Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why not to count chickens

So, an eventful week then. McCain is all but settled as the Republican candidate, much to the disgust of the right of the party, who have been thoroughly disillusioned by the entire nomination process. I think they're probably msising a trick there. So damaged has the Republican brand been by the unpopularity of the Bush administration that the only realistic chance a Republican has of winning the next Presidential election is by running as an 'anti-Republican'. Romney, by running as, effectively, an establishment figure torpedoed what chances he had; Huckabee was running for those who thought that the main problem with George Bush was that he was insufficiently religious and far too strong on economics. Giuliani never got out of first gear and the rest were only ever the fringe.
McCain has won, therefore, because he looked more 'authentic' than the alternatives and because it's possible to see him as President. It's not a great endorsement, and he hasn't caused much excitement - he's too old an enemy for the party faithful for that to happen. He now has to prove that he can win over the independents and the moderate Republicans who have deserted the party while hoping that the social conservatives and old guard end up holding their noses rather than allowing a Democrat in. For that to happen, of course, a lot depends on who that Democrat is.
For Hillary Clinton this campaign has been a perfect illustration of the dangers of being a front-runner. Having looked round the field and determined that there were no realistic contenders for the nomination (a rookie senator from Illinois? Please...) Clinton decided to run a Presidential campaign from before the primaries. Careful positioning, a desperate desire not to frighten the horses and a determination not to say anything that the Republicans could use against her in November, Clinton's campaign was timid from the first - lacking the fire and passion that party activists wanted. So, when they turned to Obama, who, whatever his faults may be is a damn good speaker, Clinton hasn't been able to reverse the tide. Using Bill has back-fired horribly, reminding a lot of people why they don't want him anywhere near the White House again and the once-famed Clinton machine has begun to sound very spluttery.
It's beginning to look as though Obama's momentum will carry him through all the way to the nomination, and it will then be a question of whether, in the words of PJ O'Rourke, Age and Guile can beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut.

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