March 17, 2004
Barack Obama

Congratulations to Barack Obama, the clear winner of the Democratic primary for Senate and presumptive favorite in the general election. He overcame opponents who were well-connected and well-funded, not to mention his own unusual name (a nontrivial handicap in Illinois Democratic primaries) and scored a much bigger victory than the Republican nominee did in his primary. Obama's a bright, young, respected lawmaker with a great bio, and I think he's going to be a star. It would not surprise me at all if he's a contender for President or Vice-President in 2012 or 2016.

Nonetheless, Josh Marshall notes that there may yet be a downside to Obama's ascension, at least in the short run. He quotes from Charlie Cook's "Off to the Races" column:

Republicans might actually get a bit of a break in Illinois. Jack Ryan, an attractive and wealthy former investment banker who was teaching in an inner-city school until recently, is expected to win the GOP primary. The likely Democratic nominee, state Sen. Barack Obama, is equally, if not more, impressive, yet does not have the personal fortune Ryan has. Blair Hull, the fabulously wealthy Democrat, was expected to win the nomination until revelations about his messy divorce and cocaine use in the 1980s doomed his chances. National Democrats had counted on this seat to be the best of all possible worlds, an easy pickup by a self-funding candidate. Now it is likely to be very close and will have to be funded through more traditional -- read difficult -- means.

The thing is, I'd rather have the right nominee than the rich one. This is just a gut instinct on my part, but I believe that self-bankrolling first-time candidates are way more vulnerable to personal failings on the campaign trail than career politicians are. I think a lot of these guys' appeal comes from their personalities, and when they have trouble withstanding the scrutiny, they have no record of accomplishment in the public sector to fall back on. Look at Blair Hull's implosion and be thankful it happened before the primary.

I also think that Obama won't really need much from the DSCC in order to win in November. Like I said, I believe he's a star, and I don't think he's going to have any trouble raising funds on his own - in fact, he seemed to do that just fine during the primary race. He may wind up giving more help to Jon Corzine than the DSCC gives to him.

Congratulations, Barack Obama. I look forward to seeing you in Washington, DC next year.

UPDATE: For further proof that Obama will raise money easily, I point you to this.

Campaign finance records show U-S Senate candidate Barack Obama got a large contribution from a high-profile citizen -- Michael Jordan.

The basketball superstar donated 10-thousand dollars to Obama's campaign.

Obama says he debated whether to frame the check or cash it.

Since he began campaign fund-raising more than a year ago, Obama has collected about four-point-three (m) million dollars.

Gadflyer Charlton McIlwain, from whom I discovered that tidbit, seems to agree with my thesis:

Expect: A treasure trove of [Jack] Ryan money. We've already seen it, and we'll probably see millions more. I'm not sure what the going price for an Illinois senate seat is these days, but I expect whatever it is, Ryan will pay it.

Don't expect: Obama to lag too far behind to be competitive. We've seen Michael Jordan's 10k already. No doubt he's only the first in a long line of other celebrity, big-money black and other minority donors just itching to help a brotha out.

I fully expect to see more stories like that about Obama's star power. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 17, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack