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 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans
Post
Kid Chocolate’s Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Cuban eyes often look close to tears.”
Illustration by the author
Article
Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If you short-circuit the bottom, you threaten the entire cycle,” Joye told me. “Without a healthy ocean, we’ll all be dead.”
Illustration by John Ritter

Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:

15

Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.

A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today