Wednesday, January 16, 2008



Now that Mitt Romney has won the GOP primary in Michigan, look for the punditry to start arguing that, as the economy comes to the forefront on the issue list (See my other entry for today, “I Told You So.”), Romney will have a leg up because of his emphasis on economic themes and his background in consulting and private equity. (Given the role consulting and private equity have had in preparing the current economic soup in which we are swimming, the latter credential should logically be seen as a negative rather than a positive, but such deep thought is well beyond the ken of the highly paid political punditocracy.) Just as I told you (1/5/08) not to believe that Barack Obama was inevitable after Iowa and to similarly dismiss (1/9/08) the argument that John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) was the frontrunner after New Hampshire, I am telling you now not to believe any “Romney the Economic Genius as Frontrunner” claptrap that might emerge in the wake of Michigan.

The biggest winner in the Michigan GOP primary paid little or no attention to that beautiful but deeply troubled state. That winner was Rudy Giuliani. The current Big 3 (Romney, McCain, and Huckabee) spent millions, nearly emptying their campaign coffers, in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan. And for what? None has achieved frontrunner status. None has gained much momentum. They are all back to where they were before Iowa, more or less tied with no clear frontrunner. (The possible exception is Mike Huckabee, who is now considered a frontrunner and was considered an also-ran not long before Iowa. However, it is hard to see his viability as being anything but ephemeral.) Now they face Rudy Giuliani with a relatively fresh bankroll in large states in which he has his greatest appeal among Republican primary voters. It is looking like Giuliani’s strategy of ignoring the early primary states and saving his thunder (and money) for the big states in which he has the best chance was at least smart and at best brilliant.

Some might argue that Giuliani’s passing on the early primary states has caused him to fade from the radar screens of GOP voters, that he is therefore a non-existent candidate who will be shrugged off by voters, i.e., Rudy Who? What the pundits don’t realize, however, is that most voters do not share their obsession with politics and thus, sensibly, have not paid much attention to the early primaries and will not begin focusing on the candidates before they (the voters) will have to cast ballots in their primaries. Rudy’s absence from the early primaries will prove to have served only to fortify his position in states in which he has natural appeal.

My outlook on the election remains essentially the same:

· It’s hard to see how Hillary Clinton does not become the Democratic nominee, due to her large bankroll, smoothly functioning organization, mastery of the game, complete and utter focus on and willingness to subordinate all else, including pride and any sense of shame, to her quest for the presidency, and effective endorsement by broad swaths of the Democratic establishment. It is also hard to see how we will not know that she is the Democratic nominee by the evening of February 5. Barack Obama is an exciting, articulate candidate who inspires voters, especially young voters, and anything can happen once a spark hits the inside of a bottle. Ultimately, though, he is at best ideologically empty and at worst far too liberal for the sensible elements of even the Democratic Party. More important, it is organization and money, not enthusiastic, but fickle and easily distracted, young voters and tacit media endorsement that win primaries; this is especially true in this year’s compressed primary schedule. Clinton has the money and the organization. She also has her husband who, after eight years of George Bush, will prove to be a big asset in the general election and, albeit to a lesser extent, in the upcoming primaries.
· The outcome on the GOP side is not nearly as clear; any of the front running blow-dried yahoos could win the nomination. If I had to bet, even money, right now, I’d bet on Giuliani, largely for the reasons outlined above but also because, sadly, over the last three or so elections GOP primary voters have become more sheeplike than even Democratic voters, and it is becoming clear that Fox News and other elements of the Right Wing echo chamber are in Rudy’s corner, largely because they share his enthusiasm for Big Government on a Global Scale, which George Bush euphemistically calls “The War on Terror,” but also because they share his ghastly malady of seemingly involuntarily incessantly repeating “9/11” much like Dustin Hoffman’s character could not stop repeating “(insert number) minutes to Wapner” in “Rainman.” The hosanna chorus that is Fox News and its fellow travelers also likes Rudy’s tough guy approach to any issue, perhaps due to doubts about their own degree of testicularity, but I digress.
· Because of the hash the Bushmen have made of his term of office, the general election looks like a replay of the 1972 or 1984 elections with the parties reversed. If John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) should be the GOP nominee, it could be the end of the Republican Party for good given McCain’s (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) enthusiasm for the carnage in Iraq, his eagerness to spread that carnage to Iran, and his being the foremost cheerleader for the hugely unpopular Big Government on a Global Scale that has become the GOP’s most salient hallmark.
· This has surely become a more interesting primary season than most people, including yours truly, had thought it would be, and, for that, all of us who like the game of politics are immensely grateful.

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