So now Giuliani is thinking about entering the race.
Forgive me if I yawn; another big ho-hum. Giuliani’s time was last time, and he lost momentum, partly because he just didn’t seem to want it. If he enters now, it’s an afterthought.
It strikes me that Obama is exceptionally lucky in his opponents. There is no question in my mind that he would be extremely vulnerable in 2012 to a strong candidate, but it’s not at all certain that such a candidate will enter the fray. This has been Obama’s pattern for his entire political career, with a single exception (the only election he ever lost): the primary in which he ran against the popular US Congressman Bobby Rush and was roundly defeated. As Bobby Rush said:
He was blinded by his ambition…Obama has never suffered from a lack of believing that he can accomplish whatever it is he decides to try. Obama believes in Obama.
It was the first and only time (except for the presidential race of 2008) that Obama had a bona fide opponent. In his earlier primary race (the Democratic primaries are the real battle in the Chicago districts where Obama first cut his political teeth) he managed to use legal shenanigans to disqualify the entire field and ran unopposed (see this if you’re unfamiliar with the story—it’s a lulu). After the Rush interlude, from which Obama learned how vulnerable he could be, his opponents in his Senate campaign (both Republican and Democrat) mysteriously collapsed in response to the unveiling of previously-sealed records that showed their private lives in a bad light.
I’ve written about this phenomenon previously, but it bears repeating:
…[I]t later came out that Obama’s campaign was directly involved in what the press did to torpedo Hull’s chances (and lest you accuse me of right-wing extremism, please note that the link and quote is from the NY Times):
[Obama’s campaign manager] Axelrod is known for operating in this gray area, part idealist, part hired muscle. It is difficult to discuss Axelrod in certain circles in Chicago without the matter of the Blair Hull divorce papers coming up. As the 2004 Senate primary neared, it was clear that it was a contest between two people: the millionaire liberal, Hull, who was leading in the polls, and Obama, who had built an impressive grass-roots campaign. About a month before the vote, The Chicago Tribune revealed, near the bottom of a long profile of Hull, that during a divorce proceeding, Hull’s second wife filed for an order of protection. In the following few days, the matter erupted into a full-fledged scandal that ended up destroying the Hull campaign and handing Obama an easy primary victory. The Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp had “worked aggressively behind the scenes” to push the story. But there are those in Chicago who believe that Axelrod had an even more significant role — that he leaked the initial story.
And then there’s the matter of Obama’s next opponent, Jack Ryan, to whom the same thing happened. I must be careful here; there is documentation that Obama’s staff pushed and promoted the Hull revelations by the press, but there is no evidence so far of the same involvement occurring with the Ryan outing. However, unless it’s a strange coincidence (always a possibility), it is mighty suspicious; Obama’s staff certainly had the tools, the connections, the motivation, and the experience.
Here’s a discussion of Axelrod’s modus operandi, which may sound familiar:
What kind of campaign can we expect from Axelrod in the general election? Overtly positive themes and public posturing complemented by covertly delievered and mercilessly negative “stiletto” attacks against key people around John McCain that are not directly traceable to Axelrod. The model for this strategy is the previous Obama senatorial campaign in Illinois, where Obama’s two most formidible, centimillionaire, rivals, Democrat Blair Hull and Republican Jack Ryan were personally destroyed in the primaries when salacious details from their sealed divorce records were mysteriously leaked to the media, which then pressured for their full release, notably in the pages of the Chicago Tribune.
So Obama’s previous good luck seems to have been some combination of dirty tricks on his part and actual good luck. It’s unclear what the ratio of the first to the second was; suffice to say there was a goodly amount of each.
Which brings us to the present. The relative weakness of the Republican field may be an accident. Or it may be fear of the smear machine keeping the stronger candidates away. Everyone has something in his or her past that could lead to trouble if the harsh and partisan spotlight of the media were turned on it. But Obama, who’s got plenty of skeletons in his closet, feels immune. He knows the MSM has always covered for him, doing the opposite of what it does to his opponents.
Get ready, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.