Sunday, January 6, 2008

Obama's Textbook Campaign

Remember when the traditional media declared Clinton and Giuliani not only the front-runners, but almost shoo-ins for their party’s presidential nominations? Seems quaint now. And it shows once again how out of touch the prognosticators who fill our airwaves and newspapers can be.

As I wrote a couple of months ago, when Barack Obama wins the Democratic nod people are going to look back and acknowledge what a brilliant campaign he ran. He hasn’t won yet, but his stunning victory in Iowa and his soon-to-be victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina will put him well on the way.

Clinton was accused of running a general election campaign too early, based on the inevitability of her nomination. In reality it was Obama who was running a general election campaign, but not in the usual way.

Independents in both Iowa and New Hampshire can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary. Obama was essentially even with Clinton and Edwards among Democrats, but he swamped them among independents in Iowa (and is doing likewise in New Hampshire). This led to his victory in the Iowa caucuses and will do the same in New Hampshire, and it sends a message to Democrats and Republicans alike: Obama can transcend partisanship to reel in the swing voters who will be crucial come November.

With Democrats wanting to win above all else, those who may have been skeptical until now should be heartened by Obama’s wide appeal. It’s possible in New Hampshire that he could even give the Democrats a corollary boost by pulling independent voters away from John McCain, who may be the most formidable GOP rival. I listened to coverage on NPR all day Friday after the Iowa results, and it was stunning how many independents and Republicans kept calling to say they had never voted for a Democrat in their lives but would vote for Obama.

Obama was often criticized for not providing more “red meat” to the Democratic base, who hunger for such rhetoric during the primary season. But by keeping his campaign affirmative and hope-filled, he avoided going negative and projected the idealism and enthusiasm that brought record numbers to the Iowa caucuses. Perhaps most startling, many of the new caucus-goers were voters under 30. This may be the most coveted demographic in American politics, and they voted for Obama by a margin of 5-to-1 over Clinton.

The Obama campaign knew that a victory in Iowa would mean millions of people finally giving him a hard look. He used the opportunity to deliver not a standard, boring list of thank-yous, but what sounded almost like a presidential acceptance speech. The commentary on NPR, from Democrats and Republicans alike, was equally laudatory; many claimed that his speech compared favorably to those of JFK and MLK. It was unquestionably an historic speech, marking the first time in American history that a black is a serious contender for the presidency.

There is still a long way to go, but I am personally more confident than ever that Barack Hussein Obama is headed for the White House.

And for good reason. He is no saint or savior, and his presidency will be neither perfect nor solve all of the world’s problems. But it will usher in a new and more positive era, and it will allow Americans to once again take pride in their country. Think how far we will have come when we see a black taking the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States, and the message this will send throughout America and across the world.

P.S. What was Hillary thinking to have Madeline Albright, looking 120 years old, and husband Bill standing immediately behind her during her concession speech? For someone trying to talk about change, this was truly bizarre. P.P.S. The Democratic ticket will be Obama-Webb (the senator from Virginia); my second choice is Obama-Strickland (governor of Ohio).

Jason Scorse

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