It’s pretty hard to see how McCain could fail to romp through Feb. 5, especially if Romney isn’t running any ads in the 22 states holding primaries or caucuses.
As Steve Benen notes, this creates an opportunity for the Democratic candidates to break the circular firing squad and start showing who can better beat McCain. Benen explains:
As far as I can tell, the basic pitch from Obama’s perspective will be: He appeals to more independents and frustrated Republicans than Clinton; he represents a better contrast (old vs. young, new vs. stale); and he unites the left and divides the right, while Clinton divides the left and unites the right.
And the basic pitch from Clinton’s perspective will be: She has better support among independents and frustrated Republicans than the conventional wisdom suggests; McCain will make Obama look young and inexperienced — especially on matters regarding the military and national security — a line he can’t use against her; and the right may rally against her, but she knows how to deal with their attacks, persevere, and come out ahead. Can we say the same about Obama?
He’s right about what we’ll hear, but Clinton’s argument seems bizarre. In what sense is she immune from attacks on military issues? That was Kerry’s attitude, and look what it got him. As for persevering against Republican attacks, she has, but not in a useful way. The Clintons did indeed persevere through the attacks of the early ’90s, but at the cost of their political agenda and control of Congress. They saved their political careers by abandoning any hopes of advancing health care reform, of non-punitive welfare reform, a sensible policy on gays in the military, or any of the other issues their supporters had hoped to see change. Is that what we want yet again?
Finally, is the “inexperienced” line sticking? I hear people trot that out, but it doesn’t seem to be shaking many voters in the primaries, so why would it work in the general? After all, just as there are good ideas and bad ideas, there is good experience and bad. McCain’s experience is mediocre at best.
I leave you with my friend John’s thoughts from the stage at Obama’s speech in El Dorado, Kansas:
I want this man to be our President, though there have been times when I’ve thought that winning his party’s nomination will be the harder task. It really does seem as though the Republicans see more clearly than do Democrats just how dramatically Obama shifts the usual paradigms we have regarding politics and politicians–and here I am speaking of his politics and not his race. I have good friends who argue that Hillary does, too; to them I’d ask, with all due respect: setting aside her gender, what does she offer as a way out of the morass our national politics has mucked about in for (again, sorry, Clinton fans) the past 16 or more years now?… In the past, I would have happily opted for voting for someone–man, woman, black or white or what have you–whose pitch is that s/he knows how the game is played and plays it well as it stands now. But of late I’ve come to the conclusion that the issue is better framed not by asking Who can more competently play the game as is, but Who wants to change how the game is played?
I think this shift John describes reflects something real happening in the country. In 2000 and 1992, the country wasn’t ready for a major shift. We saw the beginning of a change in 2006, when Democrats reached into traditionally red districts, like the KS‑2, to elect a new sort of Democratic majority. The wave which swept Nancy Boyda and dozens of other new Democrats into Congress hasn’t crested yet, according to a new survey of Republican-held districts. Setting aside the demographic trends which favor Democrats, the Republican coalition is in disarray, and traditionally Republican voters are ready to rethink their allegiances. Obama could fundamentally realign American politics in ways that would advance a progressive agenda and preserve those gains indefinitely.
Opportunities to change the game are rare and fleeting. Now is the time, and John is right: Obama is the one to do it.