Monday, April 09, 2007

Frontrunners Losing Ground In 2008 Campaign

Both the Democratic and Republican front runners, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani have been losing ground in the polls in the first months of the developing 2008 presidential campaign.

On the Democratic side, both Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards have been gaining on Clinton. They are about even in a solid second place in what appears at this point to be a three-candidate race.

On the Republican side, all of the leading three candidates, Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have encountered adverse reports that constitute setbacks, and there is new talk about other prospective candidates, such as Fred Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee. Polls show a substantial number of Republicans are not satisfied with their presidential candidates.

All of these developments are signs of an unusually early and volatile presidential race, the volatility compounded by the fact that no sitting president or vice president is in the running and the antipathy in the country to the Iraq war. (By coincidence, the L.A. Times runs an article today by Mark Barabak making many of the same points as this blog. I had not read it, when this blog was written).

Some of the lesser known candidates, such as Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, have been reaping good publicity, the able Richardson with a visit this week to North Korea, but generally Richardson and others are so far back in the frontloaded primaries that their chances to actually emerge as strong candidates seem negligable.

With Clinton, her problems with being a woman confronted by doubts that a woman can win have only grown in the last two months. Her voice is criticized, her nuanced position on the war, her relationship to former President Bill Clinton. It is even suggested by some that the country has had enough of both the Clintons and the Bushes. Between the families, the Presidency seems to have been in the same two hands since 1988. When all these factors are added to the fact that both Obama and Edwards appeal to a lot of people as idealists and strong personalities and both have been able to raise substantial campaign contributions, and you pose a series of problems Clinton may be hard put to overcome. In other words, the chances are she might slide further. Her name identification iand her numerous campaign contributions are not proving as decisively favorable as she had hoped earlier.

With Giuliani, there are signs that as some voters learn more about his past record, his problems with recommending Bernard Kerik, who turned out to have family mob connections to President Bush as a director of home security, and even the embarrassing information that his wife, Judith Nathan, has had three husbands not two, and you see his support diminishing. Giuliani in recent interviews has been smiling too much and is not always credible. There are signs too that his splendid reputation from the events of 9/11 may be subject to attack, just as Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam war record of heroism was subject to second thoughts and misunderstandings he was hardput to confront. It may be ominous for Giuliani that the firefighters union has turned against him.

But in the Republican race, McCain has also suffered recent reverses. His optimism about the Iraq war, and especially overstatements made on a visit to a Baghdad market about the improved security there, plus impressions that he is aging and not as candid as he was in the past, have hurt him. Just a day after a well-guarded McCain walked through the market, 21 merchants were killed there in terrorist attacks. In short, his optimism about the war appeared misplaced.

Now, with Romney, he has been embarrassed by reports that he exaggerated his experience as a hunter, when he has only hunted twice, and then, perhaps, without a license.

Journalists covering the campaigns on both the Republican and Democratic sides are hard put to find new angles with many months to go until the first primaries. The result is quite a bit of nitpicking and concentration on petty negativism.

All this makes for unpredictability as the races go forward.



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