Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.
Well, actually, we did. And we—or, more importantly, Republican voters—didn't like what they saw: a halfhearted and curmudgeonly candidate who didn't seem to have all that much to say.
The failed candidacy of Thompson, who announced his retreat from the presidential race on Tuesday, does not demand much analysis. On paper, he seemed ideal: a Southerner with a conservative bent, a popular television star, and a Republican who did not piss off any major bloc in the GOP coalition. But as any Hollywood veteran knows, a project on paper can look a lot better than what eventually hits the local multiplex or TV screen.
Thompson put in the worst presidential campaign performance of recent years. At times, he didn't seem to want the part. The media narrative that emerged—Thompson the Lazy Candidate—was, whaddayaknow, kind of true. A few days ago, NPR asked several presidential candidates to name their all-time favorite presidents. The replies were predictable. And Thompson selected George Washington. But his explanation was all-too telling. Thompson did not cite Washington's military victory over the British or his achievements as the nation's first president. He said he admired Washington because he had been able to walk away from the presidency after serving two terms. Thompson pointed out that Washington never returned to Washington (the city) once he was no longer chief executive. Thompson was more intrigued by how a president leaves office than how one governs while in the job.
Do all those libertarians swooning over Ron Paul realize he's no get-the-government-out-of-my life freedom-lover when it comes to reproductive rights? Today Representative Paul was in Washington--not toiling hard to abolish the Department of Education or to end the Iraq war--but holding a press conference with Norma Leah McCorvey. She was the "Jane Roe" of the Supreme Court's 1973 Rove v. Wade decision, which declared that most antiabortion laws in the United States violated a constitutional right to privacy. But since then McCorvey has switched sides and has become an antiabortion activist. These days, she runs her own antiabortion ministry.
At the press conference, McCorvey endorsed Paul. For antiabortion outfits, McCorvey has long been a much used icon. And her support of Paul, who authored legislation in Congress that would define life as beginning at conception, could help his far-from-the-mainstream candidacy among social conservatives. But for his libertarian fans, this endorsement is also a reminder that Paul is indeed in favor of Big Government...when it would do his bidding. If elected president, Paul could fire all those people working at the Department of Education and offer them jobs chasing after anyone who obtains an abortion or uses an IUD.
Ever wake up in Las Vegas the morning after a not-so-good night? Barack Obama has not yet gotten the chance to sleep off the Nevada caucus returns--and he's not likely to be getting much sleep between now and Supersaturated Tuesday on February 5--but the Nevada results ought to be troubling for the Obama camp (even though the Nevada caucus was a rather odd affair). Exit polls showed that Hillary Clinton, who won by 6 points, scored well with women, Hispanics, and working-class voters fretting about the recession. The problem for Obama: this is a big chunk of the Democratic electorate.
Sasha Abramsky focuses on the lemonade: Obama was competitive with Clinton in rural white areas. But even if Obama can scoop up John Edwards voters in future contests--Edwards ran a distant third in Nevada, bagging about 5 percent of the vote--Clinton is sitting on a damn good base at the moment: women, Latinos and blue-collar Dems. It will be hard to win the Democratic nomination without those blocs.
Obama could well triumph in South Carolina, depending on how African-Americans vote. But his true political challenge is besting Clinton among the critical die-hard Democratic slices. And with February 5 fast approaching, he doesn't have much time to win over these voters.
No matter what happens in the Democratic caucus in Nevada (this Saturday) and the Democratic primary in South Carolina (next Saturday), Barack Obama has a problem. Mind you, I'm not predicting his demise. But as he and Hillary Clinton head toward Supersaturated Tuesday on February 5, Obama will have a profound challenge that she will not.
Both have money and organization. But she is running a conventional campaign; he is not. She waves her resume, cites her experience, and proclaims she is ready to do the heavy lifting on Day One. He claims that he can change politics--and, thus, government policymaking--because of his vision and strength (and force) of character. He is mounting a campaign that aspires to be transformative. She is heading a campaign that seeks to put its candidate into a job.
After South Carolina, the presidential campaign will be dominated and shaped by ads. With so many states--including California--in immediate play, there's no way the candidates can do retail politicking that matters (like they did in Iowa and New Hampshire). It will be easy for Clinton to sell herself (in conventional terms) through television ads, radio spots, mailers, and the like. Obama may find in tougher to convey the intangibles he is banking on--hope, faith (in him), transcendence--via 60-second snippets. Before signing up with a noble crusade, some Democratic voters might need first to feel the Obama magic. On the other hand, no voter needs to experience Clinton's soul to conclude she is the most qualified for the job.
Connecting with voters in a transformative manner will be a difficult task for Obama in the crazy nine days between South Carolina and February 5. As a more conventional candidate, Clinton could have an advantage at this stage. After all, the conventional often works.
The email came in: Barack Obama Campaign about to Announce a Major Endorsement. Who could that be? Al Gore? The campaign was holding a conference call in minutes to break the news. I quickly called in. And the big catch turned out to be....Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.
This certainly won't turn the race. But one standard line for Senator Hillary Clinton has been that she has outdrawn Obama in senatorial endorsements. She had bagged ten; he had six. Now Obama has cut her lead by 25 percent. She better watch out!
In the conference call, Leahy gave one reason for picking Obama over Clinton and former Senator John Edwards:
I believe many around the world have lost respect for America....I think we can restore that respect. But we need a president who can reintroduce America to the world.
I asked the obvious question: why did Leahy think that Obama could better reintroduce America than Clinton?