As historic and surprising as nominating an African-American in 2008 is, it (perhaps merely by coincidence) is also totally in line with law school rank-orthodoxy of the top Democratic candidates. A law school rank-snob, looking at credentials without names attached, would've chosen Obama from the start. From bottom to top:
Mike Gravel - BS Economics
Dennis Kucinich - MA from Case Western
Chris Dodd - Louisville Law Grad
Joe Biden - Very smart Syracuse Law Grad.
Bill Richardson - Very smart with no law school credential (MALD from Tufts).
John Edwards - UNC Law, respectable showing.
Hillary Clinton - Yale Law, almost got all the way.
Barack Obama - Editor of Harvard Law Review, clinches the nomination.
I'm not suggesting it's anything more than coincidence, but I do think the Democratic nomination was a little more academic credential-focused than its Republican counterpart.
N.B. Richardson is the only one who manages to outperform law-snob expectations (beating some non-top law graduates with the Tufts MALD).
Just interesting to see how 'rankism' and credentials play out at the highest level, even if anecdotally.