Sunday, June 08, 2008


The title of this post essentially summarizes how I handicap the upcoming Presidential elections. It explains why I think that there’s 50/50 chance that this election will be won by Obama in a landslide. In other words, if this were a football game, I’d put the spread at McCain + 8 or 9, and I’d give the points.

Admittedly, I spend most of my time on the coasts – either in the Mid Atlantic or on the West Coast. That’s not exactly Red America. But even when I contact my Republican in-laws in Indiana, some of them just love Obama. (They were probably dying to vote for someone who is NOT part of the current ruling party, and maybe even dying to vote at least once in their lives for someone who is not a white male … oh yeah, and they disliked Hillary.) By contrast, no matter where I travel, NOBODY seems to love McCain.

Strike that. I do know one guy – around here, of all places – who has been championing a McCain candidacy for at least a couple of years. His dream ticket has been McCain/Lieberman, and he even has suggested a motto: “Give War a Chance.” That’s no joke. This is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who is nonetheless enamored with Mr. Lieberman because he fervently supports the Iraq War, and he loves McCain for the same reason. So I consider him a big fan of the Republican nominee.

But seriously, how many Americans really adore the Iraq War? Or rhetoric aside, how many Americans agree with McCain that we should continue to fight that war for the next five years? I don’t even think the majority of Hoosiers fall into that category. It’s no wonder that Obama thinks he can win in places like Missouri (where he just outpolled McCain), Colorado (again, Obama is ahead), Virginia (McCain’s up by 1%), and other states that Bush has claimed in the last two elections.

McCain has had an almost impossible task of maintaining his appeal to independents as a maverick, without losing any semblance of enthusiasm on the part of the Republican base. How has he done? Difficult to say. His candidacy has bored the country to such an extent that the media has virtually ignored him during the last few months. Virtually all the attention has been devoted to Barack and Hillary. Hell, even Bill Clinton has garnered more attention than McCain – admittedly, though, I’d rather read about alleged trysts with Gina Gershon (who defines “sexy, in a sleazy sort of way”) than with some stinkin’ lobbyist.

Given that he has been ignored, McCain hasn’t really pissed off anybody. He still has the opportunity to try to style himself a maverick in appealing to Independents, or a solid conservative in appealing to Republicans. But there’s only one problem – he can’t do both! The guy isn’t exactly the most nimble-minded statesman in America. He’s not a terribly good communicator, he’s not unusually charismatic … frankly, from all appearances, he isn’t all that friggen smart. So can he really walk the tightrope and appeal to two groups of constituents who strongly disagree with one another on the issues? Doubtful.

When then can McCain do? He can point to his experience. He’s been a war hero and an extremely productive legislator. And in that latter capacity, McCain served as an exemplar of an independent maverick. That’s precisely why folks like me were so enamored of the guy when he ran for President in 2000. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. The Republican establishment crushed John Maverick McCain. So what did John do? He functioned for a few more years as a maverick. And then, blinded by the same ambition that infects any would-be President, he decided to make a deal with the devil: “I’ll renounce my opposition to tax cuts for the rich. I’ll renounce my support of amnesty for illegal aliens at the same time that we try to close the borders. I’ll renounce my unyielding opposition to torture. I’ll renounce much of my commitment to campaign finance reform. I’ll renounce my commitment to upholding Roe v. Wade. I’ll renounce my opposition to the political platform of Christian Fundamentalists. And above all else, I’ll continue to remind people about how much of a war monger I’ve been for years. And in return for all this, the Republican establishment will renounce their opposition to ME. Right?”

Well, John, it almost works that way, but not quite. When you make that deal, you can get the Republican establishment to vote for you. You can also get many leaders of the Republican establishment to spew their seemingly infinite venom against any Democrat who runs against you. But what you can’t do is get the Republican establishment to love you, or to think that you’re some sort of Godsend who’s going to save America. Reagan, could pull that off; you can’t. And what is more, you also can’t hope to continue to define yourself to independents and liberals as the same maverick candidate that you were in 2000. Sure, you can address us as “my friends,” but we now think you’re a sell-out as a candidate who, if elected, will “dance with the one who brung you” – the right-wingers.

Rest assured, John, you will never be a hated man among moderates and liberals. And you will always be somewhat liked among conservatives. But you are condemned to being loved by virtually nobody. And that means that if you hope to be elected President, you’d better make sure that the election becomes a referendum on your opponent and that the majority of America decides that they affirmatively dislike, or at least disrespect, that opponent.

That’s your one shot. And against some of the Democrats’ previous nominees, it might well have been enough. You could have had a shot against Michael Dukakis, a man who rode around in a tank looking like the “Great Gazoo” from the Flintstones and couldn’t even bring himself to verbalize that it would piss him off if someone raped and murdered his wife. Or perhaps you’d have done well against John Kerry, a legit-war-hero-turned-buffoon, who strangely had no response when some right-wingers mocked his military service. You might have even competed against Al Gore, whom the media decided was more of a pathological liar than a Los Vegas-based telemarketer.

But you’re not running against any of those guys. You’re running against an extremely attractive, extremely brilliant, extremely poised, extremely classy, charismatic speaker, who comes across as an agent of change at a time when Americans desperately want change, and offers Americans the historic opportunity to show the world that they are willing to put a black man in the highest office of the land. You’re running against a man who comes across as an antidote for so many things that have gone wrong in Washington over the decades. In other words, you’re up against someone who zillions of Americans flat out adore.

John, “my friend,” your candidacy is in some trouble.


Betty C. said...

Let's hope so.

In the meantime, for a bit of levity, have you seen this?

Daniel Spiro said...

I hadn't seen that video, Betty. I'm just waiting for the "Four More Years" motto to come back. Or maybe "It's morning in America."

YoungMan said...

The Jello's Jiggling and the Butter's Getting Hard.

And how rancid the taste must be to you. Don't get overconfident Danny Boy.

Daniel Spiro said...

Well, Youngman, Chick never talked about the jello jiggling until the 4th quarter. In the case of the Lakers last night, the team never had a secure lead in the 4th quarter.

But yes, they did own the game during the 1st, 2nd, and much of the 3rd quarters. And yes, their epic collapse was a good reminder to Obama's fans not to let up on the peddle until the game is truly over.

Given that everyone votes in November -- meaning that "points scored" early in the election process don't really count -- I don't think you'll have to worry about too much complacency. In fact, that is one of the best things about Obama -- he's a lean, efficient guy who appears to run a lean, efficient campaign.

He's obviously a fair amount more talented at politics than the likes of Gasol and Odom are at basketball. In short, he seems more like Tiger, who is the best "front runner" I've seen in sports.