Thursday, 23 October 2008

Obama's strong lead and campaigning strengths

As a supporter of Hillary Clinton, I confess I was sceptical about Barack Obama. I felt he was policy-lite and that he would be scuppered by the Republican attack machine. Twelve days out from the election - with many people already voting - I have to confess I underestimated his strengths.

Obama has proven a resilient campaigner. His calm response to the economic crisis contrasted with the floundering of John McCain. His selection of the dull if gaffe-prone Joe Biden as his running mate has proven a wiser choice than the increasingly divisive Sarah Palin, who has become a figure of fun for independent voters as much as Democrats. In a characteristically powerful piece for Time magazine, Joe Klein explains how those qualities have been melded with a much clearer view of policies. (As Klein says, Obama's book Audacity of Hope was hardly audacious on the policy front.)

Of course, there are still 12 days to go, and one is naturally inclined towards the caution of Jonathan Freedland in yesterday's Guardian. But the polls are very different now: Obama is ten points ahead in Virginia, for goodness sake! He looks the leader that John Kerry never seemed. He has avoided the faux-populism that cost Al Gore the 2000 poll. And the feeble attempts by the Republicans and Fox News to crank up scandals about Acorn voter drives and 60s radical William Ayers just look pathetic, especially given Republican links to Acorn.

Obama has proved himself as the best Democratic candidate since Clinton. If, as seems increasingly likely, he is elected as their first president since then, he will need to show that his policies - and some such as his healthcare proposals need some work - can be put into effect at the same time as managing the aftershock of the financial crisis. And in doing so, he must show a sureness of touch that Bill Clinton lacked in his early days in the White House.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I know you probably won't agree with me here, but the best thing about him from a progressive POV is that he's mostly campaigned explicitly on a platform to attack and reverse previous gains for conservatism, rather than attempting to adhere to them. And doing so has made him, fingers crossed, more popular than John Kerry, whose strategy seemed to be shifting triangulation throughout the campaign, dancing at the press releases of his opponent...