Tuesday, January 08, 2008

another weekly post: what it all means

All right, for starters I'll point you to my post following Iowa's caucus last week. I do that out of shame, because it took me exactly 3 days to reverse myself. I'm going to be doing more reversing here, too. Again, soothsaying isn't my game.

Last week, I wrote that if Romney didn't win New Hampshire--as I and so many others rightfully predicted that he wouldn't--I thought you could put a fork in him. I retract that statement completely now (my last post was the beginning of the back-pedaling; this is full retreat).

To me, the truth is this: the GOP ticket is a total guess right now.

There's an 800-pound gorilla in the field (Giuliani), but nobody knows if he's going to be dominating or easily neutralized. Until we get a better picture of that, this thing is a toss-up. And we won't have a good picture of that until Super Tuesday, although we'll start getting some indications as the date gets closer. He needs to run a flawless January, and it needs to start tomorrow morning.

Tonight's victory for McCain is great for him. I don't care if he did it on the backs of independents-- something that the eventual nominee will have to do is score well with that block of voters if we want the White House in the proper hands. I'd dare even call him a front-runner again, just because he has a better chance than Huckabee of winning Michigan.

Tonight's performance by Romney is satisfactory. Considering he closed some pretty good gaps in the last few days in country that was friendly to McCain. . .I think there are some positives here. And I don't think his chances in MI will suffer because of tonight. If he can just keep putting up some solid numbers, winning hither and thither, he will be a force that we're still talking about at this time next month.

Overall, I think tonight is a HUGE victory for the GOP. Not for Senator Clinton, who no doubt is feeling like a survivor right now after her campaign's win, but rather because of her. Let me 'splain:

You see, I greatly "feared" the phenomenon of Obama. My biggest concern was that if he coasted to a big victory tonight, the game would just about be over on the other side of the aisle. That didn't happen.

Why fear Obama? you ask. I'll tell you why: he's somehow got an entire party--and a good number of independents--thinking that the office of President is about nothing other than personality. He's got nothing concrete to offer: no policy, no experience, not even a record of the kind of non-partisanship that he is trying to champion into the White House. He has somehow taken the party of "feelings" and made it even more ethereal. That's no small accomplishment. He's really mobilized the young voters, probably because that block of voters--of unknown strength, I might add--are so impervious to charges about his "inexperience". And therein lies the rub.

IF he had coasted to the nomination--and a big victory tonight certainly would have helped that along--then he could continue to play the game "above the fray" until it was time for the general election, at which point the GOP candidate would have HAD to attack Obama's razor-thin record to stand any chance of derailing the phenom. Well, that tactic hasn't played out too well in the hands of some very skilled knife fighters in the Clinton campaign so far, and I really doubt that the GOP guys would have had much more success.

But now, all of a sudden, tomorrow it won't seem so cliche to support the "upstart" Obama against the mercenary Clintons. And you know. . .you just know. . .that the Clinton machine right now is talking about how they will again attack Obama's thin record--in a couple weeks (probably right before Super Tuesday in some limited but highly-valuable states). And WHEN they do decide to do it again, they'll probably get a little more footing on it, just because they won't look "desperate".

And that's the point. The GOP needs to have Hillary make Obama come down from the ether because none of our candidates will be able to do it. Make him take actual positions so that even the young people realize that "the phenom" is just another politician. Make this a vote about issues rather than about . . .anything else.

Maybe the Clintons will succeed in this job, maybe they won't. But one thing is for sure: if Obama had won tonight, he wouldn't have felt "compelled" to do anything differently with his campaign. And I think his aura--and a compliant media--would've carried him into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

So yes, Clinton should feel good about her campaign tonight.

But so should the GOP. Hers was the victory that we really needed.

On to Michigan.


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