Sunday, February 10, 2008

Well. Wasn't Saturday interesting. So now what?

Here's my take on the Saturday political games from the perspective of the Republican and Democratic nomination activities yesterday, and then I will discuss how I think the general election is beginning to shape up.

RepublicansDemocratsVice PresidentsElection fundamentals
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One thing is clear from Saturday. While McCain is the Republican frontrunner, and the man I think will ultimately win the Republican nomination, the Washington state caucuses showed that the Republican Party really doesn't like him. Even after Romney formally got out of the race, McCain couldn't decisively beat him. Nor could McCain decisively defeat the two clearly self-limited other candidates, Huckabee and Ron Paul.

I can't help but wonder. Would the Washington state Republicans have chosen "None of the above" over any of the candidates they did vote for?

That's not to say that the Republicans won't put a strong campaign together behind McCain for November in the next eight-plus months.

Still, the only thing that I can see the Republicans are getting out of the 2008 nomination races is a really politically powerful Christian fundamentalist right-wing political leader who will be with us for decades. I'd say Huckabee has picked up the mantle of Billy Graham, John Rushdoony, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson and rather thoroughly displaced James Dobson. Huckabee and the Discovery Institute will be with us for the foreseeable future trying to turn America into a Dominionist theocracy, and the 2008 Republican nomination campaigns has placed Huckabee at the top of that heap. Except for Billy Graham (who was just a politically powerful preacher) the rest are actively opposed to America under the Constitution and need to be carefully watched.

Ron Paul, unsurprisingly, is going nowhere in the Republican race for the nomination. Somewhat to my surprise, he has announced that he will not run on a third party. The news report point out that he needs to return to his congressional district and head off a primary challenge, so I guess he doesn't want to give up his Congressional seat.


Obama clearly had a very good day Saturday, but he isn't going to put the nomination away before the Democratic convention, just as Hillary won't. Each need 2025 delegates to win the nomination outright, each has something in the ball park of 1000 delegates, and only about 1400 remain to be won in the remaining primaries and caucuses. The Democratic nomination for President is essentially a tie in the primaries and caucuses, so the decision will come down to the Superdelegates.

As good as Saturday was for Obama, Hispanics are not voting for an African-American. The big states remaining on the Democratic primary - caucus calendar are Ohio (161 delegates), Texas (228 delegates), Pennsylvania (188 delegates) and North Carolina (134 delegates). Hillary has a better organization and longer relations in Texas, plus she has courted the Hispanic vote here. Obama is unlikely to get over a third of the Texas delegates (~76). Depending on Black turnout in North Carolina, give him two-thirds there (~90) and split Ohio and Pennsylvania, maybe an edge to Obama. (~180). So give Obama 346 of the 657 delegates, and Hillary 311. That's roughly 52% Obama to 48% Hillary.

Of 657 delegates, 20% will be Superdelegates, so only about 525 are up for grabs. Neither is going to put the nomination away. The Superdelegates will decide. This is not a bad thing for the Democratic Party. As I posted Friday:
I really think it is coming down to an effective tie for delegates when the Democratic voters and caucus-goers are counted, so the final decision is going to the 20% Superdelegates at the convention. Those are Democratic Party professionals and they will choose the person with the greatest likelihood of coattails. Since that will have the greatest power to build the Democratic Party, that's the way the decision needs to be made.

Undemocratic? Forget such kneejerk ideological reactions. There is more to consider than just voter impressions, especially when they are essentially tied. There is also the question of how to build a better Democratic Party, one able to prevent the conservatives from destroying America as it has for the last thirty to forty years. Jimmy Carter's worst flaw as President was that he did nothing to build the Democratic Party at a time when the Goldwaterites, John Birchers and unreconstructed Nixonites were bringing the political evangelists and Reagan Democrat racists into the Republican Party and building the Reagan coalition. Party-building matters. A strong Democratic Party is better for America and for Americans in the long run. If the voters are essentially tied when it is time to choose a Presidential nominee, then it is appropriate for the party professionals to consider the realities of electoral politics. If the Superdelegates get it wrong, then American democracy will correct them on the first Tuesday in November. So as things look right now, the Superdelegates may make the final selection between Hillary and Obama, and that's not a bad thing to have happen. They really can't go wrong deciding between those two.
About the only argument that remains in play is which of the two, Hillary or Obama, can more easily defeat McCain. So with the Presidential nominees for each party relatively clear, it is probably time to consider Vice President choices.

Vice Presidential Choices

I had thought that Obama would be a good Vice Presidential candidate for Hillary. I don't think that Hillary would strengthen an Obama ticket, but that is pure opinion. Eric Alterman disagrees with me on Obama as Veep to Hillary. He also comments on Veep choice for McCain.
5) Running mates? Again, I dunno. Clinton/Obama in either combo makes no sense. The ticket needs a white male. Jim Webb would work well for either one. So would John Edwards, and Joe Biden. Chris Dodd makes a lot of sense for Obama but not for Clinton.

For McCain, if he's worried about Limbaugh-like lunatics staying home, he will have to go to his right flank and pick an anti-immigrant demagogue, though Huckabee could work here, he's also a high-risk choice because of his (endearing) personality quirks and total and complete lack of understanding of foreign affairs. Otherwise, he should go north and make himself competitive in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, though I don't have any names in mind for that. Tom Kean is too liberal and would be a Democrat anywhere else but the Northeast.
So that's where we are today. What about the general election?

The Election fundamentals

There are at least three major issues that are going to determine the outcome of this election. They are

Change, Security and The Economy.
Then how will the issues work out on
Election day?
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Change - The polls this eight months before the election are a waste of time. They tell us nothing. So look at the fundamentals. Americans want a change away from the conservative policies that have been destroying the American government and economy. both Hillary and Obama offer that, with Obama seen as the stronger of the two. McCain offers continuation, not change.

Security - Security is supposedly McCain's strongest issue. But is it? McCain is a stark raving mad militarist and Imperialist who never saw a war he didn't want America to fight. This, his legendary temper and his support by the Neocons and Joe Lieberman (who will happily support fighting any Arab anywhere any time) make McCain a prime candidate for "Goldwaterization." When the over two-thirds of Americans consider the Iraq adventure a major blunder in the first place and want America out as soon as possible, McCain may be swimming upstream. There's a limit to how long voters will vote against real needs out of fear.

Obama may have an edge over Hillary on the security issue because she voted for the Iraq war and he didn't. [No telling what he would have done had he been in the Senate, but that's the way it is.]

But speaking of the voter's real needs, there is the economy.

The Economy - No party that controlled the White House when the economy went into Recession during election year has seen their candidate win the Presidency. This has been true for the last century, and it isn't going to change. That makes the 2008 Presidential election one for the Democrats to lose, and they would have to work hard to do so. McCain has, if it is possible, negative credentials for dealing with the economy. His statement that he doesn't know much about it, but has bought Greenspan's book is just crying out for repeated replay in October.

The Bush administration is going to work hard to downplay America's economic problems, but they have gotten to obvious to be overlooked by most voters. Romney was their only chance to deal with the economic problems, and too many social Republicans just couldn't vote for a Mormon.

On the Democratic side, Hillary is the strongest of the two candidates for dealing with the economic problems. I haven't seen much indication that Obama is any better prepared than McCain is.

Election Day - Given those three issues, Security is the only one that McCain might be strong with, and his strength can be neutralized by exploiting his character, both his militarism and his temper. So America will get change, from conservatives to Democrats. The question is, Hillary or Obama?

The third issue, the economy, together with the Superdelegates reactions to the race, is going to probably determine that. Since it is now clear that the Democratic nomination is going to be determined by the Superdelegates, What motivates them? Local party strength.

The Superdelegates are going to look at which of the two has the strongest coattails. Hillary has the better economic credentials, and right now she has the in-depth long term national organization that the Superdelegates, considering local and state election outcomes, are likely to prefer to a roll of the dice on the Obama movement. So unless Obama creams Hillary for the next two months while simultaneously building a credible nationwide organization for the state and local elections, Hillary is going to be the choice of the Superdelegates.

A Hillary nomination will probably make the Presidential general election nastier, since the right-wing hates Hillary worse than they do an African-American candidate. That Hillary will get nastier treatment isn't clear, though, because an Obama nomination is going to bring out the right-wing Racists in force. In either case, the recession economy and the demand for change is going to be the political wind in the Democratic sails.

If Hillary gets the nomination, what happens to Obama? He wants really badly to be President, and he is quite young. He will be Hillary's presumed successor unless he messes up somehow. So he can be expected to throw his full weight behind Hillary's campaign in the general election.

Anyway, that's the way things seem to be stacking up as of today from my perspective.

Comments and criticism are encouraged.

You may notice that I have been playing with internal HTML links in this post. I wasn't sure that blogger would support them, but they do. Now that I know they work I'll try to use them to make my writing a little less bulky, turgid and intimidating. If you want shorter posts, forget it. That's just not me.

Apparently blogger's spell check feature is off, so I apologize for those spelling errors I have missed.

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