06 January 2008

Barack Obama storms out of the blocks...

And so, as promised, on to the Democratic race, where, only 4 days into the campaign proper, Hillary Clinton is already starting to look like a lame duck. The general media consensus was that the amount of funds raised by the Clinton campaign and the support of Bill would be enough to propel her through the primaries with Barack Obama a creditable second, and John Edwards a long way back in the rear.

Instead, what seems to be happening - based on the results from Iowa and the latest polls in New Hampshire - is that Obama is surging into a big lead, with Edwards and Clinton fighting over second place. Obama got 38% of the vote in Iowa with Edwards and Clinton pretty much tied at 30%. One of the polls from New Hampshire puts Obama 10 points in front - and if the actual result goes that way, it would be an even bigger upset than Iowa.

The factor that seems to be propelling Obama to the front of the field seems to be a big surge in support among young activists and voters - see, for example, this BBC piece. It could be that, like George McGovern in 1972, Obama is going to cruise to the Democratic nomination on a wave of youth radicalism - but unlike McGovern, there is a strong possibility Obama has the charisma to go all the way to the White House.

This of course, doesn't mean in itself that he'll be any good. Democratic presidents of whom much was expected have been complete letdowns before - Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter (although his focus on energy policy now looks extremely ahead of his time) and, arguably, even JFK. However, Obama does have the advantage of not being George W Bush, Hilary Clinton, or Mike Huckabee, which, given the state of politics in the US, might be as good as any reason to vote for him.

To finish, a few words on John Edwards, who is unlikely to get the nomination - he doesn't have anything like the campaign funding that Clinton or Obama have, but his decision to mount a (relatively) left-wing campaign highlighting the appalling levels of poverty that exist in the US and a strategy to reduce them, is to be applauded. He may well decide to drop out if he has won few or no primaries by 'Super Tuesday' in February, but he'd surely be a good choice for running-mate if Obama does get the nomination. An Obama-Edwards ticket would be about as good as we can expect from the Democrats this year, and should be strong enough to beat anyone the Republicans can come up with.

No comments: