Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson had an embarrassing moment the night the candidate he
is supporting for president won the Wisconsin primary. MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked
him to name a legislative accomplishment of Sen. Barack Obama.
"I'm not going to be able to do that tonight," Mr. Watson replied.
Or any other night. Barack Obama, noted National Review's David Frum, has the
thinnest resume of any candidate for president since William Jennings Bryan in 1896.
Then 36 (the youngest man ever nominated for president), Bryan had been a
congressman for only six undistinguished years when he electrified the Democratic
convention with his "Cross of Gold" speech.
Bryan got creamed in the general election, which suggests there is a limit to how
high a populist with little on his resume besides a charismatic personality and a
silver tongue can rise.
"Barack Obama is no Muhammad Ali," said Tom Buffenbarger, president of the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who is supporting
Sen. Hillary Clinton. "He took a walk every time there was a tough vote in the
Illinois state senate. He took a walk more than 130 times. That's what a shadow
boxer does. All the right moves. All the right combinations. All the right
footwork. But he never steps into the ring."
"Don't be deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more
than a holiday from history," said Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee.
Eloquent but empty calls for change seem to be working well enough for Sen. Obama in
the battle for the Democratic nomination. But that may be due more to the
weaknesses of Hillary Clinton than to his strengths.
There is no real divide on issues between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama, so the
primary campaign has focused on personality. His is attractive. Hers is not.
The bumbles and stumbles of Sen. Clinton and her husband remind us there is a
difference between being ruthless in politics, and being good at it. Sen. Clinton's
campaign has compounded her flaws as a candidate by blowing through a huge wad of
cash to no apparent purpose, failing to organize in caucus states, and by having had
no plan to compete beyond Super Tuesday Feb. 5.
With their own race settled, Republicans have been watching the Democratic contest
with dread and amusement. The conventional wisdom is that Ms. Clinton would be the
easier candidate to beat in November. But Republican antipathy to Ms. Clinton is so
great that many hope Sen. Obama will triumph. (The exit polls in Wisconsin
indicated 9 percent of those who voted in the Democratic primary were Republicans,
and they broke 72-28 for Sen. Obama.)
After Sen. Obama's landslide in Wisconsin, many pundits measured Sen. Clinton for
her political casket. "Like water rushing into the Titanic's hull, the forces now
flowing hard against the Hillary Clinton campaign are furious and the die is cast,"
said the Weekly Standard's "Richelieu."
I'm among those who think Sen. Obama will breach the "firewall" Sen. Clinton is
trying to erect in Ohio and Texas March 4. But pundits who earlier in this election
cycle confidently declared Sen. McCain politically dead and Sen. Clinton's
nomination inevitable should be cautious about burying Hillary now.
To win, the Clintons and their surrogates will have to rough up Barack Obama the way
they did Bill's girlfriends Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky. I doubt this will
work, but it might. In 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale turned back Gary
Hart, another charismatic young senator renowned for his oratory, by asking,
"Where's the beef?"
Most pundits think Hillary's lust for power will keep her in the fight until the
Democratic convention in late August. But I think that if she loses in Ohio or
Texas, she'll withdraw.
If Sen. Obama is ultimately to be the Democratic nominee, it could be just as well
for Republicans to have the race settled early. As long as Barack and Hillary
battle, journalists can focus exclusively upon horserace trivia. But if Sen.
Clinton folds her tent and slinks away, journalists will have little to write about
except Sen. Obama's thin resume and very left wing voting record.
"I've got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing trust
fund babies crowding in to hear (Sen. Obama) speak," Mr. Buffenbarger said. "This
guy won't last a round against the Republican attack machine."