So nice of Newsweek
to put Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on its cover
this week, with the headline "The Race Is On."
So that's it. John Edwards, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, don't bother running. Newsweek
doesn't like your chances.
It gets worse.
Jonathan Alter, who could hardly be described as conservative, writes the cover story. Here's the main argument he makes to justify the cover:
ALTER: "For 220 years, Americans have elected only white male Christians with no hint of ethnicity to the White House. Even Irish Catholic John F. Kennedy seemed like a WASP to most people. By the time of Rep. Shirley Chisholm's brief run in 1972, then Jesse Jackson's in 1984 and 1988, the country was comfortable with barrier-breaking on the campaign trail, but not yet serious about electing someone truly different. No one knows yet whether we are serious now, and we won't find out for sure unless it happens. But the record of white males in high places has not exactly been stellar of late, and voters might be in the mood to try something historic and possibly redemptive."
Do people really vote to promote "someone truly different?" Will primary voters want "to try something historic?" (And wouldn't electing Richardson, of Hispanic ethnicity, also count as not a "white male Christian?")
Recent history has said no. Iowans in 2004 voted for the candidate deemed most electable, John Kerry, rather than the upstart, Howard Dean. In 2000, the same thing happened, when Al Gore was selected over underdog Bill Bradley.
The last time primary/caucus voters went off-script was 1992, when the early favorite, Bill Clinton, was derailed by the Gennifer Flowers scandal. Tom Harkin of Iowa won Iowa, and then regional favorite Paul Tsongas carried New Hampshire. Clinton righted the ship several weeks later, with a primary win in Georgia.
So forget gender and forget race. Recent history suggests the question running through Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina voters is: Are Clinton or Obama the most electable candidate?
Clinton has to explain her votes and rhetoric regarding the Iraq War to what will certainly be a anti-war voter pool. And Obama -- assuming the adoration dies down -- must convince voters that someone with limited national experience is ready to be the leader of the free world. If either of those events occur, that would be "truly different."
Republicans are quick to point out that John Edwards wouldn't have carried his home state of North Carolina had he been the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and that Al Gore failed to carry his home state of Tennessee as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000.
The spin is that this proves a candidate is unworthy for office, because recent history
says that other than Gore, the last major party candidate to not carry his home state was Democrat George McGovern, who failed to carry South Dakota in 1972
Dennis Kucinich is perhaps the longest of long-shots to win the Democratic nomination in 2008. And it doesn't help that he has received less-than-adoring reviews from his home-state newspapers.
"For Kucinich to attract votes beyond his small band of ardent admirers, he would have to show himself capable of delivering on the promise at the heart of his campaign - a promise to lead America in a new direction," writes
Elizabeth Auster in the Cleveland Plain Dealer
. "That would require some proof of prior leadership. But Kucinich's only stint as a political leader was his tempestuous two-year term as mayor of Cleveland - a fiasco that alienated so many people that he barely survived a recall and was voted out after only one term."
Ugh.The Toledo Blade
Kucinich "first attracted national headlines as Cleveland's disastrous "boy" mayor," and said the "diminutive Cleveland congressman has a giant-sized ego."
It's easy to see the spin Kucinich's rivals -- Democrat or Republican -- might offer: If those who know Kucinich best don't like him, why should the rest of us?