With the issues that face the nation as a result of Republican ineptitude along with their callous disregard for the truth, there is little reason that a Democratic nominee should not win the White House this year. But as we prepare for about two more weeks of a bitter fight leading up to the primaries on May 6th between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, we know that this will only produce more dust and confusion about the outcome of this nominating process. Democrats everywhere must wonder what is happening to our November goal? More importantly what is running through the minds of the powerful forces that run the Democratic Party?
One of the concerns that many have talked about for weeks is the ‘Bradley Effect’, or the ‘Ford Effect’ named after two prominent black democratic candidates who found themselves wining in the polls only to face racism from voters in the voting booths. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. both had huge poll numbers as voters said they would vote for them. They were on the way to winning as Governor of California and the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat respectively. But once voters were in the privacy of the voting booth things changed. America still has a very deep seated problem with racism. We like to pretend we are above it in certain ways, but sadly we are not. The results in the Pennsylvania Primary show us why that is true.
When exit polls for the Pennsylvania primary came out late Tuesday afternoon showing a puny lead of 3.6 points for Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama, Democratic leaders who desperately wanted her to end her candidacy were not cheered. They were sure that this overstated Sen. Obama’s strength, as exit polls nearly always have in urban, diverse states. How was it possible, then, that Sen. Clinton, given up for dead by her party’s establishment, won Pennsylvania in a 10-point landslide? The answer is the dreaded Bradley Effect.
Prominent Democrats only whisper when they compare Obama, the first African-American witha serious chance to be president, with what happened to Los Angeles’ black Mayor Tom Bradley a quarter of a century ago. Exit polls in 1982 showed Bradley ahead for governor of California, but he actually lost to Republican George Deukmejian. Pollster John Zogby (who correctly predicted Clinton’s double-digit win Tuesday) said what practicing Democrats would not. “I think voters face-to-face are not willing to say they would oppose an andan African-American candidate,” Zogby told me.
If there really is a Bradley Effect in 2008, Zogby sees November peril ahead for Obama in blue states. John McCain is a potential winner not only in Pennsylvania but also Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and can retain Ohio. But there seems no way Clinton can overtake Obama’s lead in delegates and the popular vote. For unelected super-delegates to deprive Obama of the nomination would so depress African-American general election votes that the nomination would be worthless. In a year when all normal political indicators point to Republican defeat on all fronts, the Democratic Party faces a deepening dilemma.
As Democrats ponder this situation there is again the idea that perhaps a third way can be found to stir all the hearts of the Democratic Party and bring unity for the fall campaign. That way is found in the candidacy of Al Gore. After all, he won the White House once before.
In the wake of Barack Obama’s defeat in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the Democrats have a huge problem. On the one hand, they have a front-runner who hasn’t won a single one of the major primary states other than his own, who’s a neophyte on the national scene, and who has enormous difficulties attracting the white, non-college educated voters he needs to win. On the other, there’s Hillary Clinton – a candidate who has greatly diminished her stature on the campaign trail, who faces huge liabilities of her own (in part because of her gender and in part because of Clinton fatigue), and whose chances of winning in November would require her to thread an Electoral College needle.
Furthermore, the long, bitter campaign has produced an untenable result: a large portion of each camp’s supporters now say they are unlikely to support the intra-party rival should their candidate not win the nomination.
Therefore, if the Democrats want to have their best chance to win an election in November that six months ago it looked like they couldn’t lose, they may have only one option at this point: they can turn to Al Gore.
In truth, Gore would be a stronger candidate in November than the two front-runners. He knows what it’s like to run in a tough presidential campaign, which, as we’re finding out with Obama, is a huge advantage. He is, after all, a Nobel Prize winner; he has the advantage of now running from outside Washington even though he’s as experienced as John McCain; and he might be able to pick off a Southern state or two. He’s already won once – with an asterisk. And he could put the electoral focus back on the economy and the Republican record of the past eight years – which it will rarely be as long as Clinton or Obama is the nominee.
Sure, Gore’s entry would obviously not be greeted with waves of enthusiasm by Obamasupporters. Still, he is quite popular with one of the Illinois senator’s principal constituencies: the young.
Where the Democratic Party heads, and on what shoulders the responsibilities will be placed, is not certain this morning by any means. But the needs of the nation are paramount. The removal of the entire Bush and Company team and mentality must be our goal this year.