Luck Isn’t Always Enough
Vol: 80 Issue: 10 Saturday, May 10, 2008
It seems all but certain now that 2008 see the end of not just one, but two American political dynasties. The Bush political dynasty, born out of the Reagan administration, and the Clinton dynasty, born out of dumb luck.
Bill Clinton had the dumb luck to be in the right place at the right time, just as the elder Bush’s popularity took a nose-dive thanks to a post-Gulf War mini-recession and his breaking of his famous campaign promise: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”
Even so, the Clinton dynasty could not have been, had Ross Perot not entered the race. Perot’s conservative third-party candidacy split off 19% of the popular vote — votes that would otherwise gone to George Bush.
Had Perot not run, Bush would have won 59-41%. Instead, Clinton lucked out, defeating Bush 41% to 38%,
Clinton became the first president to win the White House with less than 50% of the popular vote since Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912 third party candidacy divided the Republican vote between Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, handing the election to segregationist Woodrow Wilson.
The Clinton Dynasty was easily the luckiest in US history. Clinton arrived in Washington in time to claim all the benefits of victory in the Cold War, riding on the crest of the wave of Bush’s Gulf War victory, just at the dawn of the Internet Age.
The much-vaunted Clinton era of peace and prosperity was pure luck — the peace had been secured by Ronald Reagan and George Bush — the prosperity came from the discovery of a brand-new global marketplace on the internet.
Despite his historical luck, the Clinton dynasty would never have been had Ross Perot not entered a second time in the 1996 election — this time draining votes from challenger Bob Dole.
Clinton wasn’t able to muster a majority vote for his second term, either, defeating Bob Dole 49.2% to 40.7% (with Ross Perot getting the 8.4% difference.) Clinton’s political luck held even through the Lewinsky Affair, convincing him that the Clinton dynasty was good for another eight years with Hillary standing in for Bill.
But neither Clinton counted on Barack Obama.
Hillary doesn’t seem to realize that Clinton’s almost demonic run of luck has run out, continuing to insist that her candidacy still has a chance, despite the recent stampede of superdelegates to the Obama side.
Following Obama’s blow-out in North Carolina and his narrow defeat in Indiana, nine more superdelegates threw their support behind Obama, whereas Clinton picked up only one.
Hillary is now behind in the delegate count, the popular vote (even including Florida and Michigan) and leads Obama in the superdelegate count by a razor-thin 272.5 to 271.
The flow of delegates to Obama led ABC News and the New York Times to declare Obama in the lead among superdelegates. The New York Post called her toast in three-inch-high letters on Wednesday. University of Chicago political scientist John Mark Hansen declared the Clinton campaign ‘over’.
Hillary’s fund-raising efforts are drying up — her campaign admitted that Hillary was forced to inject five million of her own money to keep it afloat.
Every time Bill campaigns for her, he makes headlines by losing his temper, wagging his finger at critics, bragging about the ‘good old days’ and generally making an unattractive spectacle of himself.
The polling firm, “Rasmussen Reports” announced they weren’t even going to include Hillary in future election poll surveys, declaring that “the race is over, and Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.”
There are persistent rumors of an Obama/Clinton Democratic ‘Dream Ticket’. Obama may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s no idiot.
An Obama/Clinton ticket would put Hillary one heartbeat from the Oval Office — Obama’s heartbeat. (An Obama/Clinton White House would no doubt necessitate the creation of the position of Presidential Food Taster.)
Hillary may stay in the race to the bitter end, but the bitter end is in sight.
The Clintons’ luck appears to have run out. But even without Hillary, it doesn’t look like America’s luck has improved all that much.
It still leaves either McCain or Obama.