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:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

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

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2016

Unhackable

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Imperium

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fighting Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Front Runner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Habits of Highly Cynical People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Elisabeth Zerofsky on Marine Le Pen, Paul Wachter on the quest for an unhackable email, Rebecca Solnit on cynical people, Andrew J. Bacevich on truth and fiction in the age of war, Samuel James photographs E.P.L. soccer, a story by Vince Passaro, and more

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Front Runner·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The F.N. asked to be sent to an institution whose legitimacy it did not accept, and French voters rewarded the party with first place in the election."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Memoir
I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A paean 2 Prince
"And one thinks, Looking into Prince's eyes must be like looking at the world."
Photo ©© PeterTea
Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As wacky as it sometimes appears on the surface, American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it."
Article
Plexiglass·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Photograph (detail) by Karine Laval

Age at death last March of the sturgeon Nikita, Khrushchev’s gift to Norway, after an accidental immersion in salt water:

38

There were new reports of cannibalism in North Korea.

The Finnish postal service announced it will begin mowing lawns on Tuesdays.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today