Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Fractured parties

Both parties seem fractured right now, but in two completely different ways. The Democrats have the opportunity to nominate either the first woman or the first African-American presidential candidate. It's historic, and for the rest of the party's existence, they'll be able to say they were the party that did it first. But which historic moment gets to go first?

If Hillary wins, she'll probably pick Bill Richardson as her vice-presidential candidate, and there's another historic detail, the first Hispanic VP nominee.

If Barack wins, he'll probably find a Democratic governor somewhere, one that's a little older but doesn't completely overshadow him in the gravitas department the way Cheney did over Dubya.

When it comes to policies, it doesn't really matter which one wins, as they've voted the same way 93% of the time in the Senate. So it comes down to character, personality, and which historic moment gets to go first.

Personality-wise, Barack would win in a landslide against any Republican, and if Democrats care about controlling the White House in 2009, they'd wise up to this.

Hillary would galvanize the GOP no matter who their nominee was, because they do not want to go through the headache of having the Clintons on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue again. People forget how scorched the Earth was when they left.

John Edwards is still in the race because he has nothing else to do. He'll probably become a lobbyist, but a lobbyist for "the poor."

On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans have the unenviable task of trying to find the right spokesman to convince a nation to give them another chance after eight years of a president who did almost everything he said he wouldn't do in 2000. He made government bigger, and he had the opposite of a humble foreign policy. His neocon experts picked and chose their intelligence to get us into war with Iraq before Afghanistan was done or Osama bin Laden was caught. I believed them then. I believed there would be weapons of mass destruction found. There weren't. Even so, Iraq still could have succeeded had the post-war occupation not gone so badly and been managed so poorly.

So there's Mitt Romney, John McCain and Mike Huckabee at the top. They've each own states and are the top three in getting votes and delegates. Rudy Giuliani is still in play, with big states like New York and New Jersey favoring him. Fred Thompson needs to place at least third in South Carolina or it will demonstrate, yeah, he waited too long to get in. Ron Paul has a solid streak of support in every state, but it's never meant higher than fourth place, and I don't see any state out there that will rank him higher. Texas, maybe? Duncan Hunter should drop out.
The problem with the Republican candidates is that they do have a lot of differences. Romney has the best resume for handling the economy, but how would he really do with foreign policy? McCain has the best resume for foreign policy, but with his stands on campaign-finance reform and immigration, he's made many enemies in his own party. Huckabee's going the populist route, the second coming of Jimmy Carter. Giuliani has the most comprehensive tax plan, but is he too socially liberal and internationally hawkish? Paul has convinced the GOP he's crazy on foreign policy, even though a lot of what's he's saying makes sense. (Not the part about Lincoln dragging us into war to end slavery when it could have been handled a different way.) Then there's Thompson, who is the most well-rounded on conservative issues but finishing behind Paul in the last two states doesn't help him.

Despite these differences, it seems like their personalities matter more in the coverage they get. Mitt's going back to the type of campaign he wanted to run a year ago. He "found his voice" in Michigan. He tried filling the social conservative void when George Allen and Bill Frist fizzled out before they ever came close to declaring, and Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were the front-runners. No matter how he feels personally about issues like abortion and gay marriage, his record shows he has other priorities. Now he just seems like a panderer, a guy saying what he can to each crowd to please them, knowing he could do a good job if he could get hired instead going through this eighteen-month process of campaigning and building name recognition. How good are his chances at being president when his predecessor didn't do a lot of what he said he would do?

McCain has the straight-talk express. McCain's the underdog who got slimed in 2000 by evil special-interest groups. (The fliers about his "Negro baby" in South Carolina were just disgusting, in part because playing to people's prejudices worked.) McCain's the war hero, the media darling, the now-71-year-old man trying to win the nomination that many feel would have made the country a better place had he won it eight years ago. But once again, McCain is facing opposition from conservatives, relying on Democratic and independent votes in primaries to carry him. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are all opposed to McCain, and their radio shows are #1,2,3 in the nation. (I think Dr. Laura or Michael Savage is #4).

Huckabee has a light sense of humor, demonstrated on his frequent Colbert Report appearances and his one-liners in debates. ("Jesus would never run for public office.") His line about politics being neither left nor right but up and down was taken from Reagan, and he sees that no one's really speaking to the lower middle class and poor people in the Republican party. He's flipped on some issues, like taxes, but gets extra credit for never changing on abortion. He doesn't seem to have much of a clue when it comes to foreign policy, and his passive-aggressive tactics can be wearying. If Huck and Romney are still viable after February 5, I'd expect some of his supporters to start the whole religion whsiper campaign again.

Giuliani has yet to make an impact. He talks about 9/11 a lot, but he has yet to be finish higher than fourth anywhere. Hm, same boat as Ron Paul.

Funny thing that, this system we have. Why do certain states get so much say in how candidates are picked? Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina... I remembe being bummed in 2000, on March 4, when my state had its primary but Bush had already sewn up the nomination. Now at least we'll be part of Super Tuesday.

Anyway, I can see the Democrats rally around Hillary, despite whatever bitter divisons they cause in playing the race card against Obama and the gender card for Hillary. I can see the Democrats rally around Obama. Whole-heartedly. I can see Edwards moving to Iowa this summer to try again for 2012.

With the Republicans, I can't see Huckabee bringing the party together. He isn't really a conservative, and everyone knows he's get clobbered in the general election. He seems to be running for the position of McCain's VP nominee anyway. I can see McCain bringing them together, though some would come reluctantly. I can see Giuliani bringing them together, even though the whole on-his-fourth-wife thing has some social conservatives harumphing. Romney could bring them together with cautious optimism, but right now national polls show he'd get clobbered too.

A month is an eternity in politics. But right now the way I see it, the only chance the Republicans have is if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination.

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