Saturday, December 22, 2007


I'm watching Hillary on CNN, campaigning in New Hampshire with her mother and daughter on stage with her -- appealing to women voters. She says she recently asked her mother when you get to stop worrying about your children. Her mother says, "Oh, I worry about you every day."

It suddenly smacks me in the face: this is what the Presidency of the United States could look like and tears start rolling down my face.

And it dawns on me why I'm still "undecided" at this late stage of the game. It's not just that I really and truly like every single one of the Democratic candidates and would be over the moon with any of them, or any combination of two of them, in the White House. Obama is fabulous. And he'd be a fabulous president. Incredibly exciting. Edwards won me over by focusing on poverty and corporate greed. That he announced his candidacy in flood- and FEMA-ravaged New Orleans really hammered it home. Biden is terrific and if he doesn't win the presidency, he would make a great Secretary of State. They would all make excellent cabinet-level appointees. I love Dodd. Maybe it's the New England accent that makes me feel so warm and fuzzy when he speaks. I was born in Boston. Hearing him tell it straight from the heart, with that wonderful New England accent, takes me back to my childhood. It also reminds me of President Kennedy.

And that brings me 'round to why I've been holding back my full-on support of Hillary Clinton. I'm obviously trying to protect myself from grief. I just plain don't dare believe. I've lost my nerve. Maybe subliminally I think my support is the kiss of death, given that I worked on the presidential campaigns of Hubert H. Humphrey in '68 and Edmund S. Muskie in '72. They both lost to Nixon. In 2004 I voted for Dennis Kucinich in the primary and worked for John Kerry in the general election. My only winning campaign was Jimmy Carter in '76 -- the exception that proves the rule.

So when media reports of Hillary's inevitability started pouring in, I feared she was doomed. Muskie was the frontrunner in 1972, annointed by The Media in '68 when he was Hubert Humphrey's running mate. He impressed them at a campaign event. ONE campaign event. It was the height of the Vietnam war and the days of rage were upon us. Muskie was talking to a group of students, I forget exactly where, when a kid in the back of the room started shouting him down. Instead of losing his cool, Muskie invited the kid up on stage to say his piece. Then he quietly asked to be shown the same respect.

In that instant, the Democratic frontrunner for the 1972 presidential campaign was Chosen. The fear and loathing came later. But that is indeed another story.

Obviously my fears for Hillary were well-founded. As we get closer to Iowa caucus day, Clinton and Obama are neck-and-neck. Edwards, who has been organizing there since 2004, is breathing down their necks. Behind them are Richardson, Biden, Dodd and Kucinich. I forgot to mention that I like Richardson, too. I like him best as Hillary's running mate. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The point is: what happens if there is no clear winner in Iowa after the first vote?

Any candidate with less than 15% is declared non-viable and his or her caucus-goers are free to throw their support behind one of the viable candidates. A representative from each of the viable candidates goes around the room and makes a pitch to the non-viable candidates' supporters. After all the pitches, unattached caucus-goers move across the room and physically stand with their new candidate's people. Delegates to the county conventions -- the next level in the process of delegate selection -- are assigned in proportion to the number of people each candidate winds up with.

This little drama unfolds in 1,784 precincts across the state of Iowa. Seventeen hundred and eighty-four "gatherings of neighbors" in school cafeterias and community centers all across the state. The outcome may well determine our next president.

I've heard Edwards is everybody's second choice. But there are 23 days before the Iowa caucuses. Anything can happen. I'm for Hillary. Definitely. But until the last vote is counted I dare not get excited. Not even a little bit.