3/05/2008

Junior Super Tuesday: Advantage GOP

With his victories in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont, John McCain has amassed enough delegates to effectively clinch the GOP nomination. More loose ends were tied up when rival Mike Huckabee ended his presidential bid and threw his support behind McCain. Meanwhile, the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remains in flux. As of this writing, Clinton has won Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas while Obama won Vermont.

Two months ago, few politicos would have predicted that the Republican nomination race would be settled long before the Democratic one. Republicans had to deal with five strong candidates who conceivably could have won the nomination as they tried to don the cloak of Ronald Reagan. Some pundits were even dreaming of a brokered convention in which social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, defense hawks, and moderates were pitted against each other.

And yet, despite all this, the Republicans have emerged in a far more advantageous position than they ever could have dreamed of, especially given all the factors working against them, such as the poor economy and the unpopularity of Iraq and the Republican president.

Even though John McCain only generates lukewarm feelings among several wings of the Republican Party, he is at least an acceptable consensus candidate. Democrats, on the other hand, are deeply divided. Barack Obama is drawing his support from twenty-somethings, college graduates, Blacks, independents, and wealthy voters. Hillary Clinton's base consists of women, Latinos, blue collar Whites, and organized labor. And the longer these two candidates slug it out, the longer it will take for the eventual victor to heal these divisions. And regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, there will be a lot of resentment among voters who were not in that candidate's camp. And should Clinton secure the nomination via the "smoke-filled room route" (as Political Insider terms it), this resentment could be even stronger.

Many pundits were writing off Hillary Clinton prior to Junior Super Tuesday, but given her performance tonight and judging from her Ohio victory speech, she will likely fight all the way to the party convention in Denver. This is good news for her, bad news for Obama, and excellent news for the GOP.

John McCain and the Republican Party couldn't have asked for a more favorable scenario. While Obama and Clinton continue to attack each other, they inadvertently give the GOP new weapons they can use against them in the general election. In addition to this, Obama and Clinton will continue to pump millions of dollars into attack ads and campaign operations for Pennsylvania, Indiana, Oregon, and North Carolina. And remember, Pennsylvania provides the next contest which is about seven long weeks from now. This time and money they spend attacking each other is time they can't spend raising money for the general election against the Republicans. Instead of concentrating on opposition research against McCain and trying to frame the debate, Obama is forced to continue the debate over experience and judgment.

Republicans had been expecting to face Clinton in the general election. They were nervous about Obama because they simply weren't prepared to face him. And his shorter resume offered less information for them to troll over. But now that Obama will be occupied with his Pennsylvania campaign, the GOP will be able to test their arguments against him and define him as a raging liberal who can't be trusted with national security. Should Obama win the nomination, he will enter the general election as a predefined candidate who will have to reintroduce himself to voters with a diminished halo. That costs money and will take Obama off message. Advantage GOP.

So right now, Obama is getting hit from all sides. McCain and the Republicans are attacking him relentlessly. A reinvigorated Clinton will unleash a new assault on him in Pennsylvania. And the media are showing signs of ending their honeymoon with him. Obama can't focus too much on McCain because Clinton could still plausibly become the nominee. And if Obama focuses on Clinton too much, he will risk elevating her and losing his perception as the frontrunner. And given the fickle nature of the Democratic superdelegates, he can't rely on "mathematical near certainties" regarding delegate counts to put him over the top. Not a good position for Obama to be in.

The continued attacks by Clinton, coupled with the attacks from McCain who is free to attack both candidates, only serve to weaken Obama and make him less appealing to the moderates, independents, and disaffected Republicans currently backing him. Clinton did McCain a huge favor with the NAFTA debate which clearly hurt Obama in Ohio. This issue would probably cause Obama to hemorrhage support among Reagan Democrats (that Clinton won) and send them over to McCain. Meanwhile, McCain can shore up his own Republican base (he will receive President Bush's blessing tomorrow) and present a united front to the voters. United parties trump divided ones every time.

John McCain's victories and Mike Huckabee's withdrawal tonight are obviously great news for him and his campaign. Hillary Clinton should be beaming from her Ohio and Texas victories. Political junkies are obviously grinning from ear to ear because the campaign will go on. Even Democratic voters, especially those in the later states, should be happy because they will have more opportunities to assess their candidates and avoid buyer's remorse.

However, no group is happier right now than the Republican Party. The longer Obama and Clinton tear each other down, and the more money they spend doing so, the more advantageous the GOP's position becomes.

6 Comments:

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

he just sitting back like a fat cat now

icanseeclearlynow said...

i hadn't thought about the huge chasm of division that would have to be closed by the democratic winner. excellent point. and the way the presidential race unfolded, it really couldn't have been avoided. eloquent and on point as usual, anthony.

:)

maria

Schenck said...

Arggh.




Nice post, Anthony.

Nikki said...

Hey Anthony.......you know I like this post!! Nothing to add except KEEP VOTING peeps....Anthony has pulled ahead and needs to keep rolling!!!!! :)N

Jay Fubler Harvey said...

Very well thought out, Anthony. Almost gives me a headache to think of how long this still has to go.

One additional advantage to the GOP: In the states that allow it, GOPers can vote for Hillary en masse in the remaining primaries. Since many consider McCain's chances better against Hillary, why not?

(I know they've already started doing so here in Ohio...)

Brett said...

I'm a Democrat (pro-Obama, I'll admit, though I would work for either if they took the nomination), and I am very unhappy right now, regardless of whether or not I suddenly have more "choice" in candidates.

It's not simply a matter of my man Obama getting symbolically wounded and being forced to continue the primary; it's the fact that we are still in a primary on the Democratic side.

The only bright thing I suppose I can say is that at least Obama has the financial resources to fight two wars at once, if his funding trends hold and he finds the right strategies. That's much, much better than the hand John Kerry was given after he finally put down John Edwards: read Road To The White 2008. Kerry was broke and bleeding when he finally clinched the nomination.

Oh, what are we Democrats going to do? At the very least, I hope that Dean and the National Party don't fold like a cheap paper hat and let Florida and Michigan back in scot-free for their little game of political chicken with the DNC.