In the cold Iowa darkness after Barack Obama won the first of his primary victories, Gabor Steingart, (photo left) the award-winning Der Speigel journalist, wrote, "(Obama) has scant hope of reaching the White House. He's too young, too inexperienced, too vague, and for many Americans, too black. His magic words about the era of change, of hope, of an America he will unite -- all that will evaporate like morning mist."
Well, now that Obama has moved just a step away from securing the Democrat nomination, does Steingart still hold to that pessimistic view?
In a word, yes. Steingart writes:
...This prediction was confirmed in Pennsylvania. The euphoria over the 46-year-old senator has until today only gripped 50 percent of Democratic voters -- who make up only a third of registered voters. The Obama flame burns, but only in parts of society. Obama receives more goodwill than actual votes. And his press is better than his real situation. Obama's chances of a successful run for the White House are anything but rosy. There are three reasons why his presidential run will be difficult:
First, a politician who favors social policies has a tough time in a recession. In his desperation over the persistent rejection by white working class voters, Obama has shot himself in the foot.
He recently promised voters the moon at a trade union convention: State-subsidized health insurance. A $100 billion infrastructure program for the construction of bridges and roads. A $160 billion ecological investment program. Tax exemption for all pensioners with an annual income of under $50,000. Tax cuts for all middle-income groups. An increase in the minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.50 an hour.
But the voter groups which are decisive for any president distrust people who claim to be miracle workers. The union officials clapped, but many of its members lowered their heads pensively.
These people want new jobs, but they don't want new government debt. They want leadership, but Obama is only flashing his wallet.
Secondly, he is an opponent of war in a time of war. The United States is fighting a lonely and increasingly difficult war on two fronts, in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would like to finish the war quickly -- but the majority of Americans would like to win it first...
Thirdly, he is a party favorite in times of dwindling party loyalty. He excites the active members of the Democratic Party, the officials, the young people and the university graduates, not to mention that part of the party -- a part which should not be underestimated -- which is to be found within newspapers and TV stations. Up to 35,000 people came to his meetings in Pennsylvania.
But the further one moves from the ranks of the true believers in the direction of the undecided -- from the left to the center, from young to old, from student to worker -- the lower the excitement over Obama...
The American electoral system gives the center exceptional political power. Since most states are firmly in the hands of one party, attention is focused on the so-called swing states, large states such as Ohio, Texas, California and Pennsylvania which are sometimes Democratic and sometimes Republican. Obama has won many US states -- but not these swing states...