Saturday, 8 November 2008

Obama wins again

OK, it's not quite as epic a victory as his election as President, but he topped my poll to find out people's views of the best US Presidential election campaign.

And in many ways it's a deserved victory. In fundraising, organisation and grassroots involvement, Obama's campaign was head and shoulders above anything else in recent US history.

I'm slightly surprised that nobody voted for JFK in 1960, as he seems to have created the same sort of excitement that Obama has this year. He also had to battle prejudice as well, with many people not wanting to vote for him due to his Catholic faith. I think it says a lot about how things have progressed on that front that Joe Biden is a Catholic but I don't recall that ever being mentioned during the campaign. I hope it will be a similar situation in 40 years time with ethnic minority candidates.

Lyndon Johnson's campaign in 1964 was certainly very impressive, and although you can only win in the circumstances you're in, he undoubtedly benefited from the wave of sympathy following JFK's assassination. For that reason, I don't think his campaign can really be seen as the best ever.

I was pleased that Jimmy Carter got one vote in my poll, as we sometimes forget just how impressive his campaign was. A complete Washington outsider from a smallish Southern state, he took on the Democratic Party establishment and won. And his campaign certainly inspired a lot of people to believe that things could change - a lesson there for Obama that the euphoria of a campaign doesn't always translate into an effective presidency. And, good though it was, was it really the best campaign? No, not quite.

Clinton's campaign in 1992 was another terrific one and I note Caron's reasons for arguing for it as the best ever. Indeed, I remember watching Clinton's acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention with a friend and saying to him at its conclusion that the Democrats looked like a party whose time had come. Nevertheless, I think we should recognise that Clinton benefited tremendously from a significant third-party intervention and wouldn't have won without that. For that reason, I don't see it as the best ever.

So, that brings us down to Obama and Reagan. I have to say that I don't think there's much between them, but in the end my own vote went to Reagan in 1984. I think the 'Morning in America' theme was close to being genius (and there were echoes of it in Obama's campaign, particularly in his infomercial). It captured a mood in the country which less than a decade before had been embroiled in Watergate, Vietnam and economic turmoil. Furthermore, unlike all the other campaigns, this was Reagan's second. It's fairly easy to portray yourself as a fresh, inspirational figure in your first run for President, but far more difficult when you have a record to defend. And, unlike Obama and Clinton, Reagan wasn't really running against a poor campaign from the opposition - Mondale's campaign was at least competent if not very inspirational.

So, although Obama won my poll, I think Reagan wuz robbed.

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