I have been watching with some interest the meteoric rise of Barack Obama to the front of the Democratic pack as the 20o8 presidential primary season unfolds. Simultaneously, I am scratching my head at what appears to be an implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
What puzzles me is this: are voters turning out in droves because they buy into the hype about Obama, or are they simply tired of the Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton political refrain?
I will admit that I am a cynical political observer who has witnessed the rise and fall of a slew of "outsider" presidential candidates, from John Anderson (1980) to Jesse Jackson (1984) to Ross Perot (1992, 1996) to Ralph Nader (2000), all of which at least briefly tapped into widespread voter discontent. Yet the media hysteria over Barack Obama far exceeds anything I have ever seen.
I concede that Obama is a charismatic and talented orator, and that some of his recent speeches have evoked memories of certain acronymic American political icons like JFK, RFK, and even MLK. I have yet to se much in the way of specific policy initiatives from Obama, though, and beyond the repetition of the word "CHANGE," his campaign seems bereft of content.
Senator Clinton, on the other hand, has seemingly failed to ignite on the campaign launchpad, despite perhaps the most well-funded and experienced campaign staff. It is entirely conceivable that Clinton could reach Giga Tuesday with exactly zero primary victories, something that was inconceivable as recently as late November. Clinton aides privately hope that she gets clobbered by less than a double-digit margin today in New Hampshire.
So, the question before us is simple: is the Obama insurgency a legitimate threat to the Clinton-dominated Democratic machine, or will Obama flame out like so many prior pan flashes?