Barack Obama: Imagine the Future & Reflections on The VP Debate

It’s easy to be amazed by Barack Obama’s meteoric ascent. If someone had told you five years ago that a 47 year old African American with limited experience in public office who was more liberal than Hillary Clinton was in the driver’s seat for the 2008 presidential race, would you have believed it?

I read something the other day, though, that really captured my imagination. The writer pointed out Obama’s relative youth and said the senator from Illinois was going to be a factor on the national scene for years to come. I’ve just focused on what is going to happen this November—it hadn’t really occurred to me to think about where Obama goes if he falls short next month.

Obama is young, presidentially speaking, so he could certainly run in 2012 if 2008 doesn’t go his way. However, the Democratic Party hasn’t shown much of a willingness to give their standard bearers a second chance recently (just ask Al Gore after 2000 or John Kerry after 2004). And Obama’s road would be much more difficult in 2012 because the Clintons will be in his way again. If it comes to that, they won’t underestimate him a second time.

Another hurdle for Obama in 2012 would be that his message of change will not seem so fresh. He’ll have a longer track record, and he consistently votes Democrat. I saw a poll recently that said only 44% of Americans realized Obama was pro choice. His record will be more apparent in four more years. Many people will like his stance on the issues; many people won’t, but either way it will make his “post partisan” image a little harder to maintain.

So this might really be Senator Obama’s best chance to be President. Or not. Twelve years from now he’ll have a lot more experience, and he’ll still be a great public speaker. But who knows what twelve years will bring? Maybe one of Ronald Reagan’s sons will run for President.

Reflections on the VP debate: Senator Joe Biden did well. He was cool under pressure, he went on the offensive, and generally handled himself as one might expect from a career Washington insider who has run for the presidency twice himself. Governor Sarah Palin also did well, especially given her inexperience in the national spotlight. She spent more time on the defensive, but that seemed to be mostly because of some of John McCain’s positions over the years. She was in a better position when she could focus on her own record as a leader. Biden had a strong command of the facts and figures; Palin did a good job of relating to regular Americans. Both parties can be proud of how their VP candidates did, which brings the question back to where it starts with a VP candidate: Which one does a better job of broadening the appeal of their party’s ticket? Hard to say.  Biden’s insider status has given him more job training within the Washington culture, but it also undermines Obama’s basic theme of change.  Palin doesn’t have that Washington experience, but she does broaden McCain’s base.