Since I announced that I will be voting for Barack Obama, you would think that I would be bummed by the result of last week’s New Hampshire primary, which was unexpectedly won by Hillary Clinton. Far from it. I am glad that Clinton won the primary. I hope she wins some more primaries. I hope Obama does too and I even hope (although it seems an unlikely hope) that John Edwards wins some state primaries.
I have many motivations. First, I am tired of not having my vote count. It is bad enough that since I live in conservative Virginia its electoral votes will go for the Republican candidate for president. (This year may be an exception, since Virginia may be becoming a swing state.) Since I live in Virginia, my primary falls after Super Tuesday. Typically, after Super Tuesday the party’s nominee is clear. This means that unless the remaining states suddenly breaks ranks and decide en masse that they prefer someone else, whoever is leading after Super Tuesday has a lock on the nomination. This year, when I vote on February 12th, my vote may actually be meaningful.
I also think that candidate competition is healthy for the election process. Granted that the nomination process is grueling on the candidates, but you learn a lot about a candidate when they are under stress. In some ways, running for president is far harder than actually being president. The stress of a campaign tends to expose flaws in our candidates, which is a good thing. How many of us Democrats, after John Kerry had locked up the nomination, subsequently had buyer’s remorse? I know I did, particularly after Kerry later said rather inept things. With the competition of a longer primary campaign, perhaps these sorts of statements would have come out earlier. Thus better informed, we could have selected another candidate.
Given that the presidency is such an important position and given that Obama, Edwards and Clinton are all excellent candidates, I could be happy with any of them as our nominee. While I intend to vote for Obama, who knows? Perhaps he will make a misstep or I will learn something new about Clinton or Edwards that changes my mind. Democrats in New Hampshire learned something new about Hillary Clinton when she choked up last week. They apparently learned that underneath her often-icy veneer was a vulnerable woman. Some found comfort and felt fraternity in the revelation. It may have made the difference that led to her win.
Therefore, I will keep my fingers crossed that Super Tuesday will leave the picture of whom our nominee will be muddled. Perhaps a few of the candidates will even deign to pay visits to Northern Virginia where I live, so I can hear them speak live and form my own impressions.
In fact, I did meet Hillary Clinton once, in 1992. I happened to be in Atlanta at a conference at the time. The Clintons and Gores were in town to be seen working with Jimmy Carter on a Habitat for Humanity project. It was also apparently an opportunity to do some fundraising. Bill, Hillary, Al and Tipper all came out the hotel where the fundraising was planned. I shook all of their hands. However briefly it was nice to meet the candidates in person. Why should the residents of New Hampshire and Iowa get all the face time? If I get anything, it will simply be campaign commercials.
It is unlikely but the result may be the first brokered Democratic convention in living memory. This would certainly make for an exciting convention. If so, I hope to be there to blog about it. In that unlikely event though, Hillary Clinton will have the edge. As I mentioned, superdelegates also get to vote. Presumably, they would favor the status quo, which would mean that Hillary Clinton would likely be the party’s nominee.
Meanwhile, let the campaign continue and may it remain murky for some time to come. Just once, I want my primary vote to mean something.