mature-seeming candidate in the race. And that problem is named Bill Richardson.