Waiting for Obama?

November 2nd, 2006

You may recall that I recently posted an item about a hopelessly premature (yet fun!) article handicapping the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Since then I’ve seen I don’t know how many stories about Barack Obama‘s chances in 2008, his chances in 2012, his chances of curing cancer . . . okay, I made that last one up. Talking about this with a couple of friends of mine, I was led to make some comparisons:

  • George W. Bush had been governor of Texas for six years by the time of the 2000 election.
  • Bill Clinton reached the White House having served for 12 years as governor of Arkansas (plus two years as its attorney general).
  • George H. W. Bush had a national political resume as long as your arm before he won the 1988 election.
  • Ronald Reagan had been governor of California for eight years in the 1960s and 1970s before he was elected President.
  • Jimmy Carter had been governor of Georgia for only four years by the time he won the 1976 election — but he didn’t win by any huge margin, plus the Democrats had a huge advantage in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
  • Richard Nixon had been nationally prominent for more than 15 years by the 1968 election.
  • Lyndon Johnson was a six-term representative and then a two-term senator before being elected Vice President in 1960.
  • John Kennedy is thought of as having rocketed into the political stratosphere by the time he prevailed in the 1960 election. But despite his youth, he had already served three terms as a representative and eight years as a senator by then.
  • Dwight Eisenhower never held elective office before he won the 1952 election, but he had come to international prominence during the Allied campaigns of 1943-45, so he had been in the spotlight for nearly a decade by then.

Enough for now. My point is that you have to go a looooong way back to find a politician who came to national prominence less than four years before being elected President. Even Woodrow Wilson, who was elected President after only two years as New Jersey’s governor, benefited from (1) the third-party candidacy of Theodore Roosevelt, and (2) many years as a prominent scholar and writer, including about a decade as one of the most prominent university administrators in the country.

Now, Barack Obama himself spent eight years in the Illinois state senate, so he’s hardly a newcomer to politics. But, judging from all of this — not to mention the political flameouts of others like John Edwards — I just wonder if the Democratic Party as a whole should be thinking “Obama 2012” rather than “Obama 2008”.

Then again, if you had the chance for the historic upset win . . .

4 Responses to “Waiting for Obama?”

  1. ac Says:

    So where do you come down, Tim. Pro-2012 or pro-2008. Mark Halperin over at ABC has a new book out on the 2008 election.

  2. tewalkerjr Says:

    This is the Obama-favorable scenario I suggested the other day to a couple of buddies who are political junkies:

    “–a Hillary/Obama ticket (in that order) in 2008; Hillary loses; Obama looks great because he registers tons of voters, campaigns well; Hillary becomes a proven loser instead of merely someone who gives Dems like me the heebie-jeebies.
    –Obama becomes the heir presumptive for 2012; locks up lots of money early; G.O.P. vulnerable after 12 years in office . . .”

    That drew nods of agreement. I think it’s plausible.

  3. What I’ve Learned So Far » Blog Archive » Who’s the best U.S. president since World War II? Says:

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