Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has been lucky in his political opponents. When he first ran for Illinois State Senate in 1996, his only opponent in the Democratic primary was Alice Palmer, his predecessor, who only decided at the last minute to run for re-election. Obama was able to show that two-thirds of the signatures on her nominating petitions were invalid, and so he ran unopposed. In his district, nomination in a Democratic primary was tantamount to election.
In 2004, when Barack Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate, the two strongest potential candidates, incumbent Republican Peter Fitzgerald and predecessor Democrat Carol Moseley Brown, decided not to run. The Republican front-runner, Jack Ryan, a Goldman Sachs partner who retired to become a parochial school teacher in inner-city Chicago, was embarrassed when the Chicago Tribune sued successfully to have his sealed divorce papers made public. The papers revealed that his wife, the actress Jeri Ryan, accused him of pressuring her to go to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris. Ryan withdrew from the race, and Obama’s opponent was the eccentric Alan Keyes, whom he defeated overwhelmingly.
In 2008, with Barack Obama ran for President, he faced a formidable Democratic primary opponent in Hillary Clinton. But in the general election, Republican candidate John McCain proved surprisingly inept, and then chose the even more inept Sarah Palin as his running mate. Given the unpopularity of the George W. Bush administration, it is unlikely any Republican could have one.
Now, in 2010, the likely Republican candidate is either Newt Gingrich, a symbol of political sleaze and corruption, or Mitt Romney, a symbol of corporate wealth and economic privilege. President Obama’s opponents, and not his record, are his best hope for re-election.
Nate Silver thinks there is a possibility that the Republican nominating convention will choose a candidate other than the ones who’ve signed up for the marathon primary race. I don’t think that is likely, but it would be a way to nominate a better candidate—that is, one better qualified to be President of the United States.
Click on Some Signs G.O.P. Establishment’s Backing of Romney is Tenuous for Nate Silver’s reasoning in his FiveThirtyEight web log and column.