Having a few varied comments on the current state of political events, I thought I’d use this entry to share those random thoughts.
Issue #1: Politicus interruptus
The past two weeks have seen a bevy of withdrawals from the Presidential race. Fred Thompson’s was not particularly surprising, after his dismal showing in South Carolina. Rudy Giuliani’s was a little more surprising, if only for the heights from which he had fallen earlier in the campaign - remember when he was the inevitable front-runner, and prognosticators (including yours truly) expected him to roll to the GOP nomination? His endorsement of John McCain could be somewhat helpful, but I don’t think that brings a huge block of voters to McCain who would have otherwise supported one of his remaining opponents. And I would be remiss if I didn’t note Dennis Kucinich’s withdrawal. So there, it’s noted.
Perhaps the most surprising was the sudden announcement yesterday by John Edwards that he would be suspending his Presidential campaign. Now that word “suspending” is a bit of legal jargon, and I believe he used it rather than “withdrawing” or “abandoning” so that he can continue to receive federal matching funds for the quarter and pay any outstanding debts. I think he does plan to release his delegates, however.
Edwards’ withdrawal surprised me because I expected him to continue on to the convention, collecting delegates here and there in an effort to become a powerbroker at a split convention. Now that he’s out, that leaves only two candidates, but surprisingly that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will have a clear winner by the time of the convention. Why? Because on the Democratic side, there are a whole bunch of “superdelegates” chosen not by the electorate but by virtue of their standing in the Party. These superdelegates can vote for whomever they choose, even if they’ve “pledged” themselves to one candidate ahead of time.
I can now invite my friends and readers who have been ardent Edwards supporters to come over and join me in backing Barack Obama. Edwards did not endorse either of the remaining candidates in his withdrawal speech. Would his endorsement make a big difference? Perhaps, but perhaps not. It might help Obama more than it would Clinton, because of Edwards’ strength with labor unions. In this regard, Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama earlier this week might have as much influence as Edwards’ would. Which brings me to…
Issue #2: Whither the Gore-acle?
If there is one political luminary out there whose endorsement would actually make a measurable impact on the race, I think it’s Al Gore. He has stayed out of the fray so far, and despite the pipe dreams of many Dems, I don’t think he’s waiting around to be chosen by acclamation at a brokered convention. What if Gore threw his support behind one of the two remaining candidates before next Tuesday? Given his demiurge status in the Party after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, I have to think he could wield some influence. Much has been made of the acrimony between Gore and the Clintons, and it seems unlikely that he would endorse Hillary. That leaves Obama as Gore’s potential endorsee. How would Obama benefit from a Gore endorsement? I think Gore’s endorsement could sway some undecided voters, but more importantly I think it could firm up support about those who are leaning toward Obama but have lingering doubts. If Gore is going to make an endorsement, however, he needs to do so very quickly – announcing over the weekend wouldn’t have the same impact on the news cycle as would a weekday announcement.
Issue #3: Fantasy debate lines
The two remaining Democratic candidates, Clinton and Obama, have a head-to-head (I’m resisting using the phrase mano-a-mano) debate in California tonight, to be broadcast on CNN. Chances are that some of the exchanges will get a little testy, as it’s the last chance for either one to score rhetorical points in this setting before Super-Duper-Tsunami Tuesday.
If I were scripting a fantasy debate, I’d have the following tongue in cheek paragraph ready to go for Obama in response to any question that even remotely brings up the issue of Bill Clinton’s involvement in Hillary’s campaign or in a future Clinton Administration:
This is a question that many Americans want the answer to: What role will Bill Clinton play in a Hillary Clinton Administration? With all that time on his hands, what will he have his hands in? Will he be involved in foreign affairs? Will he be involved in domestic affairs? Will he be involved in internal affairs? The voters deserve to know – what affairs will Bill get himself involved in if Hillary is President?
Alas, Obama will probably not go down that road, but it sure would be fun to see if Hillary could control herself if he did.