The San Diego 2007 Democratic convention is now history. Without making much history. All of the presidential candidates who came into San Diego to press the flesh and shake the money trees left town today without doing much over the last forty-eight hours to change public perception of them. Which is not all that good for the second tier candidates but plays nicely for Hillary and Barack.
I walked into the convention hall just as the Edwards bandwagon rolled in, cheering the former VP candidate to the rostrum. Edwards delivered a sharp speech full of both lofty vision and a surprising amount of detail. Where the other candidates supported universal health care, for instance, he said how he would pay for it. (Lifting the Bush tax cuts on those making more than $200k for anyone who cares to know. Apologies to those of you making more than $200k.) And the crowd loved it. Only Obama got deeper, longer, heartier cheers and applause than did Edwards. And this despite whatever hangovers the delegates were sporting from their Saturday night on the town.
Which is in itself instructive. Clinton got prime time Friday just before lunch. Obama got the slightly less sweet spot just after lunch. Edwards gets dead and dull Sunday morning to speak. So whom do you think the state party leaders who put this convention together favored? Yet Edward’s still beat Hillary on the applause-o-meter. But Edwards has a big hurdle to cross before he can finish in the money. With the exception of FDR, I can’t think of another former VP candidate on the losing side that came back to win the Presidency. Edwards has star power, but he’s no FDR. Or Barack, for that matter.
Bill Richardson was the last of the big seven to speak. Pushing noon, many delegates had already left and most of the camera press corps had packed it in after Edwards. Poor Art Torres, Democratic Party Chair. He introduced Richardson as one of his best friends and heaped every honorific he could on the New Mexican Governor. (“The most qualified candidate running for president!”) But Torres had also spent much of Saturday giving the star treatment to Hillary. At some point Torres is going to have to chose between victory and friendship. In which case it will be bye-bye Billy.
And that’s because Richardson just doesn’t have what it takes. His speech was lively and well received, full of plenty of self-effacing humor. As was his press conference. But he simply did not differentiate himself enough from the more charismatic (or at least supported) top three to give most people a good reason to choose him over Hillary, Barack or Ed. The big three are also as polished and sharp as De Beers diamond. Richardson gives off the aura of a good natured traveling salesman—a Willy Loman without the suicidal urge. While Richardson received more attention from both press and public than did Senator Chris Dodd, like Dodd he seems destined to become yet another member of the Presidential more-qualified-than-the-winners-but-couldn’t-win over-the-voters-so-I-ended-up-on-the-ash-heap-of-political-history Club.
Unless some other Democrat of incredible stature enters this race it comes down to Clinton versus Obama with Edwards a distant third. Unless either of the top two self-destruct for whatever reason, which has been known to happen.
Wonderful. The 2008 election is rapidly shaping up to be more like Survivor than the Lincoln-Douglass debates.