Worst Week in Washington

Who had the worst week in Washington? Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama.

By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, June 6, 2010

Turns out being the next Barack Obama isn't as easy as it looks.

Ask Artur Davis -- African American, Harvard Law School graduate, four-term member of Congress and, until Tuesday night, the man touted by state and national Democrats as the first black governor of Alabama and then . . . who knows?

Riding that wave of promise, Davis was expected to sweep aside little-regarded state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks in the Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday.

Or not. Davis was swamped 62 percent to 38 percent, an across-the-board defeat that left political analysts -- including this one -- shaking their heads about how a black candidate seeking to make history could lose in a state where more than half of the electorate was almost certainly African American. (In the 2008 Democratic presidential fight between Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, 51 percent of the Alabama primary electorate was black.)

The answer is complicated, as it almost always is in politics, but involves two main factors: Davis's vote against President Obama's health-care bill and his refusal to court several influential African American organizations in Alabama. Those groups, in turn, endorsed Sparks, who is white.

More broadly, Davis seemed to fall victim to the human instinct to search for the "next big thing" -- whether it's the next Michael Jordan (how's that working out for you, Vince Carter?), the next Beatles (does Oasis even exist anymore?) or the next Secretariat (Mine That Bird! Big Brown! Funny Cide!).

Davis's defeat is yet more evidence that there is no formula for stratospheric success, and it should serve as a warning to all of the next next-Obamas -- Newark Mayor Cory Booker, we are looking at you.

Artur Davis, because you went from being the next Obama to declaring your political career over in the space of 48 hours, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail chris.cillizza@wpost.com with your nominees.

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