February 11, 2008
Last Nominee StandingBy Thomas Lifson
Thirty-seven weeks to go, and the presidential campaign already is in uncharted territory. At the moment, each party seems to be trying to defeat itself, discrediting its own future nominee.
Thanks to a slew of winner-take-all contests, the new architecture of the nominating has produced a nearly undisputed champion for the GOP, accompanied by a powerfully disaffected wing of the conservative base forming a semi-circular firing squad around him. The Democrats, with their proportional delegate allocation schemes, face what promises to be a steel cage death match, possibly fought on the convention floor with super delegate-poaching and battles over seating the Florida and Michigan delegations.
Each can take bitter pleasure in the troubles of the other side. It's schadenfreude season.
On the sidelines sit potential third party candidates, eying the two parties the way a jackal gazes at a pair of lame wildebeests. Michael Bloomerg, a man capable of financing an entire campaign, and Ron Paul, with his odd coalition of fervent supporters, are two distinct possibilities. The third partyites even have a Chief Theoretician this election cycle in Douglas Schoen, a campaign consultant for three decades, who unsurprisingly thinks there ought to be even more campaigns out there hiring campaign consultants every four years.
Hillary has lost momentum, and just yesterday replaced campaign manager Patti Solis-Doyle with Maggie Williams, a longtime aide bound by omerta. Obama's caucus sweep this weekend and the reported contrast in crowd enthusiasm argue that her fundraising and volunteer enthusiasm may be hard to sustain.
But neither Clinton nor Obama is likely to accumulate the necessary 2,205 majority of delegates by the time of the convention, thanks to proportional distribution and the 796 super delegates, 243 of them pledged to Clinton and 156 to Obama. Counting super delegates, Clinton has 1,125 and Obama has 1,087, according to Beth Fouhy of the AP.
Hillary Clinton has never displayed a propensity to be a quitter, nor has she a notable history of shrinking back when unpleasant actions must be contemplated. Watching the Clintons operate on the national stage, it appears that money can always be found, one way or another, when absolutely necessary. So I would not expect her to fold her tent for the good of the party and nation.
Theodore B. Olson outlines a delightfully ironic, but plausible, scenario in which the nomination could come down to a court fight over seating the Florida delegation, with the Florida Supreme Court, known for intervention in the state's electoral processes, once again coming up for review before the Supreme Court.
But should the courts recognize a fight worth avoiding and decline to intervene, it would be a matter of back room deals, arm-twisting, and close quarters combat, giving the seeming advantage to Clinton. My own political fantasy takes place outdoors, not in the courts: enormous crowds of young Obama true believers, the ones who just know he will change everything and make it all better, travel to Denver. On the Denver streets they will be seen, chanting, marching, demonstrating, and most of all singing. They would be very upset if their savior loses in the end behind closed doors.
Offering the vice presidential nomination to Obama might be the best hope for maintaining public order should Hillary arm twist, sweet talk, promise, cajole, threaten, and persuade enough super delegates to giver her the nomination, or to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations, which would then give her the nomination. It might also do something to assuage the anger of many African-Americans, whose turnout in November is an essential ingredient of victory.
The GOP's own troubles have produced a peculiar new ideological group: the Hegelian conservatives. Things must get worse before they can get better. They want to heighten the contradictions, as the Marxists used to say, though few would ever accept the terminology.
They aver it will be beneficial in the long run for the GOP to be fighting the good fight against a Democrat in the White House, useful in clarifying principles. Stopping mischief would in fact be easier than with John McCain, who they believe equally prone to bad behavior as Hillary or Barack.
Some cite Jimmy Carter as paving the way for Ronald Reagan, though of course Carter bequeathed us the mullahs and the spread of radical Islam, and Reagan might have been elected without such a steep price. But this time around, a catastrophic abandonment of Iraq would be all the proof necessary for radical Muslims to conclude that America is indeed a weak horse, and for the rest to conclude that we are an unreliable ally.
Some of these Hegelians contend that no Democrat president is really going to pull out of Iraq, knowing the consequences would be so devastating. I do not understand where they get these psychic powers. What if Obama really believes that such a gesture would be appreciated and rewarded?
Ann Coulter, who famously said she might support Hillary over McCain, less famously indicated she might support McCain if he had Romney on the ticket.
It will require great determination for the anti-McCain faction to maintain its numbers over the next 37 weeks. No doubt there will be some who will never waver, as Ms. Coulter already has, who conceive it a matter of principle and honor to refuse to vote for that man, John McCain. The only question is how many. The worse the losing Democrat makes the eventual nominee look, the harder will it be for the Hegelians to keep their anger burning and keep intact their conviction that McCain could be no worse.
Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.