Only 24 hours to go until voters in Iowa head to their local precincts to caucus for their favorite presidential candidates. Depending upon which Democratic candidate you support--or, better yet , which conventional wisdom makes you more comfortable--the race is still considered a toss-up, Hillary could win by a hair or it's Barack Obama's to lose. (Bob Novak, the neo-con apparatchik who seemingly has become one of the Illinois senator's loudest cheerleaders, predicts an Obama landslide and Hillary Clinton in third place. Seriously.) In the hours leading up to Thursday night, every Democratic pundit, activist and campaign operative worth his or her blue pinstripes is expected to bring something to the non-stop virtual gangbang of news coverage on television and the internet. Well, almost every Democrat, that is. There is one major player whose presence (and voice) remains strangely absent from the debate around the nomination.
Democratic Leadership Council Chairman Harold Ford.
Certainly you've noticed his absence. To much fanfare, the young, black and good-looking former longtime Tennessee congressman was named the chairman of the centrist think tank shortly after the mid-term elections. (Maybe we shouldn't say "good-looking" too loudly. There's no love lost between Harold and the gays. Too bad.) After making the rounds of the talk shows and being named a Fox News contributor--thankfully, that didn't last too long--the Blue Dog Democrat's last major television appearance was the much-hyped August smack down with Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga on NBC News' Meet the Press. Since then, while the rest of the Democratic Party is beginning the nomination process, the DLC chairman remains ensconced at a safe, undisclosed location.
(Even his recent engagement to fashion industry publicist Emily Threlkeld flew beneath the radar--and that was probably for strategic reasons because if you thought Ken Mehlman and the Republican National Committee had fun with that racist Playboy Mansion "blonde bimbo" commercial ...)
It's probably for the best--at least for now. Any appearance from Ford will remind voters that the Democratic nominee will almost eventually move to the right in the general election. That's not necessarily such a bad thing. The DLC brand of centrism and pragmatism worked well for Bill Clinton when he was the chair in 1992 and successfully ran and was re-elected to the White House. That brings up the other reason why the Democratic Leadership Council and Harold Ford are pretending to be on the sidelines of the election: Some of the DLC's positions will probably not be welcome news to primary voters, such as its previous support for the Iraq War, it's championing of NAFTA, and, initial opposition to universal health care.
If we had to guess, the biggest reason the DLC and Ford have been quiet in the days leading up to the Iowa Caucus is that they already have made their mind up on Hillary Clinton. Sure, officially, the DLC is not officially backing a candidate, but, who can forget that memo leaked to Radar from incoming Chairman Harold Ford who quickly wrote off the (alleged) presidential ambitions of the outgoing chair, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. "I assume there will be an effort to help Senator Clinton's campaign, and I would support such an effort," Ford wrote. The former Iowa governor is now the co-chairman of the Clinton campaign.
As David Mamet wrote in Glengarry Glen Ross, maybe that means something, maybe it doesn't because both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are connected to the centrist Democratic think tank, its leader, and, its ideology. They aren't posing together nowadays, but who could forget Obama's numerous campaign appearances with Ford when latter narrowly lost his bid to become the first black elected to the Senate since Reconstruction? More importantly--despite the meta-messaging and "change" rhetoric of the Obama e-telligentsia--the Illinois senator's record is much more centrist than advertised. Last winter, Obama told the Washington Post he was interested in "find[ing] ways he could work with the DLC." That's a quantum leap from 2003, when Obama was named one of the DLC's "100 New Democrats to Watch" and the then-senatorial candidate (allegedly) took offense at being included on the list. Obama campaign manager David Axelrod--who linked Hillary Clinton's Iraq War authorization vote with Benazir Bhutto's assassination--has apparently been studying Bill Clinton's old election strategies. Over the weekend, Obama ramped up his already significant criticism of his Democratic rivals and described Al Gore and John Kerry as divisive and partisan candidates, arguing that he hoped to win over enough independents and Republicans in the general election.
Democrats criticizing other Democrats as not "electable" enough to appeal to the center? It sounds familiar ...