One central narrative in the presidential campaign thus far, on both the Republican and Democratic sides, has been the success of insurgent candidates. Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama, in particular, whose chances looked slim a year ago, are now firmly in the mix. Journalists often don’t have time to dwell on the phenomenon of these featherweight campaigns that turned heavyweight virtually overnight, and are content to simply state that Huckabee and Obama are underdogs who overachieved. So I’m happy to point out two stories today that do a more thorough job of explaining just how and why this happened.
First there’s Noam Scheiber’s piece in The New Republic. It’s an interesting examination of Obama’s organization and how it is an upgrade of Howard Dean’s ’Netroots revolution from 2004. The success or failure of Obama will rest largely on his ability to balance these new methods for accumulating supporters together with the old-fashioned grassroots work.
Then there’s a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal that analyzes Huckabee’s rise. We get an inside look at how his “chaotic”—the candidate’s own characterization—campaign operates and the obstacles facing him with almost no infrastructure to compete nationally for the nomination.
Both stories answer the question of how these unlikely candidates have gotten this far—but they also explore the future: will they beat the odds like a Jimmy Carter or collapse with a scream like Howard Dean?Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.