Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008's Winners, Losers and Others

As the title sums up nicely the column’s theme, I’ll forgo the snarky summary that generally preface year-end reviews and just cut to the chase.


Barack Obama: Even if the Illinois Senator had lost the general election, the folks at Time Magazine would’ve still anointed him their Person of the Year, not without some merit. Obama’s historic nomination wasn’t a cakewalk, having wrestled it from the politically ferocious Clintons after an exhausting battle that started on January 3rd in the Iowa caucuses and did not conclude until South Dakota and Montana’s June 3rd primaries. And in retrospect, it seems that beating Hillary was the hard part. Yes he did.

Joe Biden: The senior US Senator from the tri-county state of Delaware entered 2008 hoping that at best he would close the year out as the incoming Secretary of State. That is assuming he was not suffering from delusions of grandeur. Biden’s 2008 bid for his party’s nomination was declared DOA within 100 hours of the New Year’s ball being dropped at Times Square, which seems pretty bad until considering his White House bid from 20 years earlier didn’t even make it to the election year. Yet Obama looked past Biden’s past and made the gaffe-prone politician his running-mate, which says something about the president-elect…in a good way. Here’s to at least four more years of “Stand Up Chuck!”

Sarah Palin: Sure she was on the losing-end of a Democratic landslide and had to endure the most concerted media assault since Richard Nixon was getting kicked around. Did I mention having to endure her teenage daughter’s personal life get splashed across the cover of tabloids, most notoriously on OK! magazine, which ironically in the same month had a glowing spread of the seemingly wholesome Obama family. But the Alaskan governor weathered the worst of it, emerging from pre-convention obscurity and post-election backstabbing as one of the GOP’s most powerful and popular figures. Palin’s tour through Georgia turned out the Republican base in US Senator Saxby Chambliss’s big runoff victory, proving that the backbiting by McCain staffers did little to diminish her considerable standing with the Republican faithful. If she seeks it, Palin will be the candidate to beat for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

Joseph Cao: A little over a year ago, Cao came in a distant fifth place for state representative (for the record, I ran a close third in that same race). A few months later, the Saigon-native was soundly defeated as a candidate for delegate to the state GOP convention. After securing a spot as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, Cao was forced to evacuate his family via a straight drive to the Minnesota convention. Though Gustav spared most of the people who had lost much in Katrina three years prior, Cao was not in that group as his New Orleans East home flooded again. Yet the same storm that put water into his living room would help put him in Congress with the additional assistance of financing from Uptown New Orleans Republican donors (not so much from the RNC thank you very much Chairman Duncan) and a lot of Obama voters that thought ending the embarrassment of Bill Jefferson was more important than party affiliation, ideology or race.

Mary Landrieu: Despite facing what on paper should have been her toughest opponent for US Senate, Landrieu won by her biggest margin ever despite having to share ballot space with her party’s not so popular presidential nominee, at least in Louisiana. Because of Louisiana’s conservative voting tendencies, Landrieu is going to have to probably fight off another tough challenge in 2014. But to quote Hyman Roth from Godfather II, “This is the business we chose”.

Howard Dean: And you all laughed when he was picked to head the Democratic National Committee after the 2004 Republican triumph. I knew better. His leadership of the Democratic governor’s campaign arm produced his party’s lone instance of forward progress in 2002. He who screams last, scream loudest. YEEEEEAAAAGGGHHH!!!

Bobby Jindal: His “rockstar” status in the party is only eclipsed by Palin’s though the Louisiana governor possesses more broad appeal. Though he didn’t speak at the Republican National Convention, the nation got a more favorable glimpse of Jindal on the job while Louisiana was threatened by two major storms in September. By spurning McCain’s veep advances and vetoing the radioactive legislative payraise, Jindal secured himself on the homefront while keeping his national options open. If Jindal and Palin both sought the Republican nomination in 2012, the race would quickly devolve into a duel effectively freezing out the rest of the competition, much like what Clinton and Obama did to Biden, Richardson, John Edwards and Chris Dodd.


Hillary Clinton: She had to eat an enormous campaign debt and contributed very little towards Obama’s re-election. For a former First Lady and a Clinton, Secretary of State must seem like a pretty meager consolation prize, after all it’s not like she’s Bill Richardson or John Kerry. Had Hillary won the Democratic nomination, she would’ve beaten McCain in a rout. Now she’ll pass her days at Foggy Bottom replaying in her mind the events that caused her to miss out on what was perhaps her only chance of being president.

RNC Chairman Mike Duncan: In his mind, presiding over the national GOP during the party’s worst electoral disaster since Watergate does not make one a loser. Letting the national committee make it official by bothering to stand for re-election in January will.

Bill Jefferson: The indicted soon-be-former congressman eluded political defeat at the hands of Karen Carter in 2006, watched another serious rival, Derrick Shepherd, get sent to jail and held off six challengers in his successful bid for renomination in 2008. Only to suffer the supreme humiliation of being beaten by an Asian Republican in an overwhelmingly black majority congressional district. For “Dollar Bill”, it’s likely that the worse has yet to come.

The Gambit Weekly: Two words: no endorsement. That was the position of that newspaper on the eve of the Second District Congressional general election between Jefferson, Cao and two minor party candidates. Now the thing about the closed primary is that there are no runoffs once the party primaries are concluded, meaning no matter how many candidates run, that election is the end of the line. You must make a choice. The Gambit Weekly, which prides itself as a progressive, good government-oriented publication, chose to stick its head in the ground refusing to get behind the indicted congressman or his lone credible opponent, who just so happened to be a Republican. Why might you ask? Because he was endorsed by the Family Research Council. OK…
Oh, but the FRC, a social conservative group that backs most pro-life candidates, is headed by former State Representative Tony Perkins. Ahhhh. Um. Why is this important? Because Perkins, while working for another candidate for federal office in 1996, once paid David Duke money for a mailing list. And what does this “Kevin Bacon Political Logic” have to do with defeating fore re-election an individual whose tenure in office hampers our region’s post-Katrina recovery effort and tells the rest of America that never mind what Bobby Jindal is telling you, Louisiana still has a long way to go in changing our corrupt imagine. In short, the Gambit Weekly tried to play Harry Lee by depressing turnout amongst its white liberal readers. We should be grateful that they have more of a big picture outlook of the world than its publishers.


David Vitter: After enduring what had to be the worst year of his life, Vitter has rebounded by emerging as a leading critic of unpopular federal bailouts of the banking system and the auto industry. John Kennedy’s defeat for US Senate makes Vitter less expendable in the eyes of the national GOP, likely translating into substantial early support to fend off any prospective intra-party challengers. In a Machiavellian way, McCain’s defeat was also helpful, especially since Vitter, an early supporter of Rudy Giuliani, can get more political mileage from running against the Obama Administration than with a McCain presidency he would’ve had major philosophical problems accommodating, particularly on immigration. Proof that the political crapshooter’s luck might hold out: the Democrat talking the most about running against Vitter is former Governor Kathleen Blanco. Ironically, the only downside from 2008 for Vitter is ironically the election of Cao in the Second District. Cao’s re-election effort will further divvy-up Republican resources while driving up Democratic turnout on a day that Vitter doesn’t need a lot of votes coming out of Orleans Parish.

George W. Bush: He’s less popular than new Coke and academics have judged his administration as worse than Nixon’s, but the Texan will amble out of office on January 20th becoming the first president to survive the “Tecumseh Curse” physically unscathed. Bush is doubtlessly aware of how Harry Truman left office strongly disliked though the passage of time led to his presidency to be reconsidered in a more favorable light. Though his critics have consistently labeled the president a mental midget, the Yale-Harvard grad proved he was smart enough to win two terms.

John N. Kennedy: Now 0-4 in elections for offices not titled “Treasurer”, Kennedy must make a decision in late 2010: does he remain chained to a radiator on the Third Floor of the State Capitol or does he gun for something else. Even if he doesn’t succeed in his next campaign, the Vandy-UVA-Oxford grad could make a killing in the private sector.

John McCain: Much like the Arizonan that preceded him as GOP nominee forty-four years before, actually winning the presidency never seemed to be a priority for McCain. His nomination and, most importantly, defeat at the hands of Obama assures McCain of nothing less than footnote status in the history books. McCain’s connection with the Keating 5 is now largely forgotten beneath an impressive bio of military service and a legacy of decrying earmarks, admonishing his fellow Republicans for saying anything that offends the other party, passing campaign finance reform and for being the leading advocate for finishing the job in Iraq.

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