Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Random Observations

1. The campaigns for the party nominations are more over than ever now. The Wisconsin result was ever more devastating than the Virginia one. Let me said I told you so on Hillary. I will now boldly predict she’ll actually lose the Ohio and Texas primaries. Huck’s usefulness for McCain is over; he should drop out

2. My interviewing of Berry College presidential scholar candidates and my visit to Baylor both reinforced my opinion that there’s are real pockets of evangelical love for Obama and not much evangelical like for McCain at this point.

3. Obama, of course, doesn’t share McCain’s record of reaching out to members of the other party. I’m not sure, though, why he’d have to as president; the Democrats will surely have enhanced majorities in Congress. But part of the Republican argument--one that might draw the libertarians back in--is that divided government is safer and probably cheaper than unified government. Mac, of course, is in some ways well suited to rule with the other party controlling Congress.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Mac as President and a Democratic Congress cannot properly be described as "divided government". Mac likes nothing better than working with Democrats, moreso than working with Republicans.

If we want divided government we need a GOP Congress along with any of Obama, Clinton, or McVain.

Well, if we EQUATE McCain with the Democrats, that's not true, and it's not what's needed to keep the GOP from congressional slaughter.

That said, my civic duty done, it's been a long time since I've heartily agreed with J. Chait of TNR, but he really nails it with this essay on McCain. It makes more sense to me than Peter L's "warrior" angle. The closing line, summing up what McCain really believes, is priceless: "But really, who knows?" Oh, and let me quote one other: "This is the consensus: McCain's basically a right-winger, but at least you know where he stands. ...Actually, this assesment gets McCain almost totally backwards. He has diverged wildly and repeatedly from conservative orthodoxy, but he has also invented himself so completely that it has become nearly impossible to figure out what he really believes."

Is this too harsh? I can't say that it fingers be crossed, and I know a President McCain will want to at least appear to be quasi-Republican, which compared to Obama, will make him the better choice. But really, it's going to be the election of crap-shoots: the Demos gambling all on the unlikely prospect that this smart, likeable young man can be a decent president, and not be a huge letdown to the expectations he's set up, we Republicans having to bet all on the hope that John will be more of a Republican than his record indicates, and that the meglomanic potentialities of his psyche are under control.

"But part of the Republican argument--one that might draw the libertarians back in--is that divided government is safer and probably cheaper than unified government." - PL

Agreed. The case can be made (and has been made by the Cato Institute) that a libertarian swing vote was the difference in the mid-terms. The divided government argument was persuasive to vote for Dems in '06 and may be again to vote Rep in '08. It is however, a small voting block on the margin. If the election is close, it can be determinative. If the GOP is mortally wounded - it won't help.

A way to frame it: The election is not about Obama vs. McCain. the November election will be for either

Obama + Reid + Pelosi

-or -

McCain + Reid + Pelosi

[Actually, if Obama is the nominee, Clinton should be substituted for Reid.]

The Dems won Congress back in '06 by putting ideological orthodoxy aside in favor of electability calculations, which caused them to make a concerted effort to nominate a passel of relatively conservative (or at least conservative-sounding) candidates who plausibly appeared to match their districts ideologically. In other words, they formed diagnoses regarding where the political center of gravity was, and ran accordingly in a set of legislative contests.

Now they are about to send into the presidential contest a young and untested character who is indisputably quite well to the left of the center of gravity in American politics.

If (a big "if" in my view) McCain can successfully put the focus on the gap that this opens up, he should be able to make the Democrats regret this structural gamble. I call it a gamble because the Dems are essentially betting that Obama's telegenic smile, youth, vigor, soaring but vapid rhetoric, etc., will be enough to deflect attention away from his leftism and the kind of unappealing attitudes displayed so far by his not-quite-ready-for-prime-time wife. They could be right, but I doubt it. Bill Clinton had youth, vigor, and a telegenic appeal back in '92, but he also made a show of tacking toward the right or at least the center in a few high-profile matters, something I don't expect Obama to be able to do nearly as effectively or concertedly, if only because Clinton had been the governor of a fairly conservative Southern state (where indeed he had staged a political comeback once already) while Obama has been cossetted in a liberal cocoon all his life, so it's not a good bet he'll have Clinton's instincts and agility.

The GOP, meanwhile, has had a huge stroke of luck or (electoral) good sense in nominating the one candidate in its presidential field who has a serious chance of exerting major "crossover" appeal to undecideds, independents, and even some Democrats. Love him or hate him for his deviations from GOP orthodoxy, McCain has potential electoral strengths that none of his GOP rivals could come anywhere near matching, and that could make a huge difference in November.

I'd feel better about all this, however, if McCain were out there NOW doing his utmost to set the terms of the debate this fall. Obama's going to have the nomination sewn up by March 5, at which point McCain's task of "preparing the battle space" will become much harder once Obama and the Dems are freed from the Clinton succubus. In view of this, I can't help but wonder about the timing of that lame NYT story that effectively threw McCain off message this week, and wonder what else the mainstream media has in store to bollix the GOP nominee. . . . I guess we're going to find out.

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