Monday, January 21, 2008

The race so far

By Carl

It's been an interesting month in both the Democratic and Republican primary season, one filled with surprises and not-surprises-that-sort-of-looked-like surprises. I figure this is as good a time as any to assess where things seem to be headed.

First, the Republicans:

It seems pretty clear after Saturday's South Carolina win by John McCain that he has the momentum, and that the only serious challenger to his nomination is Mitt Romney, who could outfinance John McCain and still have enough left over for a downpayment on a Caribbean island like, say, Guadeloupe. If he can win Florida, Romney might be able to save enough of his fortune to buy Jamaica.

Rudy Giuliani, who has been all but anointed by the White House (if you scan back across the Bush administration and see how many times Rudy's name pops up in connection with appointees, you'll see what I mean), has lost any mojo he had as the presumed nominee of 2007. TOo bad for Rudy, the election is THIS year. In your next life, maybe you'll treat your wives with a bit more respect.

John McCain's strength in the primaries will be his name recognition. Second only to Giuliani, John McCain's name is one of those quirky things that voters who really could give a rat's ass who faces Hillary the Democratic nominee in November will remember when they pull the lever. That alone could give him a substantial leg up over Romney, but keep in mind that the South has barely had a chance to ratify Mormonism, and there is an awful lot of anxiety over Romney's religion in the deep Christian south.

It's been fun to watch this race, not so much for the main event, but for the sideshow: watching right wing pundits fall all over themselves to find a "true conservative in the mold of George W. Bush" (I can't imagine anyone saying that with a straight face), and failing miserably as each of their Chosen Ones has withered away like old roses: Hunter, Tancredo, now Thompson.

So much for the might of the Blogosphere, not that Blogtopia (©
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) has fared much better.

Prediction: John McCain delivers a severe blow to Romney in Florida, who had hopes of swiping Giuliani's thunder. He then racks up enough delegates on SuperDuper Tuesday to guarantee at least a seat at the table for any brokered convention.

Now, the Democrats:

To be honest, I was deeply troubled by the Iowa results. While I never expected Hillary to win that state's caucuses, I expected Edwards and Obama to split the caucus more evenly, leaving Hillary a far better showing than ten points off the lead. It made me wonder if we were seeing a brand new historic moment to go along with all the others: the realization that Americans have an attention span and remember Edwards' miserable campaign at the Vice Presidential nominee in 2004.

That may well still be a valid observation -- it never pays to be in the number two slot on a losing ticket -- but as the polls suggested an huge Obama win in New Hampshire, you finally saw Hillary wake up. I think she took the loss in Iowa for granted, and only when she realized how much ground she had to make up did she wake up and start campaigning in earnest.

I don't mean working the crowds or anything like that. That has about as much to do with winning elections as sending an e-mail to a Congresscritter has to do with passing legislation. I mean, getting her ground game in business, and leaning on the people who were doing the fundraising, the networking, and the grunt work of shoring up the mechanical aspects of campaigning: making sure people vote. The Clinton strength has been the organization that elected Bill twice. I'm not sure why she delayed getting that into high gear. Perhaps she believed her own press.

Obama lost this election in the final debate before New Hampshire, and he knows what he did that caused it: his petulant attitude towards someone who deserved more respect than he was willing to give her. You'll notice that after Hillary stomped a mudhole in Obama in New Hampshire, Barack was quick to change the tone of discourse towards Hillary.

You know what they say about a woman scorned.

Obama's best hope, perhaps his only one, is to hang around long enough for Hillary to be lulled back into the "inevitability" thing again and start making mistakes. This weekend's Nevada caucuses tell me she's not likely to do that again. Say what you will about the Clinton machine: apart from sex scandals, they learn fast.

Obama's worst enemy is John Edwards. Despite the appearance of being in agreement, these two men really should be at each other's throats, and I'm not sure that's not a dynamic based on some "between the lines" reading I've been doing.

For instance, while Edwards has "me, too'ed" a lot of Obama's comments towards Hillary's problems, that mere bobbleheaded agreement has caused Obama headaches as Edwards was more than willing to take things one step forward with his comments.

For example, while Obama was careful not to comment on Hillary's moment of emotionality in New Hampshire,
Edwards questioned Hillary's strength.

Since he had played hitman in the last debate before this show of emotion to Obama's mob boss portrayal, both of them suffered badly for that misstatement by Edwards, and directly attacking Obama's message of unity. That couldn't have played well in the Obama camp.

I can understand Edwards being pissed as all get out at Obama. After all, only ONE one term Senator should run for President on a platform of change at a time, and Edwards was there first!

Prediction: Hillary loses in South Carolina to Obama, who steals near-native-son Edwards' lunch. Hillary, however, goes onto Florida, wins there, and then takes California, New York, and Texas on SuperDuper Tuesday, all but guaranteeing her nomination with those contests, based on the selected delegates as well as the super delegate counts.

It pays to be in the Senate for more than two years, you see, because you get to meet the superdelegates: elected representatives to whom you can dole out pork. Hillary started the season over 100 delegates more than Obama had.

So it's shaping up as a John McCain/Hillary Clinton showdown in November, unless something brutally outside of the foreseeable happens.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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