One of the dynamics of the presidential race I am watching is the similarity between Gene McCarthy’s anti-war campaign in 1968 and Barack Obama’s campaign today. I was thinking about that last week when I saw Barack Obama in Concord describe Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy as “Bush-Cheney Lite”. That’s when the following happened:
” I met a distinguished white-haired gentleman in an olive suit amid a sea of college age and post college age supporters of the Illinois senator. Paul McEachern, a Portsmouth lawyer, was a former candidate for governor of New Hampshire and a McCarthy delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
‘Hillary is smart and capable and a Hell of a candidate, but about the past,’ Mr. McEachern said. ‘ Obama has engaged the young people.’
Mr. McEachern cautioned against extending the McCarthy-Obama analogy beyond political philosophy though. He said Mr. Obama is a much better candidate than McCarthy. By Mr. McEachern’s telling, McCarthy’s candidacy was a product of the anti-war movement. He recalled that Allard Lowenstein of the 1968 campaign was credited for launching the Democratic Party insurgency that year. ” McCarthy was a surrogate. Lowenstein almost manufactured him. It was all about the war. The issue was bigger than him,” said Mr. McEachern who had a lunch with Lowenstein and journalist David Halberstam during the Chicago Democratic National Convention.”
In an interesting twist, McEachern told me that Obama was a far better candidate than McCarthy had been. “He was a poet, ” Mr. McEachern told me. For instance, McCarthy first balked at putting up a political fight in New Hampshire, thinking that the New Jersey primary held more importance. Then, he never visited the important seacoast city of Portsmouth. Finally, at the DNC in Chicago, McCarthy refused to talk to the politically powerful California delegation. Obama, by contrast, . Obama is employing novel techniques in his effort to create a field organization in New Hampshire. The candidate is building it up with a focus on affinity groups. “Women for Obama,” “Educators for Obama,” “Lawyers for Obama”– all these are examples of groups for which there are corresponding pages on the candidate’s Web site. Mr. Obama can rely upon these groups to seek out new supporters and get better use out of volunteers and activists.
The author of two best-selling books, Mr. Obama also is exploiting a popular trend, the book club. Read more here.