Democrats in the dugout

Normal human beings may idly wonder why the media is paying so much attention now to who is running for president next year. After all, the election is still a year and a half away. Isn't there like, any important stuff happening now?

Couldn't we deal with this later? Well, there is indeed lots happening, much of which has to do with the state of the nation and the world, both of which have been brought low by the regime of the present idiot.

That has increased interest in who we replace him with. And this time we are choosing the major party candidates for president earlier than ever. So you need to pay attention or it may be over before you know it.

Incredible as it may seem, it is now likely too late to get into next year's race. The major sources of campaign cash have been lined up by the contenders already in, the calendar has been speeded up something fierce, and the odds are strong that you will know both the Democratic and Republican nominees for president on Wednesday morning, Feb. 6.

That's because the majority of the delegates to both parties' conventions will have been selected in one giant convulsion the day before. The Feb. 5 primaries include a whole bunch of small states and almost all the big ones — Florida, Illinois, New York, California, Texas and, most likely, Michigan.

The Democrats can be grouped, loosely, like so: a) the big three, b) the little four and c) the big unknown.

The little four are New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich (the party's liberal conscience) and U.S. Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. None has enough money to be competitive. Richardson is a solid guy and a potential vice president. The two senators are on some kind of a mystifying ego trip.

Frankly, barring an amazing turn of events, the campaign will almost entirely revolve around the Big Three. They are U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and North Carolina's John Edwards, the Democratic nominee for vice-president last time and a former senator.

Hillary Clinton: Every poll shows that she is the front-runner for the nomination, though she's slipped a bit lately. Everyone in the nation knows who she is. Former first lady. Now 59, she was just overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term as U.S. senator from New York. Nobody doubts her intelligence and ability. Trouble is, many people don't like or trust her. Not just the usual sexists and right-wingers. "I can't stand her. I can't vote for her," a very liberal Armenian woman, a wealthy attorney, told me a few weeks ago.

"I can't stand her. I can't vote for her," echoed an elderly widow of a school janitor in Toledo, a lady who has nearly always voted Democratic.

They are like millions who don't think Hillary stands for anything except whatever she needs to get elected. Some of them fear a repeat of the Clinton White House follies. That doesn't mean she doesn't have plenty of support. Indeed, were the primaries today, she would probably win nearly every one. Yet can she win a general election? Very doubtful.

Barack Obama: The Illinois senator has been a media sensation ever since his mesmerizing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He then won election to the U.S. Senate by a landslide.

Now, he's going for the big enchilada. Obama stunned everyone by raising nearly as much money ($25 million) as Hillary Clinton ($26 million) in the first three months of this year. "[My boyfriend] Bob thinks Obama will be the Kennedy of our generation," Gloria, a beginning law student, wrote to me.

I was tempted to say, "Which Kennedy?" But the real answer is that Obama, for all his appeal, is more likely to be the Howard Dean of this election. He has only been in the U.S. Senate for two years; the benchmark always has been that to be considered seriously, you have to be re-elected at least once.

Obama, at 46, is fundamentally untested, and we don't yet know very much about what he is like under pressure. His candidacy, in short, is a media creation. Were he a white freshman senator, nobody would be talking about him for president, any more than they were Michigan's Debbie Stabenow in 2003.

Plus, let's face reality. Is America is ready to elect a black man president? A black man whose name sounds so foreign, and whose middle name is Hussein? You know the answer. That doesn't mean Obama may not become a permanent public figure and, maybe, even make us comfortable eventually with the idea of him in the White House. But it isn't happening now.

John Edwards: Here's a man who looks like a Southern John F. Kennedy, has a fantastic rags-to-riches life, and a compelling personal story about the loss of his son and the decision he and wife Elizabeth made to have two more children when they were into middle age. He made a good enough run last time to win the vice-presidential nomination.

He did not manage to bring a single Southern state into John Kerry's column, but few blamed him for that. Though a Southerner, Edwards, alone among the major candidates, has taken up the cause of the working class, which of course has gotten him labeled a "left-winger" by the pinheads of cable television. (Michigan's David Bonior is running Edwards' campaign.)

Edwards has been in third place, but a solid third, in both the polls and fund-raising, for months. This may not be a bad thing. He may eventually seem like the logical alternative if the voters weary of the others.

Or, that is, if Democrats decide they want to win. Winning the presidency is really about putting together enough states to score 270 electoral votes.

Last time, they won everything in the Northeast, from Maine down to Pennsylvania. They won Hawaii and the entire Pacific Coast, except Alaska. And they won a clump of states around the Great Lakes — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. That got them 252 electoral votes.

But they won nothing else. Any Democrat who can hold all those states and win Ohio will become president. Or who holds them and wins Missouri and the two states Al Gore won and Kerry lost — Iowa and New Mexico.

However, it is hard to imagine Hillary Clinton even holding all the Kerry states. I see Barack Obama winning the District of Columbia and not a lot else.

John Edwards would be their best shot. ...

Unless none of the big three emerges with a clear majority. If so, in the end, the party could turn to the man waiting in the wings.

Jennifer Sullivan really wants that to happen. She is a 32-year-old writer and animal rights activist who lives in Oak Park. She shares a birthday with Jennifer Granholm, but that's not the politician who turns her on.

She thinks there is only one logical choice. She's never met Bob Alexander, who ran for Congress against Mike Rogers in 2004, but he thinks the same, and is working hard to draft the man the Democrats should nominate.

He knows it is a long shot, but after all, as they see it, their man did get elected before. Sullivan even named her parrot after him. The bird, a handsome green-headed guy who loves to eat, is named Al Gore.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]
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