Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Chicago prophet for a Chicago pol

My prior post notes that a Nexis search for people who stated unequivocally that Obama would win or was likely to win the presidency before November 2007 were almost universally college age. Update: I missed one remarkable exception.

Chicago Tribune metro columnist Eric Zorn goes back a ways with Obama. On January 18, 2003, he wrote: "The list of prospective [Democratic U.S. Senate] candidates is packed with big names ... with higher profiles than Obama's. But he's the class of the field."

On January 20, 2005, Zorn began "'08 Reasons Why Obama will Run for President"with a statement from the new senator:
"I am not running for president. I am not running for president in four years. I am not running for president in 2008." --Barack Obama , Nov. 3, 2004

Oh, but he will. And here, for your Inauguration Day reading pleasure, are the top 8 reasons why the new junior senator from Illinois will change his mind about '08.

He can't be sure when the bloom will fade.

In subsequent columns, Zorn batted back the claims that Obama wasn't experienced enough or that he was too liberal. By December 19, 2006, he (in sync with 13,000 self-selected Chicago cognizatti) pretty much had the nomination fight figured out:
And yet. Call me nuts again, but here are the eight reasons why 65 percent of more than 13,000 click voters at this week were right when they said that Obama will win the Democratic nomination:

1. His message will appeal to the better nature of voters.

Sure, Obama's call for "a different kind of politics" that seeks common ground, advances shared values and disdains the bitter polarities of partisanship makes Pollyanna look like a cynic. But it reflects a passionate American fantasy--that we are better than all this querulous wrangling and are ready to move beyond it.

2. He was an early foe of the war.

The charge that Obama lacks the experience to lead a nation will be belied by what a colossal mess experienced leaders made of Iraq and how their war on terror has turned the world into a more dangerous place. As the unpopular "troop surge" only gets us deeper into the bloody muck of intractable sectarian strife in the year ahead, Democrats, in particular, will look for a candidate who exhibited geopolitical foresight.

3. His race will be a plus.

Black voters will turn out in huge numbers for Obama, no doubt. But, as others have noted, many white Americans are eager to demonstrate to themselves and to the world that we are evolved enough to elect a president of African-American heritage. Their number will dwarf the number of wild-eyed racist Democrats who'll vote only for whites.

4. He's likable.

I know, I know. We're electing a president, not a neighbor or a dining companion. But Obama, a charismatic policy wonk, will strike undecided voters as a thoughtful, engaged and self-deprecating guy who'd be a good leader.

5. His team is tough.

The snarks in the water have tried to stick Obama with the schoolyard nickname "Obambi" to suggest that he's weak and naive. But he has assembled a seasoned campaign crew that will not shy from political street fights.

6. He'll have no trouble raising money.

Obama's biggest fundraising problem is going to be keeping it seemly.

7. Zealots will drive voters into his camp.

The naked bigotry of critics who are now shrieking Obama's middle name to suggest both that he's Muslim (he's not, he's Christian) and that Muslims are inherently untrustworthy (they're not) is so repellent that fair-minded people will feel inclined to support him if only to repudiate such tactics and prove that Americans are above that sort of nonsense. Those who like to remind us that "Obama rhymes with Osama" will also be useful idiots.

8. His youth and star status will attract many young and non-traditional voters.

The celebrity hype has already nauseated world-weary political junkies. Obama, 45, can let them barf. The enthusiastic entertainers and tastemakers already behind his candidacy will sell him to new voters as a fresh voice for the next generation.

There you go. Clip and save. Meet me back here next summer and we'll settle
up the bet.
I couldn't find a clean Zorn prediction on the general election until this Oct. 30, by which point you hardly needed to be a prophet to foresee an Obama victory. But that nomination read holds water for the general, too.

Bet's settled, Zorn, and you win.

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