Democratic insiders know enthusiasm is not expertise

My good friend Bruce, who turns 60 the day before this year’s California primary, is a seasoned politico.

Ever since he first voted in 1972, Bruce has picked — and then stood by — his presidential candidates before anyone else in our circle of friends. Given his track record, I’m confident I now know who the 2008 Democratic nominee will be. But more about that later.

Like I said, Bruce is a serious student of politics. In ’72, he supported Ed Muskie over George McGovern. Four years later, he campaigned for Jerry Brown.

When Ted Kennedy challenged incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980, guess who Bruce liked? In 1984, Bruce threw in with a young Gary Hart.

By now, you would think Bruce had had enough of Democratic politics; but no, he kept right on supporting his favorite candidates: Dick Gephardt in ’88; Paul Tsongas in ’92; Bill Bradley in 2000; and finally, Howard Dean four years ago.
Now that the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are over, who is Bruce supporting? He’s rock solid with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)!

Because he is part centrist and part insurgent, Bruce decided months ago to support the candidate with the most experience.

“Change is inevitable,” he told me. “It’s part of the fabric of every presidential election.”

On the face of it, my friend is right. Look at Reagan vs. Carter in 1980. Talk about major change. Then there was Clinton I and Clinton II; change was considerably more subtle in the ’90s. But that was then and this is now.

Talk about a change of heart. Former senator and presidential contender Bill Bradley supports Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who served as Bill Clinton’s energy secretary and recently dropped out of this year’s race for the White House, released his Iowa caucus delegates in favor of Obama.

Never one to be left standing at the station, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the party’s 2004 standard-bearer, has now stepped over John Edwards, his vice presidential running mate, and endorsed Obama.

Not that I have any insider information, but has anyone asked Al Gore who he intends to support?

Either way you slice it, it looks like the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee is going to be one for the history books. Absent any cataclysmic event, it will be either a woman or an African American.  Bruce clearly likes the former.

Maybe lightning will strike and Bruce finally will prove his critics wrong. There really is no way to tell. What I do know is his unbridled passion for picking a candidate early in the process is legendary.

So here’s to you, Bruce. I hope your presidential guessing game is right this time. Odds are it won’t be.

Laguna Beach, Calif.