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

December 2014

Gateway to Freedom

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Guns and Poses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Christmas in Prison

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Poison Apples

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Growing Up

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Beeper World·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The beeper, for a certain kind of Miami teenager in the Nineties, was an essential evolutionary adaptation.”
Photograph by Curran Hatleberg
Article
Hammer Island·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The place could have sprung from someone’s jealous dream about white people.”
Photograph by Emily Stein
Article
Growing Up·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The best coming-of-age stories have a hole in the middle. They pretend to be about knowledge, but they are usually about grasping, long after it could be of any use, one’s irretrievable ignorance.”
Photograph by Ben Pier
Article
Guns and Poses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘It’s open shopping,’ he said. ‘A warehouse. The whole of Libya.’”
Map by Mike Reagan
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Amount that President Obama has added to America’s “brand value” according to the Nation Brands Index:

$2,100,000,000,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

A Utah woman named Cameo Crispi pleaded guilty to having drunkenly attempted to burn down her ex-boyfriend’s house by igniting bacon on his kitchen stove.

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