Chuck Todd & Sheldon Gawiser have a new book out and it is pretty good. MSNBC has an extended excerpt from the book
The 2008 election got started early, before the first candidate, Tom Vilsack, officially announced in November 2006. The campaign began in 1999, when word first leaked that then first lady Hillary Clinton was seriously contemplating a run for U.S. senator from New York. Her election in 2000 set off the anticipation for what would be a historic first: the potential election of this country’s first woman president.
There was some scuttlebutt that Clinton would run for president in 2004, but ultimately she decided to keep her eye on the 2008 ball. That was when she’d be into her second term as senator and when the field would be cleared of an incumbent president. This country rarely fires presidents after one term. It’s happened just three times in the last 100 years.
The long march of the Hillary Clinton candidacy shaped much of the presidential fields for both parties. The Republicans who announced in 2008 all made their cases within the framework of challenging Hillary. In fact, it was Hillary’s presence on the Democratic side that gave Rudy Giuliani the opportunity to be taken seriously by Republicans as a 2008 presidential candidate. As for the Democrats, consider that many an analyst and media critic like to talk about how wrong so-called conventional wisdom was during the 2008 campaign. But much of it was right. One early piece of such wisdom was that the Democratic primary campaign would be a primary within the primary between all the Democrats not named Clinton to establish an alternative to Hillary.
This sub-Democratic primary, which started in earnest after the 2004 presidential election, looked as if it was going to be a campaign between a lot of white guys and Washington insiders looking for their last chance at the brass ring. Familiar faces like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson must have thought to themselves, If I could only get into a one-on-one with Hillary, I could beat her. Some new names were also seriously considering a run, like Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. None of these potential candidates scared the Clinton camp, because they all were just conventional enough that Hillary’s ability to put together a base of women and African-Americans would be sufficient to achieve the Democratic nomination.
But there was one potential candidate whose name was being talked about by activists and the blogosphere who did have the Clinton crowd nervous: the freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. The factor that kept the Clintons confident about their 2008 chances was the notion that there was just no way, despite his popularity with the Democratic activist base, that a guy who, until 2004, was in the Illinois state senate would somehow have the audacity to run for president so soon. The Clintons were very familiar with the strategy of figuring out the timing of when best to run. They knew 1988 was too soon for Bill, and they took the advice of many and waited until 1992, and they knew that 2004 was too soon for Hillary, and she took the advice of many and waited. Surely, the Clintons must have thought, Obama would follow the same advice.