Dems' '08 Race is Hillary's to Lose

The battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination will come down to two candidates: Hillary vs. the Un-Hillary.

Sen. Clinton is so polarizing and a female candidacy is so novel, that the race for the nomination must revolve around her. Who will the Un-Hillary be?

The early front-runner is Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. As a new African-American face, he has the same sort of first-of-a-kind credentials as Hillary and boasts genuine outsider status as well.

But Obama is very, very inexperienced. He was elected to Illinois’ state Senate in a one-party district, then won the Democratic U.S. Senate primary because his wealthy, spend-it-all opponent was caught in a messy divorce scandal just as his candidacy was peaking. He won in the general election of ’06 because Illinois is a blue state and the Republican who was to be his adversary dissolved in a marital scandal of his own, whereupon the talent-poor local GOP opted to import the aburdist candidate Alan Keyes – making Obama’s victory a foregone conclusion.

In his book "The Audacity of Hope," he confesses that in his Senate campaign "no candidate ran a negative TV ad about me." That’s as close as you get to a political equivalent of virginity.

Can Obama weather a presidential race? He better ramp up his learning curve if he is going to try. His book is filled with feature-story fluff about his background, eloquent philosophizing on the state of our nation and its history, and freshly scrubbed naiveté about the political process.

But it lacks any substantive ideas, policy innovations or even any insightful analysis of public issues. Unless he can step beyond such Oprah-level content, the national press corps will have him for breakfast.

The bottom line? He could grow into the role of a national candidate, but don’t count on it happening this year.