President Obama?

In a move that’s not a huge surprise to anyone who follows US politics, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination. Though it strikes me as a little early in the game timing-wise, the announcement itself has been speculated on for some time in both the American and Canadian media. Back in late 2006, George on The Hour even did an interview with an Obama supporter in the States after nothing more than a trip by the Senator to New Hampshire … even the speculation of his announcement was big news.

But now that its official, its worth taking a step back and looking at the big picture, IMO … and for the record, had I been in Barack’s shoes, I might have made a very different decision for some reasons that I don’t think people are considering. Don’t get me wrong here … everything I see about Obama seems to be a positive. He’s charismatic, intelligent, well-spoken, humble, and friendly, but at the same time, his grasp of policy and ruthless attention to truth make him a formidable debate speaker. From the strict perspective of ability and personal character, I don’t see any problems with Obama at all, and I think he’s be a credit to the institution of President of the USA.

Having said all that, there are other considerations in Presidential races. This is not a fair fight where the most qualified candidate wins the day … this is a back-alley brawl with few (if any) rules and where the final vote is often cast as much on fear and mob-mentality as it is on candidate qualifications. As important a question as qualifications are, an equally important one in the real-world of elections is the question of electibility. Even beyond the obvious question of outright racists who will publicly declare they’ll never support a black candidate, there are serious questions about how susceptible he would be to attack ads.

I don’t want people to take this as a criticism of Obama … I think he is an amazing breath of fresh air from everything I’ve seen. But unlike other places (in Canada, for instance, many ex-PM’s and ex-party leaders have continued to sit in the Commons as ‘lowly’ MP’s for their ridings for decades after their ‘glory days’), a loss in a Presidential race in the US is often the kiss of political death. Sure, folks like Leiberman can vie for the nomination cycle after cycle, but when a guy like Kerry wins the nod, makes it to the big show, and loses, how often do you see him do anything significant again? Strikes me as a one shot deal, if you actually win the nomination … lose and your out.

In the case of Obama, and what I think are serious elecibility issues anyways, I worry that the early surge may damage his future hopes. He is still a young man, and he has several more elections he could fight … I’m not sure this is the right time for him to leave the very good work he is doing building a name and a reputation in the Senate to take the risk of a Presidential campaign. I’ll certainly watch with interest, and I truly hope I am wrong, but the sad truth is I don’t think that Americans in 2008 will elect Obama as President, and I think that his running can only harm the democratic futures, and his own. This isn’t because I think he wouldn’t be good in the job. Quite the contrary … I don’t want to him to hurt his chances by pushing into things too soon. Who knows what the world will look like in 2012 or 2016, but in 2008 I don’t see Obama getting elected, and I worry he is harming his future with such an early run.

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