While Jason Zengerle wonders what will happen to Barack Obama's supporters if he loses, I'm wondering what happens to Obama himself. Good things, arguably: Given the campaign he's run and the kind of fervor he's generated, I think he's better-positioned for a future run at the Presidency than any failed primary candidate since Ronald Reagan (that name again!) after he lost to Ford 1976.
Think about it this way: If Hillary loses the general election, Obama presumably becomes the media's go-to-Democrat, and thus the face of the party, in a McCain or Romney Administration, and he would be far and away the front-runner, I would imagine, for the nomination in 2012. If Hillary wins, on the other hand, he'll be in a position not unlike John McCain vis-a-vis George W. Bush after 2000, except he'll be younger, more charismatic, and possessed of a much larger and more devoted core of supporters in his own party than McCain has ever enjoyed in the GOP. Which is to say, he'll be able to play the above-the-fray, trans-partisan figure whose support President Hillary needs but can't take for granted - the role McCain played for much of the Bush Administration - without having to do nearly so much of the base-shoring-up spadework McCain's been forced to attempt in his quest to win the '08 nomination. If Hillary's first term is a disaster, one can almost imagine Obama attempting to challenge her for the nomination in 2012; more plausibly, though, if her administration runs for two relatively successful terms, he'll be ideally positioned to run Sarkozy-style in 2016 as the candidate of continuity and change, without any of the baggage that a Vice President Bayh or Webb or Richardson will doubtless pick up over two terms in Clintonland.
All of this assumes that a Clinton-Obama ticket for this fall is out of the question. I tend to think it is, for a variety of reasons; not least among them is the fact that even if Hillary offered him the Veep's slot, Obama might well have a better chance of being President in the long run if he turned it down.
Photo by Flickr user an agent used under a Creative Commons license.
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