Messages and Messengers in 2008
As expected, Democrats rending their garments in anguish over yesterday's debacle are already turning to potential nominees in 2008. It would seem that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards head the list.
While all good and admirable Democrats and public servants, each would be a recipe for yet another defeat in 2008. John Edwards opportunity has come and gone; Obama's time will not yet be right, and for Hilary Clinton, the time will never be right.
Why? Because Democrats badly need to offer a nominee with the following traits:
1. Charismatic, Approachable Messenger
Kerry and Gore were good men, but Democrats paid a price here yet again in 2004 as Bush got a free ride on "likeability." Democrats do not seem to understand that in an age of cable news, the Internet, and reality media, politics IS entertainment. This was Edwards' principal strength and also key to Obama's appeal.
2. Public Policy, Thought Leader
Ideally, the Democratic nominee would be a thought leader in some area of public policy. Gore at least had the new economy and the environment; Kerry very little. Edwards was not and Obama will not yet be viable on this score.
3. Not a Polarizing Figure
This rules out Hillary Clinton from the get go. She can win the Democratic nomination, but she will never become President. She is simply too polarizing a figure and would never escape the Republican attack machine. She's a cultural icon for good and bad; Hillary in '08 ensures that the South, the heartland and white males remain firmly in GOP hands.
Democrats clearly will need to look elsewhere for a messenger. Two to watch are Governor Mark Warner of Virginia and Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. Warner, a one-time venture capitalst, has gotten high marks in turning around Virginia's budget disaster while working with a GOP legislature. And Bayh has emerged as a centrist, polished leader in the Senate and does not carry partisan baggage.
A compelling candidate, however, is merely the necessary but not sufficient condition for electoral success for Democrats in 2008. More than a messenger, Democrats need a message. Until Democrats coalesce around a coherent philosophy, articulate positive, universal programs and communicate them in succinct 21st century sound bytes, they will remain in the wilderness.