Obama and the base

Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency has revived. Until
recently Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead in the polls and was
starting to seem unstoppable. But Mr Obama has pulled ahead in Iowa and
level in New Hampshire, the states that vote first in the primaries. He
is gaining ground again nationally. The television debates, in which he
performed poorly, are behind him. What matters now is the ability to
move a crowd and the energy of campaign staff on the ground. On the
first, Mr Obama has no equal in this contest. On the second, he has no
grounds for complaint. He is back in the race.



But here is an odd
thing: the Democratic party’s progressive base has mixed feelings about
this revival. What is their problem, one wonders? What could be more
exciting or more transformative, from their point of view, than this
candidate? Mr Obama is a clever, reflective and engaging man; he has
dedicated his impressive intellect to a liberal political vision; he
has a voting record in the Senate that puts him well to the left of Mrs
Clinton; he makes, nonetheless, a strong appeal to the centre; he
carries none of the baggage of the Clinton dynasty; and, in a country
still riven by race, he just happens to be black. What’s not to like?



The
main answer is not differences over policy – though it is true that Mr
Obama’s positions in the campaign have tended to be in the centre, at
least compared with his Senate voting record.



You can read the rest of this new column for the FT here.

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