On Politics On PoliticsOn Politics
Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

League of Her Own

Part of me hated to see Barack Obama jump into the presidential race. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against the senator from Illinois. But I had a theory about how the contest for the Democratic nomination would play out, and I worried that Obama's entry could complicate things.

My theory was that the race would largely be a referendum on Hillary Rodham Clinton and on whether her party thinks she could win the general election. Virtually every Democratic voter knows her, and up to 83 percent have a favorable opinion of her. If they decide she can win, I reasoned, most would vote for her. It would come down to whether they see her as a winner.

So, this theory goes, the Democratic nomination contest would amount to two NCAA-style brackets. The top bracket would be the Hillary Clinton bracket. She would be the only one in it, and she would get byes all the way to the final. All of the other candidates would be in the second bracket, competing with one another.

Eventually, someone would emerge as the alternative to Clinton, most likely after the Iowa caucuses. Former Sen. John Edwards, I figured, had the best chance to become the un-Hillary because he is better-known than the rest and has a head start in Iowa.

Once the alternative won his bracket, I theorized, the contest would come down to whether Clinton could close the sale by convincing her party that she could win the White House.

After the November midterm elections, our Cook Political Report/RT Strategies polling showed a jump in the percentage of Democratic voters who thought that Clinton would have as good a chance of winning a general election as any other Democratic nominee. That number had been only 47 percent last February and 46 percent in August. In mid-November, it rose to 60 percent and stayed there in December.

Gone, it seemed, was the low self-esteem that afflicted Democrats after losing two consecutive presidential elections and giving up House and Senate seats in back-to-back elections. Their party's big victories in the 2006 midterm election put a little starch in Democrats' shorts, making them more optimistic about 2008 and Clinton's chances of winning. My theory was looking very promising.

Did Obama's entry fundamentally change the race? With all of the interest and energy that the wall-to-wall media coverage assured us he was generating, lumping him into the second bracket with the Bidens, Dodds, Edwardses, and the rest didn't seem justified. Yet national polls taken after Obama's announcement make me think that perhaps my theory still holds. He could be just one more of the alternatives whom Democrats disinclined to support Clinton could choose from.

In five major national polls last month, Clinton averaged 37 percent support among Democratic voters; Obama, 18 percent; Edwards, 12 percent; and former Vice President Gore (who is very unlikely to run), 10 percent. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware averaged 3 percent, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson came in at 2 percent. No one else averaged more than 1 percent.

Although Obama runs 6 points ahead of Edwards, that does not put much daylight between them. Perhaps the original two brackets still stand, with Obama and Edwards the favorites in the lower one. Arguably, Obama's star power is tempered by concerns about his inexperience: He has held a major office for only two years and has never won a tough race. Obama walked into the Senate in 2004 after the overwhelming favorites for both parties' nominations in the race were sidelined by scandal.

Whether Obama's freshness offsets his rookie status is up to voters to decide. Handicappers should be more concerned that he has never taken a punch -- unlike Clinton, who won a tough Senate race in 2000; Edwards, who has run for president before and who defeated an incumbent to get to the Senate; or, for that matter, everyone else in the race.

To change sports analogies, maybe Obama will turn out to be a prizefighter, even though his past knockouts were more at the club level and he is now headed into the heavyweight championship of the world. So far, my money is still on Clinton.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.