This week New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Barack Obama owes Hillary Clinton much credit for making him a strong candidate. Obama today is a more able debater, a stronger policy person and better qualified to deal with the give and take of political life. She goes on to say that the Clintons are the toughest adversaries Obama can face in this presidential year. So if he wins the nomination, he can only be a better candidate against McCain in the fall.
This blog has said all along that Obama must be tested, that Obama must earn the nomination, and that Obama must be vetted by the Democratic Party. This is in the process of happening. Mrs. Clinton will stay in the race as long as she believes she has a chance of winning. She is not there to test Obama, she is there to win. But Obama, has understood that an opponent as tenacious as Hillary Clinton can only make him more equipped to win the election in November.
Has Obama improved sufficiently in the past three months? Clearly his oratorical skills remain unequal and his campaign has proven able to respond to challenges such as the Pastor Wright controversy. Through it all, he continues to collect the support of prominent super delegates like Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Lee Hamilton of Indiana, Governor Bill Richardson and more seem on the way. Financial contributions in the last month hit the $40M range and most are small contributions. While there is a lull in the primary schedule, Obama seems to have a quiet momentum. Clinton’s campaign, however, seems desperate at times and her analogy with the film character Rocky only confirms that she is struggling. So I must agree with Maureen Dowd that Hillary Clinton is providing an important service to this year’s presidential race. In her own right she is a qualified and an extraordinarily viable candidate for the presidency. Yet, at the same time she is providing the competition that can only enhance her opponent’s chances should he prevail.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for the Democratic Party. Sniping between the candidates has led some observers including myself to believe in the possibilities of a victory for John McCain. However, should the Democrats find a way to end this race in unity, they clearly will be heading into a contest that is theirs to lose.