Friday, February 23, 2007

Does anybody else think that it’s ridiculous for presidential candidates to be going at it hammer and tongs a full year before the first primary? The real and implicit vitriol between the Clinton and Obama camps this early in the process is nothing short of idiotic. At this rate, those two candidates will have dropped out from exhaustion long before the voting actually begins.

Is that why John Edwards is waiting, and watching, and generally keeping his mouth shut? If so, I would call that good strategy, and urge him to keep a low – and statesman-like – profile, for as long as possible.

What nobody seems to be looking at is the substantive qualifications of either Clinton or Obama to be president. The former has completed one term in the Senate, and is the wife of a former president. The latter is still in his first term in national office. Aside from name recognition [Clinton] and perceived charisma [Obama], what do these candidates bring to the table?

Of course, one could have asked the same questions about Bill Clinton in 1992, or George W. Bush in 2000, as well. Well, at least they had experience governing. So, maybe it’s unfair for me to question these candidates’ qualifications on such a basis. On the other hand, and as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, neither one excites me much, either as to presentation of their positions, or more importantly, their ability to be elected in a general election.

Because that’s what it’s all about, folks. Who stands the best chance of winning a general election in an electorate that clearly is in the middle of the road? If you don’t care about winning, it’s all well and good for the far left [or far right] candidates to stake out a marginal position, and then go down gloriously and virtuously in flames, because their message did not sell to the electorate. George McGovern did just that, and look how well he did in the general election – against a wartime president and during a war that was perceived as widely unpopular [McGovern won just one state, his own, and D.C.]. The comparisons between 1972 and 2008 are illuminating, to say the least. You cannot lead your party’s voters where they don’t want to go, and the majority of Democrats don’t support the position of getting back at Bush at the expense of our troops. The Republican anti-Clinton sentiment fed the impeachment proceedings; in the same vein, the anti-Bush feeling fans the fires of this "withdraw from Iraq under any circumstances" position.

To govern, you’ve got to get elected, and the Democratic candidates seem to have forgotten that small point. They seem to be marginalizing themselves by making a litmus test over the vote for war in 2003, or support for the troops on the ground. Thus, the perception is that to get the Democratic nomination, you’ve got to be vocally and vociferously anti-Bush [read anti-war, anti-war funding]. Anti-Bush is fine, but a candidate who commits to cutting support for troops on the ground is doomed to failure in the general election. After all, that candidate can’t take that position back once the nomination is secured.

The Republicans love this in-fighting between Clinton and Obama. They don’t really care which one takes the nomination, because they can cut either candidate off at the knees. And they particularly love that the Democratic candidates collectively are painting themselves into an un-winnable position, by moving farther to the left on the war issue than the electorate can tolerate.

Have the Republicans, who appear to have a better grasp of the long-term picture than the Democrats, maneuvered the Democrats into this corner? It makes some sense:

* Push Hillary, who they can beat under almost any circumstances, given her negatives.
* At the same time, get Hillary to punch herself out with Obama, who is aggressively anti-war, African-American, and inexperienced in national/foreign affairs and governance generally.
* Ignore and thus minimize the candidates who pose the biggest general election threat – Edwards, Richardson – and flog Clinton and Obama.
* MSM, the beast who must be fed, and the bloggers [son of the beast?] will go [and are going] to town just for the splashiest story.
* Chiefly because of the far-left anti-war stances the candidates are being forced into, the perception is created that Democrats are all wild-eyed lunatics who want to cut and run, and don’t support our troops [see Vietnam].
* Following the internecine primary carnage, whoever gets the nomination is already bloodied and exhausted.
* The nominee also has major baggage picked up with the positions they had to take just to win the nomination, as well as the underlying negatives [in Clinton’s case]. If Hilary is the nominee, then they pound her negatives, as well as the northeastern liberal mantle she inevitably carries. With Obama, they grind him down on his inexperience, and, subtly his color [see Harold Ford campaign
in Tennessee].

Either way, the Republicans dance to victory in November ‘08. As icing on the cake, they finally “get” a Clinton, even if Hillary isn’t really the one they wanted to “get.”

It really doesn’t matter whether the Republicans are sly enough to maneuver the Democrats into this position, or whether the Democrats are dumb enough to do it to themselves. The result would be the same: Democratic sacrifice of the presidency on the alter of the far left’s “principles.”

The Democratic leadership wants to believe the mid-term elections were a mandate for the far left. Not so. The mid-terms were a rejection of the far right in favor of centrist populism. If the far left holds sway over the Democratic presidential contest, the electorate will reject that nominee just as handily as it did the far right. Which is OK by the Republicans.

The Democratic leadership ignores these realities at its peril. We’re talking realpoltik here. To govern, you’ve got to win. To win, you’ve got to appeal to the broadest base. Given popular dissatisfaction with Republicans in general, the Democrats, as in 2004, would have to work real hard to lose this election.



Anonymous said...

The 2008 Presidential Election hinges more on Illegal immigration than on Iraq, as there is no clear left-right position.

RepubliCAN said...

Yeah! Just claim whatever ideological bent which will get you elected. No one needs deeply held beliefs to guide their decision-making for a term. The important thing is winning.

Win at all costs, power is everything.

RogerA said...

This whole campaign mess is apparently what happens when you have a two term president and a vice president that isnt going to run.

On the bright side, with apparently half the senate running, it means not much will get done thus vitiating the democrats promises to do something. The foolishness of the current "campaign," is that so much could happen in the nearly two years before the election what happens now is probably going to be inconsequential. For example: an Israel-Iran exchange of nuclear strikes; another terrorist attack on the homeland; the mind boggles....

Imagine what another attack on the homeland would do to the democratic party

Anonymous said...

McGovern did NOT win his own state. He won Massachusetts and DC, and lost South Dakota (or was it North?)...

-Rob Sama

JorgXMcKie said...

Let me get this straight. You think Edwards is just laying low? Odd, he seems to be speaking everywhere anyone will listen. Perhaps he's not laying low so much as being ignored.

I think Edwards is less electable than Hillary for sure. In a general election he'd get opened up like a cheap can. Richardson, if he avoids some missteps would be a much better candidate.

Of course, if the Republicans nominate some nutcase, it won't matter.

Personally, I think a wide-open race in both parties is fun.

Anonymous said...


I truly hope as a liberal republican (yes, we do exist) that another liberal republican, Rudy G., takes the Repub. nomination...I don't think he can be beaten by anyone (other than perhaps bill richardson) that the Dem's could field. The more I talk to "the base" of the republican party, the more accepting of Rudy they are. It's truly surprising just how much so he is...something to ponder.

R. Vail, Ph.D.
Pikesville, MD USA

Dudley Smith said...

If you're going to (rightly)criticize Hillary! and Obama for lack of experience, then I'm not sure why you don't say the same for Edwards. The guy served one term as a Senator, and basically took the last two years off running for President. He wouldn't have even been re-elected in North Carolina, and couldn't help Kerry to even a single percentage point improvement over Bush/Gore in the Tar Heel State. At least Hillary! had first hand experience in a White House for 8 years.

As someone who will be voting Republican, but who hopes the counrty gets best president it can from the Dems if they win, I'd like to see someone with lots of experience like Richardson win. Heck, even Biden's been around the block enough times not to screw things up too bad if he got elected. Edwards is Jimmy Carter II as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

Edwards looks to me to be the most unserious legitimate presidential contender of my political lifetime. I can't remember having seen a more obvious huckster in any walk of life, not just limited to politics. It's almost like the guy is play-acting what he thinks someone running for president is "supposed" to be doing.

I won't be voting for a Democrat regardless, and the thought of eight more years of Clintonian nastiness (and Bill strutting around like he's smarter than everyone else) nauseates me. But Hillary's not a threat to the survival of the Republic. Edwards really might be. He's that much of a joke, and thus--to return to the point of the excellent blog post--I'm not sure what else is happening right now will make much of a difference for him.

Anonymous said...

I'll post it here first - it will be Hillary and Obama on the ticket together in '08 - there just airing all of their dirty laundry now so that it will be pushed completely out of collective memory by the time the election roles around. It will be historic - the MSM will wet itself. Remember G.H.W. Bush called Reagan all sorts of ugly things in the lead up to '80. I think Bush called Reagan's economic plan "voodo economics" but he was invited on the ticket as the "blueblood" Republican to balance the "overly" conservative Reagan. So you'll have a say-anything-to-win woman (with Bill raising tons of money) and an African-American running together against two old white guys. The thought of this scares the bejebus out of me.

Anonymous said...

Just one minor quibble. As someone who usually votes Rep, I don't think it really was, or is Bill Clinton the right deeply hated. Bill was seen as a lightweight scalawag, and not too deeply personally committed to left wing causes, (just as Bush is now disliked by the right because he has weak conservative instincts). It was and remains Hillary who drew the most raw emotion.

boinky said...

Edwards "held back"?
In the last week, he has managed to insult Catholics and Jews. If he makes mistakes now, the press gives him a pass on being a southern bigot...

Anonymous said...

A very smart and diplomatic answer. It’s really appreciable and generous.
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