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Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
You may remember a couple of posts concerning an insightful discussion of the coming 2008 presidential race offered by Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Patterson spoke at a meeting in Austin in February, which I attended. You may read the most recent of those posts here.

An Update:

Professor Patterson reminds us:

"One of the points in your posting--the money trail--will be revealed in a few days when the candidates file their fundraising reports. Journalists are eagerly awaiting the results, which will affect their reporting, which in turn will affect the candidates' fundraising capacity in the next quarter. It's a self-sustaining circle with considerable consequences for the nominating races."

I agree wholeheartedly. The coming release will certainly mark an entirely new phase of the journey. It seems altogether likely that this information will give new life to a candidate (or maybe two) and probably make life much harder for a few more.

Also, Patterson generously notes:

"The parallels between the pamphleteers of early America and the bloggers of today are striking."

We appreciate the encouragement.
Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Remember my Mantra: Nobody Knows Anything (a review here).

Having said that, once again, here goes nothing:

If the proverb is right, and nature really does abhor a vacuum, we can look forward to a procession of boomlets for conservative candidates between now and January.

Enter Fred Thompson: You may sign on to his campaign here. You cannot deny the buzz he has created during the last week. Even on a mountain in Arkansas, I met people who were talking about him.

For the sake of full disclosure, I too am a long-time admirer of the former Senator from Tennessee. He is a formidable presence on the American political/cultural scene. But before we stampede over to the Fred Thompson camp, how much do we really know about him?

He looks and sounds presidential. He looks and sounds conservative.

Maybe he is our guy? Who knows? Time will tell.

Does it matter that we actually know very little about him? Or are we determined to elect someone with whom we are unacquainted. Are we so contemptuous of the candidates with whom we are familiar that we are bent on finding a mysterious stranger?

In other words, is this the year of the dark horse?

The first dark horse candidate for president was another Tennessean, James K. Polk. Although he was a former governor, former speaker of the House of Representatives and a protégé of Andrew Jackson, Polk was not well known nationally and not a candidate for president when he arrived at the Democratic nominating convention in 1844 (although he was hoping for consideration as the vice-presidential nominee). However, once the frontrunner stumbled, and the other three leading contenders failed to rally broad support, the convention turned to Polk, discovering him on the seventh ballot and nominating him on the ninth. Polk went on to win the national election that fall against a much more celebrated opponent, Henry Clay.

There have been other successful dark horse candidates since Polk (Franklin Pierce, 1852, Rutherford Hayes, 1876, James Garfield, 1880, and Warren Harding, 1920, come to mind). But is has been a while. Why? Today nominating conventions do not pick nominees. Party bosses no longer turn to lesser-knowns during the wee hours of the morning in some smoke-filled room. Long before the next convention, partisan voters in state primaries will elect the party nominees for 2008.

We are twenty months from the general election. Is it possible to remain mysterious and "available" for that long? The Democratic Party put forward James K. Polk in May of 1844 to run for president in an election five months later. They were able to introduce and sell him to the electorate as a hard working realist, who would judiciously oversee the expansion of a growing nation. Although the age of the telegraph and rotary press was upon them, there were no cable news networks and twenty-four hour news cycles to combat.

Can a dark horse succeed in the current digital age? Dexterously catching an anti-establishment popular wave in the wake of Watergate, Jimmy Carter successfully ran a more modern variety of the dark horse campaign in 1975 and 1976. But much has changed in the last three decades. The Carter candidacy probably has more in common with his nineteenth-century predecessors than the contemporary contestants.

In 2004, the primary voters unraveled the mystery of Howard Dean at the most inauspicious of times, transforming Dean's December 2003 sense of inevitability into humiliation and bitter derision for the insurgent candidate in January and February of 2004.

What awaits these candidates whom we partially know? Only time will tell. One thing is certain. We will know much, much more about all of these aspirants by January 2008.

My prediction: Fred Thompson won't be the last vessel of great expectations for Republicans in 2008. But, in the end, the race will most likely go to one of the candidates that perseveres over the long haul.