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Who will be the next American president? 2008 US election outlook
     
 
   
 

All the eyes of the world have been turned to 2008 presidential primary election with keen interests. Super Tuesday on February 5 settled only the Republican race, leaving the Democratic race a fierce battleground ahead. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) took huge victories over the runner-up, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in many states including California and New York and is ready for the 45th presidential election as a Republican Party nominee. As for the Democratic Party race, Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) beat freshmen Senator from the State of Illinois named Barack Hussein Obama only by a narrow margin, leaving the race in a dead heat. Since Super Tuesday, Obama has won all eleven of the primaries and caucuses held by wide margin and taken back an electoral edge over Hillary in terms of the number of states won as well as pledged delegates. However, he still is far from the clinch to the nomination. 

This years primary election is already of the rare political campaign which many observers in politics have not seen over several decades. Before it got started, many political critics and pundits worried that the 2008 election would be one of the most divisive and fiercest factional strife, not much different from 2004 Bush-Kerry showdown. The 2008 election occurs within a political environment sharply divided and filled with mutual and incompatible hatred between liberals and conservatives. The military occupation in , the war on terror, and a host of other domestic and international economic and social issues have divided Democrats and Republicans, the Bush Administration and Democratic Congress, and the and much of international community seriously. Though the failure of Bush administration in domestic and foreign relations is one of the mostly discussed issues during the campaign, factional interests hardly serves as an important factor in the 2008 version. Top three presidential contenders, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, whoever gets elected, are hardly the one whose profiles and policy visions distance themselves from their partys factional interests by and large.

The Republican nominee, John McCain, has long been viewed as an uncontrollable maverick from its party insiders and its core conservatives. Senator McCains significant legislative achievement, campaign finance reform is anathema to many conservatives, as was his push for somewhat liberal immigration legislation. Many conservative leaders find McCains legislative careers and history distracting and unfaithful, citing that McCain has often leaned to the Democrats side on major conflicts and even brokered the bipartisan compromise between two parties. Jim Dobson, an influential conservative leader (and a key figure during the President Bushs electoral races in 2000 and 2004), promised that he would not support McCain as the Republican nominee under any circumstances.

Democrats have two wildly popular choices: Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. politics has never allowed either black or female candidate to pose a serious run for presidency over last two hundreds years. The Democratic Party swept Bushs 2nd mid-term elections in 2006 and recaptured U.S. Congress as the majority party. That leads many pollsters and political strategists believe that the electoral prospect for the Democratic Party nominee will far brighter than ever. It means that both Barack and Hillary have strong chance of being elected in November and rewrite American political history no matter who gets nominated.  

Barrack Obama is already a political phenomenon. In the 2004 democratic presidential convention, his powerful speech mesmerized the nation and helped him to rise to the instant stardom. Obamas life somewhat reflects American dream itself. Born from interracial couple and nurtured from parentless circumstances at the early childhood under grandparents, became master of his circumstances, went to Harvard Law School, and stood himself a leading presidential candidate in the end. His presidential campaign is all about Hope and Change full of excitement, inspiration, and a clear message of change. Facing the Clinton s offensive onslaught, he denounced negative campaigning and preached people to think politics in the optimistic way. Obama distances himself from the stereotypical African-American politicians who often overemphasize the racial divide between whites and non-whites and overuse racial rhetoric to draw minority votes in the pollster. He points that racial politics and liberal-conservative divide are the countrys two deepest divisions which should overcome. He seems rather a visionary than a politician to reconcile those divisions and to call for the national unity over factional interests. His main supporters include many young, upscale, and independents previously uninterested in politics who many Washington politicians have dreamed to get from. Now Obama is much ahead of Hillary Clinton in the national poll and emerges the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Once invincible, Hillary Clinton is an underdog and her campaign is in turmoil at this moment. Senator Clintons strength is her confident command of policy details and mastery over day-to-day politics. That is from her long political career experience as the First Lady during the Clinton administration and as a reelected New York Senator in 2000s. She has proven tough, specific, and reliable in the national scene of politics. Advisory helps from Bill Clinton, her spouse and the former president, allows her outshine other candidates in terms of governance and administrative experience while many get tiresome of the idea of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynasty.

The democratic race has not come to the end yet while Obama leads over Clinton in recent state primaries. Clintons campaign heavily bets upcoming big three primaries and vows Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania its Must-Win states. For Clinton s, those states are crucial for making her campaign viable. If she succeeds in taking those three primaries, super-delegates including party leaders will decide who gets nominated on September. We should keep our eyes on political climate changes since who becomes the next American president has a huge impact on Korean peninsula about various issues from the Six-Party Talk to Korea-US FTA issues.

 

 

KIM Junseok

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Political Science

Dongguk University.  

Kin Jun-seok  jspicture7@yahoo.co.kr

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