January 28, 2008

Reviewing the Situation

And then there were three... but don't hold your breath.

The one-two punch of Obama's win in South Carolina and Ted Kennedy's endorsement has significantly altered the primary geography for the Democrats in just a few short days, but not only in the obvious way. Sure, Obama looks like he's really catching fire and a big win in a hotly contested state against Hilary is always nice, but there's more to it than that -

My newest favorite candidate John Edwards may stick around waiting for a miracle on Super Tuesday, but his 3rd place finish in his own home state leaves Edwards with no tenable candidacy and he's certain to drop out in the next two weeks. It isn't likely that he'll suddenly be more popular elsewhere in the nation than he was in South Carolina, the only state whose primary he won in 2004, so while Edwards may have enough cash to continue through Feb 5th, he's done.

Let's ignore that my approval apparently equals the kiss of death to Democratic candidates, and instead let me speculate on how what Edwards does next could be significant to Obama. The exciting part of Edwards dropping out isn't if he does it after Super Tuesday, it's what could happen if he drops out in enough time for Obama to capitalize next week. Obama gets a nice bump from Edwards dropping out whenever it happens, but if it happens very soon it could play havoc with the outcome of next week's primaries.

Though it's been a three-person race officially, for all intents and purposes it's been a campaign of Hilary or Not-Hilary for many months, and those who didn't like Hilary enough to support her last year aren't going to suddenly like her now. People either like Hilary or they don't, and I suspect there are very few people who have changed their minds about her over the course of the past year of campaigning. When Edwards drops out of the race, his supporters - and likely his endorsement - will shift to Obama.

The number of convention delegates up for grabs next week could make or break the races in each party, and only a relatively even split keeps the Democratic horserace running. If it goes 70/30 or better for Obama then the momentum shifts and I suspect then it's a slow, painful diminishment for Hilary leading into the convention.

So much of this process is about agreement. Everyone wants to pick the winner and hop on a bandwagon rolling its way to victory. Much of Hilary's campaign has been about the story of its own inevitability, and some of her supporters are people who don't feel strongly about her but want to back the winner and suspect she's it. Others will vote where they think their vote will count the most, and if you feel Hilary will do better in November than Obama, you'll vote for her in the primary to ensure a November victory, even if you prefer Obama (or whomever). This is clearly not all voters, the passionate will remain passionate. But how many are truly passionate, and how many are willing to follow which ever way the wind is blowing?

Which is why the second big event of this week, Kennedy's endorsement, is another huge factor in this race. The Kennedy family remains the royal family of the Democratic party, and Ted has been the crazy, drunken, slightly pervie uncle for 45 years now. His endorsement, along with that of the Kennedy children, add a great deal of blowing wind to Obama. If Ted Kennedy thinks Obama is the future of the Democratic party, and so many Americans appear to be agreeing, even in South Carolina for goodness' sake, then it starts looking like just maybe Obama is the future after all, and who doesn't want to be a part of that?

If Edwards drops before Super Tuesday, or if Obama gets another high profile endorsement - a large union, perhaps? - then I think we'll see a huge Obama win on Super Tuesday, and that's the beginning of the end for Hilary. Which is good for all of us, because she's a phenomenal powerhouse in the Senate, and I'd like to see her stay there, as Senate Majority leader ideally (with Edwards as Attorney General, and Dodd as Homeland Security, Biden at State... ah, a man can dream)

But if that weren't enough, there's yet another wrinkle... hands up who think Bloomberg may run? He's been quietly laying the groundwork for nearly a year, and is likely waiting to see what happens in February to decide whether the nation is so truly dissatisfied with both parties as to entertain an Independent. But it would have to be both parties, not just one... while the Republicans are clearly a mess, the Dems are not (yet). Obama-mania could put the kibosh on a Bloomie run, while if Hilary is looking like the expected nominee, I think Bloomberg might just throw his hat in.

Can you imagine if this race sees the first significant woman, African-American, and Jewish candidates all at the same time? If that doesn't scare the crap out of the Republicans, I don't know what would. Except perhaps an African-America Jewish woman candidate. Lesbian. And Vegan. Nice...

On the more boring Republican side, expect to see Guliani and Huckabee drop out by the end of next week as well. Guliani is betting the farm on Florida, but if he doesn't absolutely destroy the others on the 5th he's out of there, and it doesn't look like there will be any tremendous destruction to be witnessed. Huckabee never had much pull outside of the bible belt, and he didn't show well in South Carolina, so he's done too, and nearly broke. If it comes down to McCain vs. Romney (and it will) then you have national security cred and Washington experience vs. economic cred and outsider status, you'll have aged maturity vs. youthful vigor, or perhaps more accurately you'll have really old cranky bastard who rejects several key conservative planks vs. crazy Mormon phony whose positions change depending on whom he's talking to that day... Doesn't look good for most die-hard Republicans, though it's not so bad for moderates of any stripe.

So here's my predictions for the major event next week:

The Giants win! Thhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeee GIANTS WIN!

And for the other big event, Obama wins big or holds his own and then wins big when Edwards drops out, and it's Obama vs. Hilary and McCain vs. Romney for the nominations heading into the summer. If Hilary comes back strong, look for Bloomie to explore the crap out of an independent run in March and April. He'll want to capitalize on the fractious pre-convention in-fighting, and he can easily spend a billion to get his name on the ballots because he's sitting on nine other billions and won't miss it. But his ego is huge, and he'll only step up if people are clamoring for an alternative. If Obama is blossoming with delegates flocking to his side and high profile endorsements, Bloomberg will stay quiet and stay the Mayor of the world's greatest city enjoying his 80% approval ratings. While being filthy rich.

Further speculations...

If it's McCain vs. Obama coming out of the conventions, which at this point is what I suspect it will be, I think it might just be Obama for the win in November. McCain has a lot of crazy in him, and I don't think we've seen it all just yet, while Obama is looking better and better as he gets the hang of this whole running for national office thing. Though to be candid, I'll never underestimate the Democratic ability to blow a sure-thing election, and I wouldn't be surprised - though I would be ashamed - to see identity politics undermine an otherwise exciting Obama candidacy. Hilary and Obama could sour the entire nation on either of them, such that the Republican nominee looks like a saner choice for the large population of moderate voters in both parties, voters who could go either red or blue, depending on the candidate.

I think the only people who can blow this for the Democrats are the Democrats, and if history teaches us anything, don't put it past 'em...

Obama could actually take this. Though I still would like to see him take a stand on some issues. Actual issues. Not just hope. You're pro-hope. I get it. Congratulations, what a bold position...


At 12:43 PM, Blogger broadway2boston said...

I never understood "badwagon voting". If you're voting for the person who you think will win why bother voting?

Gotta say, as a woman I *really* wanted to like Hillary... but I haven't liked her campaign so far. I worry that Obama hasn't enough experience, particularly foreign policy... but if he's smart enough to surround himself with smart people... he may just end up with my vote. ...Still on the fence.

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Pootersox said...

Have to agree w/ broadway2boston re Hillary.

I was a huge Edwards fan all along and am very disappointed. I will still vote Edwards on SuperTuesday I think (if CT leaves him on the ballot; he "suspended" his campaign; he did not quit.)

And I might could vote for Bloomberg.

Heh... and I'm moving from CT to good old Red Virginia (well the part I'm moving to is totally red).

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it a little funny when people talk about "liking" a candidate. I don't see this as a popularity race. They aren't there to make friends, they are there to run a country and you have to go with experience and platforms. As you said in the blog - what does Obama stand for other than change? Bush can't be re-elected so there's a guaranteed change right there. What if that's the only change Obama is talking about? I think it Obama runs as VP with Hilary, it sets him up really well for a presidential run next time around.

I also think people expect to agree with Hilary 100% but understand that isn't going to happen with other candidates. You have to prioritze the issues that are important to you and they all can't be #1. I have a very republican stance on immigration but it's not at the top of my list. So I'll still vote Dem. Don't be so rough on Hilary...


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