Monday, December 18, 2006

NEWSWEEK COVER: "The Race is On"

PR Newswire:
For 220 years, Americans have elected only white male Christians with no hint of ethnicity to the White House, and no one knows yet whether we are ready to break the chain now, reports Newsweek. As part of the cover package, "The Race is On," Senior Editor and Columnist Jonathan Alter explore whether America is ready for a historic first in the White House in 2008: the first woman president or the first black president - New York Senator Hillary Clinton or Illinois Senator Barack Obama. "He [Obama] reminds me in many ways of Kennedy in 1960. The pundits said he was Catholic and too young and inexperienced and wasn't a member of the party's inner circle. They forgot that the nomination wasn't decided in Washington but out in the field," Theodore Sorensen, John F. Kennedy's adviser and speechwriter, tells Newsweek in the December 25, 2006 - January 1, 2007 issue (on newsstands Monday, December 18).

It's impossible to separate the abstract question of whether America is ready for a woman or a black from the concrete matter of whether we're ready for Hillary or Barack, Alter reports. Historically, the odds favor a woman over an African-American; psychologically and generationally, they may favor Obama over Hillary. Both are now expected to launch their campaigns early in the new year. In the latest Newsweek Poll, 86 percent of those polled say that if their party nominated a woman for president, they would vote for her if she were qualified for the job. When asked if America is ready to elect a woman president, 55 percent of those polled said yes, it is; 35 percent do not believe America is ready to elect a woman president. When Americans were asked if their party nominated an African-American for president if they would vote for that person, 93 percent said yes, they would. When asked if America is ready to elect an African-American president, 56 percent of those polled, said yes; 30 percent of those polled responded no. If the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008 comes down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, 50 of those polled say they would most like to see Hillary Clinton nominated; 32 percent say they would like to see Barack Obama nominated.

Also in the cover package, in an interview, Obama speaks out on his prospects for the presidency, his leading rival for the nomination and post- baby-boom politics. When asked how he matches up against Hillary Clinton, Obama tells Newsweek, "I'm not going to go there. I have tremendous respect for Hillary Clinton. She's an outstanding leader in the Democratic Party. She's earned her stripes." When asked if America was ready for a black or female president, Obama says, "I absolutely think America is ready for either ... what I've found is that the American people - once they get to know you - are going to judge you on your individual character. Whatever the flaws in the process, people get a fairly accurate read by the end of the campaign."

Both campaigns would likely have ample funds for a protracted primary campaign, Alter reports. Hillary Clinton has $14.4 million on hand and a financial network in place to raise whatever it takes. And should Obama maintain his momentum, the money will most certainly follow. "If Howard Dean raised $45 million on the Internet, that number is easily obtainable," Bill Daley tells Newsweek.

Even so, people remain uneasy about women in power. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs- Jones, an African-American who committed to Hillary a year ago (but admits she would now be torn between her and Obama if she hadn't), worries about her candidate. "Women are harder on women," she says. "They demand a level of perfection they often do not from male candidates." Both candidates have created a level of political novelty and intrigue that goes beyond gender and race. "People don't view her first as a woman - they view her as a Clinton," says one of Bill Clinton's longtime advisers, who did not wish to be quoted assessing her candidacy. "And he looks like he may have the secret formula to unlock partisanship - a mixture that's broader than race."

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the black South Carolinian whose support is important in that state's critical primary, told Newsweek last week that he didn't think President Clinton's popularity would necessarily rub off on his wife. "Would my wife do as well as I did [running for office]? I don't think so," Clyburn says. "A lot of things can't transfer. You just can't pass that on."

Elsewhere in the cover package, a special guest essay by the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro who writes, "It's been 22 years since I became the first woman to run on a major-party ticket, and we're still asking whether a woman can be elected president. I don't think that's the right question. This isn't about just any woman. It's specific to Hillary Clinton, and we should be asking if she could do it." Also included is an essay by 1984 and 1988 presidential candidate, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson who says, "I believe that if Obama does run, he could inspire Americans finally to look past race and elect an African-American to the Oval Office."

For this Newsweek Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1,000 adults aged 18 and older on December 6-7, 2006. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Read entire cover package at

Barack Obama Interview: 'The Challenges We Face' here.

What We Learned the Hard Way here (Geraldine Ferraro and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson interviews).

No comments: