Obama the New Frontrunner

4 01 2008

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How does a black man with a funny sounding name that most people could hardly pronounce two years ago win in a state that’s more than 90 percent white? I won’t even attempt to try to answer that. But the important thing to keep in mind here is that black folk and liberal whites who were skeptical of his chances of winning over other white votes need to rethink their reasons for not supporting his candidacy.

While it is true that Obama win was among Democratic Iowa voters, but I don’t think Iowa ever elected a black politician to anything. That alone makes this win a huge accomplishment. And judging by the fact that Obama, Edwards and Clinton each received about 30 percent or better means that a great deal of new voters, independents, and Republicans were attracted to the Democratic crop yet Obama won by 8 or 9 percentage points.

And, again he did it in a state that is 2.3 percent black. That’s absolutely phenomenal.

But Obama supporters should take note of the fact that they have now walk into different kind of uncharted territory: frontrunner status. This is a very different dynamic from what we have seen so far. Just as Senator Hillary Clinton had her lead chewed up by an Obama-Edwards tandem from about mid-November onward, Obama will now have the bullseye on his forehead and the Clinton-Edwards tandem will be unleashed during the next four weeks. Plus, with fewer candidates in the field those criticism will get more media coverage.

I expect Edwards to continue to beat the drum of Democratic populism, and attempt to portray Obama’s rhetoric of unity as the rationale of spineless appeasement. Clinton will compliment this familiar line of attack by trying to characterize Obama as naive, inexperienced and again overly conciliatory. Such criticisms may fall flat since they are not necessarily new, but in this highly compressed early primary season they are bound to be aggressively amplified by rival campaigns, conservative pundits, and conflict loving journalists.

By the same token, it will be interesting to see how Fox News, talk radio, and the conservative blogosphere react to Obama’s victory. Will they hold their fire just enough to have a wounded Obama Democratic nominee go head to head against former Governors Romney or Huckabee? Or will they instead try to echo the Clinton Edwards criticisms to bring Obama down to elevate a much more polarizing Hillary?

I suppose we will all have to simply stay tuned for more answers.

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