The Presidential Voice,Part Three: Timing and Rhetoric

As I’m sure you’re aware, Barack Obama (D-IL) officially announced his intention of running for President in the 2008 election yesterday. There isn’t much suspense between when a potential candidate declares they are setting up an exploratory committee and when they announce they’re going ahead with their campaign, but don’t think for a moment that yesterday’s announcement isn’t significant. Senator Obama will be a key figure in American politics for years to come.
I was watching Tim Russert’s interview show on MSNBC last night and he was interviewing Terry McAuliffe (former DNC chair and current Hillary Clinton campaign chair) and he pointed out that Bill Clinton didn’t enter the 1992 election until October of 1991. Translate that fact to this year’s election cycle and the precedent is there for someone off the radar today entering the race 8 months from now. While I know “the event of the internet” has made it less and less likely for someone with presidential credentials to be even relatively unknown, the possibility remains. This might be a particularly hopeful thought to the Republican Party, considering their lackluster cast of candidates.
This is an interesting time for the candidates, too. While the most exciting time might be as we get closer to November 2008, this time period between candidates declaring their intentions and the actual primaries is rare. The candidates are messaging to define themselves which sometimes gets lost once the “eating of young” starts. I’ve always thought the most fascinating part about a Presidential election is when the non-incumbent party’s candidates shred each other to bits for the nomination, but this year both party’s are in that position of not having a predetermined candidate. The rhetoric today is not a foreshadowing of things to come. When Senator Obama says, “Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more — and it is time for our generation to answer that call” Hillary’s campaign will counter with something about the lack of experience in Washington. It’s all rhetoric and the toughest thing is to try to disseminate who the candidate really is through the message of the people behind the candidate. Barack Obama’s speech had a great deal of energy and genuineness to it, and I admire that. Like Reagan spinning the age question back on Mondale in the 1984 debate, Obama has spun the inexperience question to be a genuine message of change. I’ll be interested in the coming weeks to see who joins the Obama campaign.

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