Saturday, July 14, 2007

What is a 'trivial' candidate anyway?

That's a good question, following an open mic exchange between Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and current third place candidate John Edwards at the conclusion of last week's NAACP debate. The exchange, according to CNN, went like this:

The open microphone caught the following exchange:

Clinton: “We’ve got to talk, because they are just being trivialized.”

Edwards: “They are not serious.”

Clinton: “No.”

Clinton: “I think there was an effort by our campaigns to do that. That got somehow detoured. We got to get back to it, because that’s all we’re going to do.”

Clinton: “Our guys should talk.”

This is insulting to those of us who plan to vote in the Democratic primary.

To begin with, the field of eight, including the two of them, plus Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson has already been 'selected' by the powers that be from among dozens of announced candidates. To cite one example (a ten year old who clearly knows the score), ever hear about Susie Flynn, Democratic candidate for President? I thought not. Of course the field of eight could be defended in that its members did meet certain qualifying standards before being invited to debates, having eiher been elected at some time to the United States Congress, the United States Senate or as Governor of a state (though Richardson is the only governor and he would qualify anyway as a former congressman.) But exceptions to that bar have been made in the past, as for example four years ago when former General Wesley Clark and civil rights leader Al Sharpton were included in the debates. However, one can certainly argue that members of congress or the Senate or state Governors have been close enough to the top that they have a realistic idea of what the Presidency entails and what it would take to win a campaign for President. Not 'trivial,' in other words. And yes, I do consider all of them to be serious candidates.

Further, among those eight, the only reason why Clinton, Barack Obama and Edwards are the front runners at all is because the national press gave them the most coverage, even before they announced. So the idea that they can claim that they are somehow 'more serious' than the rest of the candidates is also pretty insulting. They have better poll numbers and better fundraising numbers because the news organizations that cover politics assumed they would be the frontrunners before the campaign, which in term gave them higher name recognition which led to higher poll numbers and that in turn becomes a positive cycle of positive publicity, fundraising and polling (though if they don't meet expectations, that can just as quickly become a negative cycle-- just ask John McCain.) But as we get closer to the primary season, voters want to hear from all the candidates and make up their own minds, not just based on poll numbers. As it is, the fundraising advantage that the early frontrunners have will still give them an advantage early next year (the meaningful primary season this year runs from mid-January through February 5). But even a candidate who is now buried in the polls can and has jumped up and made a move at the right moment. Heck, Edwards of all people should know that, since he came from way behind just to finish second in 2004. For that matter, while Clinton is clearly in first place at this point and Obama is clearly in second place in the Democratic primary field, Edwards' hold on third place, while still a given, is not all that secure as Bill Richardson has been moving upward for the past couple of months to the point that he is now much closer to Edwards than he is to Biden, Dodd, Kucinich or Gravel, the neighborhood where his poll numbers were residing about three months ago.

What this shows really is that there is a certain amount of conceit among some of the front runners that 'they' are 'it.' Though to his credit, Obama kept his distance from that exchange between Clinton and Edwards.

And as we all know, pride cometh before the fall.


Anonymous said...

To say Gen Clark was trivial tells me you are not in touch with reality. Gen. Clark had a better record of first, seconds and thirds in the primaries than Edwards. Get your facts straight!!!

Eli Blake said...


Get YOUR facts straight. Read my post in its entirety. When did I ever claim that Wesley Clark was a trivial candidate? And FYI, I voted for him in the Arizona primary last time (though it didn't do any good, since the 2004 primary set up was designed to ensure a quick nomination, and that is what it produced-- and a candidate whose flaws we only learned after the fact.

shrimplate said...

When I listened to the recording I got the distinct impression that when Edwards said "They're not serious" he was NOT referring to the candidates themselves, but to the moderators.

I can imagine roundtables in which smaller groups of candidates, say Clinton, Kucinich, and Biden all face off on a narrow range of topics.

That is not to say that I'd approve of segregating the so-called lesser candidates from the big-money poll leaders.

Of course the media, particulary rightwing hate-radio, wants to present this incident as insider carping, but I actually think Clinton and Edwards wish to present the Democratic field as a political juggernaut.

They all deserve to be in the Whitehouse.