Weekly Presidential Politics - 4/11/07
Christmas comes early for political junkies like yours truly.
In what most consider an enormously premature event, the first primary debate for the 2008 Presidential election will be the Democratic debate on April 26th. The Republicans will have a debate of their own the following week on May 3rd.
Regardless of your opinion on whether or not it's too early to debate issues nine months before a vote is to be cast, the fact remains that these debates are going to happen, people are going to tune in, and candidate's platforms are going to solidify more in those 90 minutes than in any point previous to the debate. Most importantly, many first impressions will be drawn, and often times, first impressions do not go away easily. (Just look at conservative yet respected fellow guest blogger Kindel, who, despite my sincerest attempts, still doesn't like me because the first column she read of mine was my liberal diatribe from last December.)
Anyway, the first impressions are what count in these first debates. It's important that the candidate come across as clearly for something, and clearly against something, and these somethings must go beyond "President Bush is wrong and I'll do better."
The following is what I would be telling each of these candidates heading into this debate. This will be another two part column. I'll tackle the Democrats' Big Three today, and finish the Democrats next week and tackle the Republicans.
Hillary Clinton - You're going to get hit on being a Washington insider. You're going to get hit on continuing a 20-year chain of a Bush-Clinton White House. Most of all, you're going to get hit on the war. Be ready to explain your vote, because while you wax and wane depending on who you're speaking to, your chief challenger to the nomination was against it from the very beginning, and your secondary challenger is a high profile, vocal opponent. If that's the paramount issue of the Democratic constituency, and it will be, you're toast unless you can dove yourself down a bit. Stop worrying about the general election, because you might not get there.
Barack Obama - Time to shine. The Democrats who don't love you yet will love you after these debates. You and John Edwards will come away from this debate looking like brilliant, genuine leaders. Use this opportunity to make sure everyone knows what you're about. You've been glossing over the details for too long. Edwards has a detailed health care plan to insure all Americans. Health care is a big issue to Democratic voters. If the two of you break even on the war, Edwards will beat you in a Democratic Primary because he's proving to be more progressive. Additionally, until you start making poverty a central plank in your platform, Edwards will end up winning the black vote. The lesson: Speak your mind, because there are few better speakers or minds.
John Edwards - Here is your greatest strength: Democrats agree with you. Liberals agree with you. Remind them. You are the perfect representative for the fed up liberal democrats of the country, and those are some of the most passionate voters in America. Make everyone realize the 2004 Kerry-Edwards ticket should have been reversed. Also, remember that you don't have the money to compete with Clinton and Obama in Super Duper Tuesday. Unlike the sitting Senators, you cannot afford a 50-state strategy in this primary. Use a four state strategy. Convince voters in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina that you're their candidate. If they vote for you, so does most of the rest of the country on February 5th. You won't need a dime.