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February 24, 2008



Jeopardy question for $200: who was Obama's opponent for the Illinois senate seat?

dah dah dah dah
dah dah dah
dah dah dah dah
whup! dah dah dah dah dah........

David Epstein

On this last point xyz is 100% correct. Obama's job now, pure and simple, is to get the nomination, following the rules set out by the Democratic party. It's the party's job to set up the process in such a way that the winner of the nomination is the candidate with the best possible chance of winning the general election. So Obama will do what he needs to do now to beat Hillary, and then shift into beating-McCain mode.

I'll be posting more on this subject shortly, but the general point is that the primary system should be geared towards choosing the best candidate, *not* to guarantee some notion of democracy within the party. The point isn't to find someone who can win the majority of Democrats' votes, but to find someone who can win the support of the median voter in the public overall. And, as the reader notes, Obama would be left with some convincing to do on that latter account were he to receive the nomination.


I have to agree that Obama can't possibly maintain the expectations that he is currently fueling and expect to have a successful campaign this fall. However, right now he only has to get the nomination.
I think it would be in his best interest to have a shift in rhetoric if he makes it this fall. Obama's hype should not carry him into the presidency. Rather, he needs to prove that he can think through the issues and provide intelligent answers so that the dems don't have a severe case of buyer's remorse. Obama's claims may be fine for the moment, but as an Obama supporter, I will surely be asking "where's the beef?" when the general election comes.

David Epstein

Thanks for the comments.

For xyz, yes, that's a distinct possibility, rather like Truman's running against the "do-nothing" Republican Congress. But I think it would be too clever by half. The expectations following the campaign will be so high that, should little or nothing happen, he'll have more explaining to do than Congress. After all, he's likely to have unified government to work with, and he's making the claim that he, by sheer force of personality, will bring people together. To put it another way, would he have the same lead he has now under the banner "When things screw up again it'll definitely be their fault again, not ours"? Not quite the same as "Yes we can."

As for Mr. Snider, of course politicians often fall short. But it's one thing to fall short in specific promises, and another to fall short in the basic premise of your government. True, given that no one can do it all, this campaign might very well be fairly characterized as competence vs. image, in which case the public would have a basic choice to make. Right now, Obama is claiming that by electing him we can have our cake and eat it too.

Justin Snider

Professor Epstein writes that "no president in history has been able to accomplish what Obama promises, and those elected more on image than policy expertise and leadership have not had stellar results."

My question is which politician ever HAS been able to accomplish everything he or she had promised? None. That is the nature of politics. So, to suggest that Obama cannot deliver on all he's promised is nothing revelatory; it is simply to say Obama is merely mortal -- something even his most ardent supporters (myself included) concede.

Yes, one would hope a president possesses some policy expertise and leadership ability. Image, however, is also paramount, particularly at a time when much of the world hates what America has become under Bush.

But do we really elect politicians based on image, policy expertise and/or leadership ability? If so, how did we end up with Bush???


Could the strategy be that Obama fully expects to be rejected in his "efforts" to reach across the aisle? He could then blame the Republicans for being impossible and hold the moral high ground for being willing to compromise. I don't doubt that Obama can't possibly deliver what he's promising--no one can--but that may not be the point.

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