The Rise and Fall of Barack Obama
by markjay, Sun Mar 16, 2008 at 04:48:18 AM EDT
The skinny kid with the funny name from Hawaii had a great run. By forcing all four other candidates off the ballot, including the woman who had reached out to help him, he maneuvered his way into the Illinois State Legislature. There, he found an extortionist and money launderer who channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions his way, while helping land a plum real estate deal. Then, in spite of an undistinguished career in the state legislature where he repeatedly pushed the wrong button on votes, he found another backer in the Illinois Senate who funneled dozens of bills his way to sponsor -- even though others had done the groundwork for years and were thus robbed of the recognition they deserved -- thus padding Obama's credentials for a national Senate run, in exchange for Obama later pushing through $300 million of earmarks in return.
Once in the Senate, he found a couple of other prominent supporters who were anxious to tear down the Clintons and, lo and behold, the first term Senator was running for president, in spite of earlier promising he would complete his first term and admitting he was too inexperienced to seek national office.
And, the funny thing is, he came so close. Riding on his oratorical skills and the backing of one of the wealthiest media magnates in the world, he put together a coalition of African Americans and and upper-income voters. Despite receiving a minority of votes cast by whites, Latinos, and Asians, and losing 7 of the largest 8 states in the nation (all except his home state of Illinois), his big margins in some Southern States and midwestern caucus states gave him a decent lead in delegates over Hillary Clinton. By stalling efforts at a revote in Florida, he looked like he had a good chance of keeping his lead in delegates and popular votes into the Democratic convention, where he and his supporters could extortion votes from remaining Super Delegates by threatening not to support Hillary Clinton if nominated.
Though potential road blocks emerged, particularly with the start of the Rezko trial, the media continued to treat Obama with kid gloves at the same time that it pilloried Hillary Clinton. All that started to change though as the race drew to an end, with Obama having emerged as the frontrunner. In the end, it was the controversy over his pastor and spiritual advisor, Jeremiah Wright, that brought Obama down. A series of videos emerged -- sold and promoted by Wright's church itself -- which showed Wright angrily denouncing "the United States of White America" and "USKKKA", which he said, purposely introduced AIDS into the Black community and brought the Sept. 11 attacks on itself. Wright also said that Hillary Clinton was not deserving of the presidency because "she's never been called a nigger," and proclaimed "God Damn America" as an alternative to God bless America. The repeated broadcast of Wright angrily making these pronouncements becamed seared in the nation's consciousness.
Obama attempted to rescue himself by criticizing Wright's remarks, dropping Wright from the campaign's African American religious committee, and implying that he was not aware of these stands until recently. However, given that Obama had attended Wright's church for 20 years, been married by him, had his children baptized by him, donated tens of thousands of dollars per year to his church, and lauded him in his book, Audacity of Hope (appropriately named for one of Wright's slogans), the public wasn't buying it. Obama's popularity among every group but African Americans sank like a stone.
The first bad news came on April 22 in Pennsylvania, a state that the Obama campaign itself projected to lose by only 5 points. In the end, Obama lost by 20, getting barely a quarter of the white vote. Guam tilted for Clinton as well, and then the crushing blow came on May 6, when Obama narrowly lost two sizeable states he had projected to win, Indiana and North Carolina. Not unexpectedly, West Virginia and Kentucky went by huge margins for Clinton, who then squeezed out a win in Oregon as well. Clinton picked up dozens of delegates in a big Puerto Rico win, and won a narrow victory in the Michigan revote as well. The Montana and South Dakota primaries were close, but by that time the result was foretold.
Clinton's string of victories had pulled her close to Obama in both the delegates and popular vote, with Obama's margin in both dependent on exclusion of Florida. Obama had fallen far behind in the national polls, both directly against Clinton and in comparison with Clinton in match-ups with McCain. His string of defeats, including in states he had been expected to win, and his low level of approval among whites, Hispanics, and Asians, indicated that he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the national election. Every day, more and more super delegates were announcing their support for Hillary. Her nomination was secured. The only question that remained was whether Obama would maintain enough support from pledged and super delegates to force Hillary to accept him as her VP. If so, he still had a chance to redeem himself and survive to run again another day.