Conventional Thinking II

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.


3 Responses to “Conventional Thinking II”

  1. Cara Valente-Compton Says:

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Richardson, but frankly why wouldn’t I? I am a Richardson supporter! But I would like to say that I believe that Richardson HAS distinguished himself from the top tier candidates in many very meaningful ways. First of all, and this is no small matter, his resume speaks for itself. He is a very successful governor who has done an incredible amount of good for his state (I speak as a New Mexican). He has had a distinguised career in both the UN and as Secretary of Energy. He was a very skilled Congressman. He has been nominated four times for the Nobel Prize for Peace. Not one of the others can boast of any of these accomplishments.
    But Richardson has also been the first candidate to really address the situation in Darfur. He is the first candidate to have really substantatively stood up for domestic partnership rights. He is the only one to have balanced a budget. He is the only one who has raised minimum wage. He is the only one who has created jobs.

    So I ask you, how more could he distinguish himself? By NOT being the last to speak at an event? I doubt he chose that time slot. By not being ignored by the media? The media clearly wants to annoint a candidate, and it isn’t Bill Richardson, but do we really want these people to choose our candidate? I am interested in your thoughts, I hope you will email me at

  2. mlaiuppa Says:

    Tickets… please.


    I really think whatever happens Obama is going to end up on the ticket somewhere. I think he’d agree to VP because he’s young and he has a shot at President after some experience as VP.

    Will the country really vote for a Woman for President and an African American Man for VP?

    Or will the Democrats play it safe with a White Male Presidential Nominee and whoever (Woman and AAM) in the number two spot.

    It’s between the top three. And I’m afraid the Democratic Party will once more play it safe, using polls to choose a “safe” ticket rather than an exciting one.

  3. CP Says:

    As for richardson, I don’t think he evinces the sort of alpha dog persona that people expect in a president. In fact, he’s too self effacing. Hilary Clinton definitely has the big dog feel to her. She’s a big deal, and everyone can feel it. Obama has a sort of different version. It’s more like Bill Clinton, in that it’s charming and he seems to be the guy in the room who has it all figured out.

    But running for president is never bad for one’s career. Richardson probably knows his chances at the presidency are slim, but it wouldn’t be too, to too much of a long shot to be secretary of state, or VP.

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