Jan 17, 2007

Some Dip their Toes in, Obama Puts his Foot in the Water Creating a Bigger Splash. Let the Games Begin!

Updated, 1/18 (below)
The race for the presidency has begun with several candidates either forming "exploratory committees" or have outright declared. The junior senator from Illinois, Barak Obama, took the first formal step, though there was no big surprise here. He had plenty of time to think about this and he is behaving like a declared candidate. The primaries are less that a year away! Can you believe it? Anyway, Obama's case is very interesting. Within a few months, the field will become more crowded, though I think it's way too early to make any predictions. I personally remain open--waiting to be convinced--and may endorse a candidate later in the year.

For a first-term senator, Obama has gotten an unusual national attention but now he's got to define himself and build a ground campaign. At this point, he's Hillary's biggest headache for he's going to take much of her support from the black community--this is good news for Edwards. Yesterday, a new Zogby poll came out of Iowa--the first contest next year--in which Edwards leads with 27%, Obama's second with 17%, the governor of Iowa, Vilsack, at 16%, and Clinton at 16% too. The progressive blogosphere has been having informal polls over the last year, often showing that Hillary trails Edwards and Obama, while others like Richardson, Kucinich, Dodd, Vilsack, I-want-to-run-again Kerry, Biden, are all drawing single-digit numbers, trailing the "unsure" category!

Another candidate that has gotten attention since 2004 is Wesley Clark but I don't think he's going to run. The big question is the former Veep, Al Gore, who gets high support from the progressive community and from Democrats of all stripes. He could win this contest, but he seems too comfortable (and pretty rich) in the corporate world that he may choose to play the elder statesman role. He has name recognition and can raise huge sums of money fast so he has the luxury of waiting a bit longer. Hillary has the same advantages as Gore, but she also has high negatives--not necessarily a deal breaker, but a factor nevertheless. She has gotten a big support from the black American community, but this will change with Obama in the race. The Illinois senator trails her in polls among Democrats but 1/3 of them don't know him, yet. The New York junior senator has a very high name recognition, and although she still has room to shape her agenda & policies, she will always be associated with the Clinton legacy--a good and a bad thing.

No matter what you think of Obama and Hillary, it is a good thing to see these two in the race. Anything can happen in the next year and a half, but as a nation we still haven't answered in the affirmative, that a black and woman [and, why not on the same ticket?] can be elected to the highest office of the land. I do not advocate voting for or against anyone because of their gender or skin color, but America has a long ground to cover yet to overcome racism and other prejudicial, discriminatory attitudes & practices.

Update, 1/18/07. Zogby has a new poll from New Hampshire today that shows Obama in the lead (23%), followed by Clinton and Edwards (both at 19%). NH poll is on par with others, but interestingly the "not sure" category is just as high as the numbers those three candidates are drawing. Way too early to make predictions though.