Throughout the last month I have been hearing two analogies to describe the democratic primary. The race is often framed as the reincarnation of Walter Mondale vs. Gary Hart, or Al Gore vs. Bill Brady. The implication is that Barack Obama is Gary Hart/Bill Brady. They are insurgent youthful figures, who give soaring speeches, have enthusiastic young volunteers, and appeal to the wealthier liberal wing of the party.
Walter Mondale, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton are the experience and establishment candidates. They have slowly worked their way up the party ranks and appeal to the older traditional union/lunchbox voters. They are boring technocrats, who stress their complex plans to help Middle America with small incremental changes. Walter Mondale and Hillary Clinton also used their powerful political connections to give them an edge in the delegate count.
And while these analogies have some merit almost no one mentions that Walter Mondale and Al Gore went on to lose the general. Walter Mondale suffered the most crushing defeat in presidential history. Al Gore lost to a political neophyte with youthful indiscretions and a terrible business record. And Al Gore was part of a fairly successful and popular administration. There is no knowing how well Bill Bradley or Gary Hart would have done in the general elections. Of course it would have been basically impossible for Gary Hart to have done worse than Walter Mondale. And if the 2000 election really came down people voting for who they wanted to have a beer with, who does want to have a bud light while watching the game with a pro athlete? The point is the experienced, establishment, and boring candidates have terrible track records.