Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why Hillary Will Probably Win

Note: I originally composed this for Hog, then thought that, because of the advocacy component, it should probably go up at BlueOregon. But I'm still posting it here, since it fits in with the other posts I've put up lately.

George Will doesn't
get very much right anymore, but when he told George Stephanopooulos the primaries were "already in the fourth inning," he was on the money. It may only be February, and most voters may not be planning to tune into the election for another year, but Hillary Clinton already has a sizeable advantage that lesser candidates will find nearly impossible to overcome. There's a little wiggle room for Obama and Edwards, but not much, and it's going to fade fast. By summer, we will be in a two-person race with a dark horse candidate (ala Dean '03) trying to hang on.

The reason? Money and resources. Primaries require vast infusions of cash for advertising and staffers on the ground. This will cost millions for every state primary a candidate seriously competes in. There are only so many people who can give that kind of money, and a relatively small pool of staffers with the kind of chops to win elections. And so, while it may only be February, Hillary is doing her best to corner the market and deliver an early coup de grĂ¢ce to her competition:
Last night, the New York Democrat invited about 70 top fundraisers from around the country to a reception at her Washington home. The guest list included such major Democratic donors as Haim Saban, a Hollywood studio investor, Alan J. Patricof, a New York financier, and Kevin O'Keefe, a Chicago lawyer.

The high-dollar rainmakers committed to collect at least $250,000 each during the presidential campaign for Clinton, and many have pledged $1 million, participants said. In addition, each agreed to raise $50,000 by the end of this month to bolster the campaign's first-quarter report due at the end of March.
Hillary has enormous institutional advantages: thanks to Bill, her Rolodex Razr has the number of every major Democratic donor and political hack in the country. Money is attracted to power, not ideals, and Hillary is very strong. Being an early funder for the next president gives the kind of access the big players want. And of course, the more Hillary raises, the more she looks like a sure bet. By summer, major donors will have selected their (wo)man and candidates who aren't considered serious will find that the wells have gone dry. Finally, at a certain point, the Democratic establishment will have to pick sides, and if team Hillary is far out in front, she will be able to count on institutional party support, PAC, and special interest backing.

As they appeal to donors, Edwards and Obama are trying to make the case that they can challenge Hillary, and it's likely that one will out-raise the other substantially, relegating the loser to dark horse status. In March, we'll have our first look at fundraising totals and Hillary's goal is to demonstrate stunning superiority. By April first, most of the Dems will be dead men walking. Hillary isn't a shoo-in, but the time to derail her is running short.

Speed Bumps
A few variables may slow Hillary down. The most obvious is Hillary: she is respected, but she isn't loved. She's a polarizing figure even among Democrats. If she manages to win the nomination, it will be by running a stellar campaign, not because there's a groundswell of support. Other factors make her less than ideal: her pro-war stance and lingering questions about whether a woman can win the White House. Ultimately, some donors will wait and see if another candidate can make a charge. This is also the case with staffers--Obama and Edwards are more inspirational figures and will find talented people who can't work for Hillary.

The grassroots will not support Hillary. She's a corporatist and a hawk, and she lacks personal appeal. Dean demonstrated that by reaching beyond the big players and the party apparatchiks, money and talent are available. Obama seems the most likely to tap into a well of support, and he might raise $30-40 million in small donations, as Dean did. The grassroots are the last to lose the faith, and they can breathe life into a candidate that looks dead otherwise. I can't imagine a candidate winning with the grassroots alone, but combined with minority institutional backing and weak support for Hillary, it could make the difference.

The final question mark is Al Gore. If he runs, he will match Hillary name for name in donor contacts and staff talent. This not only advantages Gore, but other candidates who are in jeopardy of being crushed under the Clinton juggernaut. Gore is the only candidate who can enter late and still make up the difference, and he is the only candidate who can radically alter the political and media landscape by running. Gore isn't a shoo-in, either, but he's the one candidate who can match Hillary in each of her strengths.

If you back someone other than Hillary Clinton, now is the time to get involved. I'll link a few sites here so you can go find out how to help other campaigns. Don't delay--

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