John Fund thinks that Barack Obama will sit out the 2008 race. I’m inclined to agree:
In 2004, when Mr. Obama ran for the U.S. Senate, he had the good luck of seeing both Blair Hull, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and Jack Ryan, the GOP nominee, self-destruct in sex scandals. Mr. Obama’s eventual Republican opponent, Alan Keyes, was an unserious candidate who won the votes of only 56% of Republican voters. A local Chicago political columnist notes that Mr. Obama is the closest thing to a rookie candidate on the national stage since Dwight Eisenhower and nicknames him “Obambi.” Candidates as green as Mr. Obama make rookie mistakes under the searing scrutiny of a national campaign,
The attraction Democrats have towards Obama is perfectly understandable. They’re looking for the “anti-Hillary” — the person who can reach across the red/blue divide and defeat the strongest Republican candidates. Obama is an orator of extraordinary eloquence, he’s got an excellent life story, and he’s telegenic as anyone. The guy admittedly has charisma not seen since another politician named Clinton.
However, Obama’s is also a doctrinaire left-winger who has never run in a competitive race in his life. Fund is right, someone like him can go from heir apparent to disaster in a heartbeat. A national political campaign is about the most grueling experience there is, and the Hillary smear machine would have a field day pointing out that Obama is an empty suit, at least so far.
Obama could win in 2008, no doubt about it, but there’s also a rather large chance he could lose too. Why bother? Fund is right that a Clinton/Obama ticket would be one of the strongest ones that the Democrats could hope for, and if Clinton wins, Obama gets to be next in line. If Clinton loses, he’s still next in line. Either way, it’s good for Barack Obama.
I think all this Obama-mania is more a reflection on the weakness of Hillary Clinton rather than on the political strengths of Barack Obama — great as they are. Obama hasn’t had to do much other than turn up the charm — which admittedly means a lot in politics, but it isn’t everything. There’s no doubt that Obama could have a very bright political future, but at 45, he doesn’t have to be in any hurry to go for the brass ring quite yet.