January 18, 2008

So we have four GOP caucases and/or primaries and three winners: Mike Huckabee in Iowa, John McCain in New Hampshire, and Mitt Romney an insignificant victory in the Wyoming caucuses and the Michigan primary. At this stage, all you can say is that there is no frontrunner and no one (at least if you trust the polls) with any aspect of momentum.

Or is there? If you look at all the conservative weblogs out there, there is obviously no one candidate people are willing to get behind right now, and I see no reason for this to change in this election season. Whether it’s because (as I believe) that, unlike the Democrats (who love to talk the talk about being a “big umbrella” party when all their candidates are nothing more than echo chambers of one another), the GOP is a big enough and wide enough party to produce a wide variety of candidates, or simply that that there really isn’t one perfect “one size fits all” candidate that conservatives can rally around, this is not likely to change even after the February 5 “Super Tuesday” primaries.

Actually the same holds true on the Democrats side as well, where Obama and Hillary! are (or at least appear to be) neck-in-neck for the battle for their own party’s nomination.

So what will it take to reveal the last man (or woman) standing? As I’ve mentioned before, watch the races slowly come down to the issue of electability – who can run the best against the other party’s nominee in a general election. For the GOP (as NRO’s Cliff May writes in today’s Corner blog), as much as conservatives would love to have one of their own be the GOP nominee, sooner or later they may have to realize that nominating one of their own won’t do them a whole lotta good if come Election Night, all their candidate is doing is delivering a concession speech:

Now I like all the candidates (OK, except Ron Paul) and I still haven’t made up my mind who I like best. I’m still not committed to any of them, I can still be sold.

It’s also true that I disagree with McCain on many issues.

That said, it does seem worth emphasizing that a candidate who wins the nomination this spring and then goes on to lose the election in the fall will have achieved nothing — no matter what he says in his concession speech.

And should the Republican candidate lose in November, that almost certainly will mean that the White House, the Senate, the House, a majority of governorships and a majority of state legislatures will be in Democratic hands for a minimum of four years — much longer if the Democrats use their monopoly power creatively, e.g. by gerrymandering House seats and/or making Washington, D.C. a “state” with two senators. And don’t forget about the Supreme Court. An appointment there is a gift that can keep on giving for a generation or more.

Hence, I can see that halo of “electability” surrounding John McCain in coming weeks. Like him or not – and, unlike a majority (I think) of conservatives and Republicans who decidely do not, I do, he is the one candidate that consistently bests Hillary! in state head-to-head polling, espcially in hotly-contested and electoral vote-rich states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Would conservatives swallow hard and choose McCain if it meant keeping Hillary! or Obama out of the White House? I guess that would have to remain to be seen.

One final thought about how things might also end up working McCain’s way: several weeks ago, before talk of an economic slowdown and/or recession and economic stimulus packages became all the rage, McCain’s relatively weak stand on immigration was hurting him among the party faithful. I wonder if, as Rich Lowry writes, voters may now be looking at the economy as a more important issue than immigration (rather than vice-versa)? If so, this might insulate McCain from an issue that would otherwise torpedo him among the independent and moderate Republican voters who are known to favor him most.

Will this work in McCain’s favor? To what degree is anyone’s guess, but I’m guessing this Saturday’s South Carolina primary might very well turn out to be the most significant thus far.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:04 | Comments Off on McCain’s Electability?
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