January 16th, 2008
12:30 PM ET
14 years ago

Gergen: The political ground shifting underfoot

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/16/art.gergen.cnn.jpg caption= "CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen."](CNN) - From about 30,000 feet, here's what the political landscape looks like to me today, just after Michigan and the Democratic debate in Nevada:

- The terrain for the general election is moving even more strongly in the Democrats' favor. With results in from four states, Republicans have at least four - arguably five - candidates bunched together at the top - each one of whom can win the nomination but no one of whom inspires all the party faithful. That's not a promising scenario for a party whose strength on election day has depended heavily upon an army of excited volunteers. Meanwhile, Democrats are choosing between two candidates, each of whom can win and can also rally the party in November.

Read Gergen's complete analysis over at the AC 360 Blog!

Filed under: David Gergen
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Gleb


    You wrote - "David, even though Sen. Obama has excited alot of democrats and Sen. Clinton has her loyal followers and the Republicans seem disspirited, don't you think if Hillary is the democratic nominee THAT will excite the republicans and they will come out fighting in Nov.?"

    The fact is there is no one that can pull the Republicans out of the slump they are currently occupying other than RR - and last time I checked he hasn't been reincarnated. One of his, "there you go again" statements and it would be over, ... but no one but the gipper could offer that with the requisite panache to make it work.

    Remember to turn out the lights after the fat lady sings, ... the party may be over. And this may be the ultimate nail in the Rove coffin, ... after all he wanted to deliver this fatal blow to the Dems, ... funny how that sort of backfires.

    January 16, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. JP in Maryland

    @ ratt January 16, 2008 1:27 pm ET

    The Michigan democratic party chose to shut off the democratic voters voice, not any of the candidates.

    I take no sides and endorse no candidate but the above statement is factually incorrect. It was the decision of the Michigan Democratic party to move the primary up (before Feb. 5) without authorization (whether or not a national political organization should have this power and whether this is a form of disenfranchisement are issue up for debate) from the Democratic National Committee. The DNC subsequently decided to strip Michigan of its delegates. The DNC requested that the candidates have their names removed from the ballot in Michigan (and Florida which also moved its primary up) as a sign of solidarity with the national party. All of the candidates except Clinton, Kucinich, and Gravel complied with this request.

    January 16, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Mary, Michigan January 16, 2008 1:37 pm ET

    ATTENTION everyone! David Gergen is NOT a Democratic operative. He's a REPUBLICAN who has served in the REAGAN, NIXON, and FORD administrations. Get the FACTS people!

    Facts never stopped people on the right from looking foolish as the post nonsense on forums like this, Mary.

    As each day goes by, things keep looking better for my fellow Democrats.

    January 16, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  4. Meg

    I think what need to be done by CNN is fair reporting. Bring Obama sarrogates too even if they are not cutting and burning!

    January 16, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  5. Tracy McGee

    Mr. Gergen,

    I've been a fan; and still of you and CNN association together, however, I do agree, there is slight bias in your commentary toward Hillary/ or the Clintons in general.

    Please discuss this on the air:
    My real comment is the lack of CNN analysis regarding the voter breakdown from the New Hampshire Primary. It was painfully obvious, that had it not been for Bill Richardson, who by the way removed himself from the race, Dennis Kuncinc, and Gravel, the 15K+ votes they siphoned off would have propelled Obama to another win. Hillary only won by less than 8K.........This analysis was never discussed nor at any length on CNN....or any of the other networks.....

    One could have reasonably concluded that Hillary woul not have gotten the majority of those votes.

    January 16, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. wale azeez

    I was wondering when you would come online.....I am looking at the posts here and most people have obviously not been following you on tv...I must say i like your demeanour when you do your analysis on tv...I'll comment in the future cause there is really not much to be said about this topic other than time will tell....oh donna brazille still waiting for her blog...?

    January 16, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Vinny, Conroe,TX

    Mr. Gergen,
    There's a few things you do not take into account. There are many, many people in this country that will never vote for Clinton and the continuation of this "monarchy". About 40% of the democrats in Michigan would rather vote uncommitted than for her? Thats a really good sign. Obama still is talking in a lot of generalities and riding the wave of his "change" slogan whatever that means in specifics.
    Once the republicans settle on a candidate that stands for the general conservative line, the extremes of the party arent going to stay home in November. And they sure as hell arent going to vote Clinton, and probably not Obama. Let Clinton explain the so called 35 years of experience she has, and let Obama convince us how great his policies will be with his...2 years in the senate. I hate Washington, lobbyists, dynasties and elitism as much as the next person but I hate BS just as much.

    January 16, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. steven Bainbridge

    Justice,you mention hllarys "Foreign relations esperience," how does she have foreign policy experience at all, She has 7 unremarkable years in the senate, not trying to improve America, but appear electable and centrist e.g.flag burning amendment. She isn't on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee!

    Since when has it been able to count your partners experience as your own? I wouldn't want my surgeons wife to operate on me, and I wouldn't want my lawyers husband to represent me in court, why is it acceptable that a leaders wife can claim ability to lead.

    Lets face it, if Democrats cared about experience at all then Richardson and Biden would be winning all the primarys, with Clinton and Obama already dropped out!

    January 16, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Mauri

    It's not just CNN who resorts to the Clinton bashing from time to time. MSNBC was the worst at this until folks rebelled, writing to them with threats to boycott the channel forever. It's amazing what audience feedback can achieve. It's always amazing to have watched or read a story involving one of the candidates, then watch the pundits either show their bias by slanting their reaction to fit whichever candidate they've decided to tar and feather on any given day. And worse, sometimes they are totally ignorant of a breaking story and come out with OLD news. This was especially true of the situation where Hillary and Obama announced their reaching a truce over the race/gender flareup - and one of the anchors kept right on jawing about Obama being mad at her Hillary's MLK remark - along with their always speculation and opinion that no one cares about anyway. Another example was Tim Russert starting off the debate last night by questioning Hillary about the King/Johnson remark. That was such OLD NEWS that he looked considerably less than smart, or rather he was purposely being a rabble-rouser. I've watched Tim for years, and cannot imagine what's come over him this time where Hillary Clinton is concerned. She is definitely the bull-fighter's red flag when it comes to agitating Russert.

    As of this date, I've NEVER seen David Gergen appear to be giving an unbiased opinion about any one of the candidates, on both sides. If Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews and lately Keith Olbermann of MSNBC would really check their facts and not use an attack on a candidate as the "lead" for their story - their listeners would come back to watching them. Until then, CSI and the History channel never looked so good. One would think that after the polling debacle, they'd deal with facts instead of exit polls that results in stories like this one. It is really quite hard to understand why such a story should demand prize space when everybody knows that whatever happened in Michigan for the Democrats means nothing except that Mitt Romney won, McCain was second and Huckabee third! Get a life boys!

    January 16, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  10. S Alexander

    I hope that esp after last night's debate that it would be fantastic for the Democrats and for the country to have a Hillary Barack ticket.
    She clearly is the most knowledgeable/experienced and he is the most inspirational. It would be a monumental combination and great for our country.

    January 16, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. Cole, Boston MA

    If the economy is really your #1 priority America, the choice is a slam dunk. Nobody can touch Romney's economic credentials. The guy has an MBA from Harvard (one of a two degrees from that school). He has spent a lifetime in business and has been enormously successful doing it. Whether you're Republican, Democrat, Independent, or whatever, you have to recognize the fact that Romney may very well be our most qualified leader for the next 4 years.

    January 16, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. Shame on Us

    This election has become a sham and is revealing that too many voters have no idea of the reality of a global world or the problems we face:

    1. to think that we can be any sort of leader in the world and yet let ourselves be divided into age, sex or race of voters and then argue about who is promoting what "ism" or targering what "group"; all groups are diverse, have different needs and reach different decisions: I am 59, a woman, middle class: I am voting for Obama: so which demographic do I fit into?? The black, latino, oriental people I know are as diverse as I am. By "pigeon holing" people you divide us, you make us apathetic and you insult us.

    2. the length of this election season and the 24 hour news stations have made this whole process full of conflict and overanalysis while our government has virtually shut done; how much money?, who is "coming back" who is the front runner...and on and on just to fill the endless news and speculation

    These facts are best seen in the posts and arguing over the Democratic "vote" in Michigan: it was not a democratic vote because all of the candidates were not on the ballot;the reasons why are irrelevant but the analyzing, arguing, speculating are completely futile as no one knows who would have voted for whom had there been a real vote. Yet we produce meaningful percentages, predictions, forecasts and conclusions..

    We are not having an election: we are having a media driven series of controversies directed by political advisors whose mani objective is to get elected at all costs.

    That is why I will vote for Obama. I truly believe he sees beyond divisions, is truly able to bring the center of America together and bring about the generational change that is due. He represents the young because they do live in a global world where difference based on race, religion, sex...is no longer valid.

    My greatest fear is that he won't be nominated due to a generation that has not been able to rise above division to really devote themselves to creating a better, inclusive country and world. It is really about if people allow the Washinton as usual, dirty tricks and illegal or shady voting practices continue to determine our gov't.

    Sadly, I have little hope for what shred of credibility our "democratic" process has at home or abroad.

    January 16, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    Really, couldnt tell it from where I sit. The supporters of both Clinton and Obama are really beging to hate each other and it wouldnt surprise me, if either one of them wins the nomination, if many voters dont just stay home. It is fascinating (and I am a loyal democrat) to sit here and watch the party implode. Once again, I can see the democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    January 16, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. Peter, New York, New York

    File under: "Famous Last Words" or "Gergen's Guesses"

    January 16, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  15. spinstopper

    Geee...., I wonder what this ex-Clinton advisor turned CNN Senior Political Analyst's unbiased opinion really is??

    January 16, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. E. J. Neila

    Democratic strategists got it wrong! Whereas, a female and man of color are to generate political enthusiam and activism amongst party faithfuls; citizens have taken candidates seriously despite the USA not being fully receptive to having one of them emerge as the winner. John Edwards might benefit most since Biden withdrew to become V. P. later. Can the party heal after the dust settles? Only time will tell, but someone in that smoky room underestimated the American people and yes you have a BIG problem regardless the pseudo truce.

    Democrats better have an answer for ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION besides an amnesty program that Americans strongly reject regardless to party affiliation. We are concerned about 20 million illegal aliens that impact negatively our failing economy –on the brink of a recession comparable to 1929 at least. Citizens wonder what would have happened if those 20 million illegals had protested in South America comparable our Civil rights movement? Illegals protest in the USA so why not where they have an historical investment? It was easier for them to cross the border and undercut American wages as corporate America encouraged them while earning more money for investors. I am democratic and any nominee representing our parpty must know that we want a fair solution to the injustice that has been forced fed down our weary throats. Start with the imprisoned because we need not pay over $23,000.00 per year for that growing population of thousands. SEND THEM HOME because you know where they are! Secure our borders by hiring enough personnel to make a difference; blow up those underground tunnels; construct fences in the hot spots; penalize human trafficers heavily and mandate that corporate American pay the cost for illegals' health care, food stamps, education, and housing needs. I live in North Carolina and our large poplulation of illegals did not walk here so human trafficking must be diminished at the highest levels, strengthen the laws.

    Winning in 2008 requires more than rhetoric and proclamations of experience. We crave specific information about BANKING practices forced on us to achieve a paperless money system banks control; high interest rates and penalities on credit cards; ridiculious user fees for UTILIZING our money but limitations on bankruptcy. We are starved to hear about initiatives relative to genetically engineered food, tainted water supplies, deteriotaing bridges and infrastructures, construction of futuristic looking and dangerous highway projects not needed; public education policies that work; health care; and JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. We no longer are interested in OPEN TRADE, we want manufacturing back in America, WITHOUT coporate welfare. We want to pay no more than $6.00 for a pair of Nike/Converse shoes that cost corporations $2.85 to make in foreign countries versus $85.-$200.00 a pair in America. It is my hope by the next election cycle, citizens will pay for electing our president verus the money madness method that gives us very similar products every four years. These type issues are not being discussed by candidates period and WE NEED TO KNOW NOW!

    You asked for it,
    E. J. Neila
    Greensboro, NC.

    January 16, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  17. therealist

    David forgot about the Clinton hate factor. It will be the DNC's demise.., again.

    January 16, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. Gary

    David, because of your unique background of experience in both parties, I do value your opinions. Regarding Obama, do you feel that the media is enamored with him? I think he has some very good qualities but is vague on the issues and light on experience. It seems like there is a positive handling of him even when he has some blunders while Hilary is under more scrutiny. While I have generally voted republican, I must say that a change is needed. What worries me is Hillary will ignite opposition in the general election and Obama won't be vetted until the Republicans do it if he is the nominee. Which could leave us with a Bush-like replacement in the White House.

    January 16, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  19. Mark

    The ground beneath the Republican feet shifted a long time ago: Bush created the recession that is coming back to haunt them in 2001 with his tax cuts and subsequent fiscal lack of control (especially with the war, financed (one might add) by China). In Euro terms, the US economy is smaller, not in relative but in absolute terms, in 2008 that it was in 2000; and by November the recession will be in full swing. The electorate are only just starting to catch up with the disaster that is about to hit them.

    January 16, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  20. Nurtz

    Wayne in Greenville is right, and wrong.

    Gergen was a political operative for Ford, Nixon, Reagan, and the
    elder Bush. He also was an adviser to Warren Christopher,
    Sect. of State in the first Clinton term.

    He claims to be an independent.

    As far as Gergen's point, he's fairly accurate but too narrow
    to see the complete reality. The conservative Republican
    movement was at its peak under Reagan, not because of
    what he believed, or what he did, but because he allowed
    conservatives of all stripes to believe that he stood for what
    they believed.

    Economic conservatives thought he was an economic
    conservative. Social conservatives thought he was a
    social conservative. Isolationists thought he was an
    isolationist, and interventionists thought he was an
    interventionist. Biblical literalists thought he was
    one of theirs, and rationalists believed he was a

    I dealt with quite a few political operatives in the Reagan
    years, and they were forever bickering over who had
    the President's ear. Reagan used to close lots of
    small meetings by giving someone a hearty handshake
    and telling him "Now remember - you're my point man
    on this issue." Every one of those guys went off believeing
    that they were the #1 person on that issue.

    This year, for the first time in about 30 years, the
    Republican/Conservative movement is actually
    trying to define itself. So far, it's not doing too well.

    January 16, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. Karen

    What are you writing about? The post says Dem and Repub. Not one single candidate was mentioned. He didn't express any punditry on who would or would not win. You kool-aid drinkers are doing it. Knock it off. It's annoying.

    January 16, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  22. Sheila

    American Voters Consider the following
    Sen. Barack Obama –
    Have you considered asking John Edwards to be on the ticket with you as VP. Hold on before you write me off as a quack consider this: By him remaining in the campaign he is only pulling 15% to 20% of the vote every where.
    Which in turn splits your votes and HRC comes out winning. Check the stats.
    If you to come together the nomination would be yours hands down right through the general election.
    Separately I think HRC can when the nomination & the GOP will run all over her in the general election hands down.
    Think about it I really want you to and believe you can and are very capable of being the President of the United States of America.

    January 16, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  23. Richard, West Palm Beach, FL

    "I often watch you on CNN and it is clear to me that most of your comments are colored by your support for the Clintons. "
    – – – –
    "I have always been a big fan of both David Gergen and Anderson Cooper .
    But their current Anti-Clinton reporting has diminished the quality of AC-360."
    – – – –

    Congratulations to CNN!!

    These comments show that you are doing a good job. Although the phrase "fair and balanced" has been desecrated lately, that's what you are.

    January 16, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  24. God Help US All, Atlanta,Georgia

    Jack K, Great post. I concur. As a conservative, you might not want to hear this, but you need to look at Hill. She's not the liberal the media makes her out to be, proof is that progressive radio, constantly puts her down. Liberal sites shrill for Obama all day. So do the right wingers. Frankly, if she's got the fringes on both sides riled up, that's a ringing endorsement to me. Check it out.. dude.

    January 16, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  25. John, Scotland, United Kingdom

    My impression of the nominations news coverage I have seen- both American and British -is that Obama is very much flavour of the month. This is very similar to the UK when Tony Blair became leader of our Opposition party and swept to power on the basis of a 'Things can only get better' campaign message, which was essentially a campaign of change. Unfortunately, any aspirations Blair had for a lasting legacy have been downed by the Iraq war – much as Dubya is blighted in the same way. Nevertheless, during Blairs' tenure the UK enjoyed unbridled growth, which is only now unravelling.
    Obama is easily the most promising and, dare I say it, Presidential of the candidates on offer. But my question is, does he offer subtance behind his indubitable style ? Moreover, does he offer solutions to the malaise currently affecting planet USA ?
    Immigration is an easy target and one which is also very high profile in the UK. But lets not forget, without these immigrants, who will do the low skill, minimum wage jobs that we all depend upon? America needs to reach out to the world – not try to govern the world. And your next Commander in Chief will face a difficult task in trying to restore America's credibility on the world stage.
    As for the idea that American manufacturing jobs can be saved – how is this possible? America CANNOT compete with Asia, just as the UK cannot. I have always viewed America as a forward thinking liberal economy, but America needs to wake up to her manufacturing non-competitiveness and move on. The factories in the UK have practically vanished, along with the communities they served as the bedrock. But there is hope – a service based economy. And who better to profit from such an economy than the Americans- after all, you practically made the model for customer service – then exported the model round the world.
    One thing that seems certain is that a government with a conscience is required in America. Big business' can take care of themselves, the humble American sometimes needs help.
    Who is the best catalyst for change, a change that is long overdue and that will not leave some Americans feeling like they are living an American nightmare and not the American dream?

    January 16, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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