Friday, April 27, 2007

Governors vs Senators

From the Guardian:
"Hillary Clinton emerged as the clear winner from the first debate between the Democratic candidates in the 2008 presidential race - ahead of her main rival Barack Obama - according to those present in the audience.

She appeared to be the most comfortable of the eight runners in the 90-minute televised debate from the South Carolina university campus as she dealt with a series of questions ranging from how she would handle another terrorist attack on the US to her vote in 2002 backing the invasion of Iraq."
I didn't see the debate and I dare say Mrs Clinton did a fine job but I doubt she'll ever have to deal with a terrorist attack because I don't think she'll become President of the United States.

It's not just that Clinton is a divisive figure. Even without this, she has the same disadvantage as her rival Barack Obama: they're both Senators - and Senators have a terrible record in Presidential elections.

In my life-time, the only Senator who has then gone on to successfully win the race for the White House was Richard Nixon. Governors, in contrast, have been much more successful. Post-Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush Jnr were all elected as Governors prior to becoming President.

It's no coincidence. Regardless of the reality - being one where Bill Clinton was the first President since the war to not have come from a wealthy family - American Presidential elections are characterised by what Christopher Hitchens called 'plebian elitism': the prospective presidential candidate, regardless of how blue-blooded their background, is obliged to present himself as an ordinary joe who is outside the 'Washington machine' to the electorate. To do otherwise would be electoral suicide.

The disadvantage Senators have here is obvious. It's difficult to imagine any figure more entwined in the Washington machine than the average Senator - and while the plebian claims of someone like GW Bush were and are obviously absurd, it is still an act that is more convincing coming from a Governor than a Senator. The question is, then, why do the Democrats keep picking them as candidates?

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