Jonathan Alter analyze’s the run off to Iowa noting “Should Clinton lose Iowa, the door might open for second-tier candidates to start getting competitive.”
If Clinton and Obama were arguing about anything other than experience, it wouldn’t be possible for Biden, Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson to get the slightest traction, even with a better-than-expected finish. But by staking her claim on her preparation for the White House, Clinton has kicked off a fuller discussion on what constitutes real qualifications. Experience usually counts for nothing in presidential politics (remember graybeards like Scoop Jackson, Richard Lugar and Dick Gephardt going nowhere?), but this time a “double E” candidate—experience and electability—could at least become a factor.
Second-tier candidates often get a second wind. Jerry Brown beat Jimmy Carter in a slew of late primaries in 1976, and threw a little scare into Bill Clinton by winning Connecticut in 1992. The most plausible long shot this time is Biden, who has done well (and controlled his mouth) in recent debates and generated a trace of “Joe Mo” in Dubuque and a few other pockets in Iowa. His problem is organization. Dodd has twice as many paid staffers on the ground as Biden, though he hasn’t connected as well on the stump. Richardson’s recent TV ads didn’t light a fuse. But should one of them score in the Dec. 13 Des Moines Register debate (or, better yet, win the paper’s endorsement), he could break the 15 percent “viability” threshold in enough caucuses to stay in the race.
Alter notes, “voters usually prefer youth and energy to wisdom and experience.”
Every Democratic president since James Buchanan has taken office by 60, with all but two 55 or younger. Obama at 46 is closer to the norm than Biden at 65, Dodd at 63 or Richardson and Clinton at 60. The latter resemble seasoned senators Stuart Symington, Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson, who lost the 1960 primaries to a lightly regarded 42-year-old colleague named John F. Kennedy.
Bottom-line… If Obama suges in Iowa and Clinton falters, it could open up the field for one of the second tier candidates with strong resumes. Stay tuned…