No tie, but worse: No pin! (via calij brown, Flickr)
There is not a shadow of a doubt: Even if Hillary Clinton wins the Pennsylvania primary tomorrow, Barack Obama will emerge as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Presidential election sooner or later. But his lead in delegates and at the party base might not save him from doing something that had seemed unimaginable for the Democratic party only a couple of months ago: Screwing things up and leaving the G.O.P. another four years in the White House.
Not that John McCain has become an extraordinarily strong candidate in the last couple of weeks – quite to the contrary: His U.S.”heritage” tour gave the impression of an nostalgic old uncle dropping by to visit places of the past and his economic speech has left many wondering whether the deficit George W. Bush will have left might not be the worst thing that could happen to the American budget. There are two attributes that have hurt Mr Obama’s case: Him being elitist and him being unpatriotic.
If this sounds Kerryan to you, you might be right: As John F. Kerry was depicted as a flip-flopping, windsurfing liberal in the Presidential campaign 2004. Mr. Obama’s latest remarks and his symbolism (or lack of) have become the talk of the nation – or at least of the conservative pundit nation.
First, Mr. Obama attributed his problems in getting voters in Pennsylvania to blue-collar small-town-voters whom he portrayed as narrow-minded, churchgoing gun nuts. Then, at a horribly misguided TV debate with Mrs. Clinton, he had problems explaining why he is not wearing a flag pin on his suit.
To Europeans, making these issue a problem out of this must seem crazy and far away from reason (but is it really?). Still, becoming American President requests not only stamina and a readiness to bring on populism, it also requires the ability to suggest to voters that you would be the guy to have BBQ with or to have a beer while watching football. Though you can imagine having Mr. McCain on your couch telling you old stories from Vietnam (or worse, singing “bomb Iran” after having a few beers), a lot of Americans would probably have problems to imagine Barack Obama sitting on the couch without getting political or laying out a vision for the country. But “Yes, he can” you might argue – still, Mr. Obama might be faced by a conservative media storm painting him as elitist, pointing to his Harvard law school degree and his wife’s 300,000 $ “community outreach” job.
What could be Mr Obama’s tactic then? If he wants to get the ordinary voter behind him, he might have to become less of a charismatic comet and more of an ordinary guy who can lay back. Dancing to two tunes, the visionary and the ordinary, might bring up new risks to his campaign, though: Being authentic to John Doe and not losing the visionary spark his die-hard-supporters worship him for could be the toughest challenge lying ahead for the Senator from Illinois.