Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Alas, yet another Clinton presidency

After a first flush of success, the downslide seems to have begun for Senator Barack Obama in his bid for the Democratic nomination. First was the news that the Senator had raised US$20 million in the third quarter, lower than $27 million for key rival Senator Hillary Clinton.

A new poll by Washington Post-ABC News this week suggests that Clinton has pulled away from the rest of the pack, with 53 percent of Democrats saying that they would vote for Clinton if a presidential caucus or primary was held in their state now. In contrast, only 20 percent of the Democrats polled said they would vote for Obama.

The poll, which has a three-point error margin, was conducted by telephone between September 27-30, among a random national sample of 1,114 adults, including additional interviews with randomly-selected African Americans, for a total of 212 black respondents.

With Obama well behind her in the poll, Clinton also seems to be quite a strong candidate to take on Rudy Giuliani, the strongest Republican contender so far. If the presidential elections were held now, 51 percent said they would vote for Clinton as against 43 percent for Giuliani.

With the Republicans with their back to the wall over Iraq, and President George Bush unlikely to come up with any imaginative resolution to the Iraq issue ahead of the elections, and probably compounding problems with an attack on Iran, the path to the presidency may be clear for Clinton.

Nostalgia for husband Bill Clinton seems to be pretty high with 66 percent in the poll approving of the way he handled his job as president. To be sure, Clinton presided over a period of relative domestic calm and economic expansion in the US.

Senator Clinton’s remarks about Obama’s lack of experience in politics may also have found their mark. Voters may have probably decided that being a first lady, and one known to nosy into matters of state, counts for political experience.

The interesting point is that neither Clinton nor Obama have outlined a clear strategy on how they would run foreign affairs, except for Obama saying he would talk to renegade leaders like the Iranian president, and Clinton saying she wouldn’t. Neither have proposed their specific plans for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and strategies for handling other hot spots, nor any dramatic moves in domestic policy.

Obama caught the imagination of the public for a while because he is not white, and also by his claim that he was the outsider who was going to clean up Washington of its shenanigans. Everybody loves change, particularly when it is Washington getting a makeover, but Obama has never been specific about the changes he would like to make. Just being an outsider didn’t help evidently.

The upshot is that it appears that America is terribly short of leadership outside of two families – the Bush and the Clinton family. We used to think that dynastic politics was something that happened in immature democracies in developing countries like India, and Sri Lanka. But it is now likely to happen in the US too, with a whole generation knowing only a Bush or a Clinton as president.

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