Washington Babylon — April 24, 2008, 10:12 am

Campaign ’08 and Howard Dean’s Tears

There are a lot of people who still think that presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama essentially can’t lose the November presidential election (or, more to the point, that John McCain can’t win). Maybe. But most Democrats watching the campaign for the past few weeks are likely experiencing some level of fear and trepidation–especially now that Obama outspent Hillary Clinton by a factor of three or four in Pennsylvania and still lost by nearly ten percentage points.

As John Stewart said on the Daily Show last night, McCain probably spent Tuesday night “giggling like a gorilla watching a cat play with string, while resting his aching balls in a chilled bowl of Howard Dean’s tears.”

(See Robert Novak’s column today for a more nuts and bolts account of emerging problems for the Democrats and Obama.)

Obama’s core constituencies seem to be the youth vote, African-Americans, and the highly educated, which works fine in the Democratic primaries but may not be nearly as powerful a coalition in a general election. As a reader recently wrote to me, “[Hillary Clinton’s] constituencies are roughly even in size to Obama’s, but seemingly ignored by the media as irrelevant. That’s a recipe for disillusionment if they are constantly denigrated or dismissed.”

Meanwhile, Republicans sound increasingly confident (at least about McCain’s prospects against Obama or Hillary, if not the G.O.P.’s congressional prospects, which appear grim). I spoke yesterday with Kenneth L. Khachigian, a former Reagan White House staffer who served as a senior advisor to McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000, and who is currently at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. He said that Obama’s early success in the primaries made him overconfident and now, “When he’s not giving a speech and is challenged, he hesitates and looks shaky.”

He continued:

During the primaries, the Democrats are talking to themselves. But Hillary finally figured out that she had to campaign against him in a general election fashion, so she’s crawled to the center and pushed him to the left. I’m not sure he can fix that during the primaries because part of his appeal to the left wing of the party is that he’s espousing their views. What has served him in the past may not serve him now or in the future. The key to a McCain victory is to shove him to the left and to emphasize his inexperience. Right now both of those things are on display, thanks to HRC. McCain should be sending her flowers every day.”

Khachigian said he felt very good about McCain’s chances, though he acknowledged it was still too early to tell much. “I paraphrase politics by saying, ‘The Masters begins Sunday on the back nine.’ Everything ripens up in a presidential campaign in October.” He also predicted that no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, the party would unite in the fall. “Anger and emotion are running high now, but they want to win,” he said. “They’re not going to unite in a nanosecond but everyone will be holding hands by October.”

Khachigian, of course, is a Republican and he might be overly optimistic about McCain’s general prospects. I certainly wouldn’t bet against Obama yet, given the political climate and his campaign skills. Still, the presidential outlook for the Democrats increasingly looks murky.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“From the nerd squabbles of Internet discussion threads rose an urban legend that culminated in a film that hinges on digging through my town’s trash.”
Illustration (detail) by Timothy Taranto
Article
Return of the Strongman·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If Tunisia is where the Arab Spring began, Egypt seems poised to become its burial ground.”
Photograph (detail) © Ahmed Ismail / Getty Images
Article
The Seductive Catastrophe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The world’s leaders were moved by a populace fused into a forward phalanx, were shaken by a tidal wave of militancy jubilantly united.”
Photograph courtesy Mary Evans Picture Library
Article
Me, Myself, and Id·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The one defining trait of the narcissist is that it’s always someone else.
Painting (detail) by Gianni Dagli Orti
Post
The Many Faces of Boko·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“People want education. Open a school and they will rush.”
Photograph © The author

Average number of sitcom laughs an American hears during a prime-time season:

12,000

Czech and German deer still do not cross the Iron Curtain.

British economists correlated the happiness of a country’s population with its genetic resemblance to Danes.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today