Friday, February 08, 2008

Bad news for Erdoğan?

Today's Zaman, Turkey

Bad news for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Given the results of the "super Tuesday" primaries in the US, Barack Obama, whom Erdoğan lashed out at after he promised to acknowledge the so-called "Armenian genocide," has never been so close to winning the Democratic Party's nomination for the 2008 presidential elections.

Erdoğan harshly criticized Senator Obama, depicting him as an "acemi" (rookie) politician. Many people fall into the trap of underestimating others. As an underestimated politician who has proven to be the most durable "black" leader in the "white-dominated" Republic of Turkey, Erdoğan should have known this more than anyone else. Furthermore, he himself was not more experienced than Obama in government affairs and he was only two years older than Obama (46) when he became prime minister with the Turkish general elections in 2002. And I'm telling you, the chances for Obama to be the next president of the US are no less favorable than Erdoğan's 2002 bid. The Clintons, who also seem to have underestimated him, should nowadays be grappling with this fact more than anyone else.

Obama made a strong start by winning the Iowa caucus. The Clinton camp became increasingly nervous after Obama stole the normally Clinton-loyal black Americans in South Carolina. But it wasn't until this Tuesday that alarm bells started to ring for Clinton. Once considered the obvious frontrunner in the Democratic race, Senator Clinton now feels the breath of Obama on her neck.

Elections in the first five states granted Clinton 51 percent more delegates than Obama. In the aftermath of Super Tuesday, however, delegate tallies are almost even or only slightly in favor of Clinton according to varying counts due to the confusing calculation methods of the Democratic primaries. Obama has the psychological edge since he won five more states than Clinton, whereas the big enchilada, California, went to Hillary.

There is an even more dramatic comparison in their respective monetary situations. Who would expect an "underdog" candidate like Obama to surpass Clinton in terms of campaign funds? Senator Clinton, whose campaign ran out of money, had to borrow $5 million from her personal account. Obama, on the other hand, enjoys $32 million raised in January alone, compared to Hillary's $13.5 million.

Everybody knows money talks in politics (although perhaps not as much as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has spent millions from his own fortune so far, has counted on). Vice versa, talk generates money (though not necessarily as much as former preacher Mike Huckabee might have wished for). Obviously, Obama has proven very successful in transforming his speaking abilities into campaign funds. His debate performance may not be extraordinary, but he can definitely score high points when he addresses crowds. The wider American public probably first got acquainted with Obama during his impressive nationally televised victory speech in Iowa. And it should be no surprise that he was able to garner increasing numbers of young voters, who constitute the backbone of his political organization.

It looks like the more people get to know Obama, the more likely they are to vote for him. So time is on Obama's side in this unusually long intra-party race. The Clinton campaign is far from being dead. But eventually we might very well find ourselves in a situation where we will be talking more about White House foreign policy under Obama's command. If only, of course, he also beats the Republican candidate. That person seems to be Senator John McCain, given his lead over the remaining two contenders, Romney and Huckabee, which is mathematically almost impossible to beat.

Speaking of mathematics, it's almost a certainty that Clinton, Obama or McCain is going to be the next US president. All of them are multilateralists, and that's good for the US and for the world. I'm sure their counterparts in Ankara, no matter how enraged they might be at times, will do their best to not reduce Turkey's relations with the US to issues like the debate over Armenian allegations of genocide. They would expect the same from the American side. After all, even the US cannot afford a "with us or against us" mantra on particular policy topics. How can Turkey do so?

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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