Thursday, January 31, 2008

Survivors (GOP edition)

The chattering class on the Potomac has done its best to come up with informed, Solomonic calculations of the probable winners and losers of the national canvass on Super Duper Monster Tsunami Tuesday, Feb. 5. But a fresher look at various underexplored dimensions of the electorate, and the impact of recent wins by candidates in both parties, point to surprises ahead. The one certainty in this presidential campaign is that the conventional wisdom may not be wisdom at all.

Let’s break down who’s still standing on the GOP side of the aisle:

Arizona Republican Sen. John (Lazarus) McCain. All but left for dead by the pundits not so long ago (yes, Culchavox wrote him off, too), McCain has come roaring back with huge wins in the South Carolina and Florida primaries, establishing solid momentum heading into Super Tuesday, and besting the more comfortably-financed campaign of Mitt Romney two weeks running.

Positives for McCain: The Big Mo, of course. Victory can be contagious and as more of the GOP faithful get ready to vote on Tuesday, the more there’s a sense that McCain may be the one candidate that moderates in the party can get their hearts around. He’s wearing the mantle of the Comeback Kid, and everybody loves a comeback.

Negatives for McCain: His appeal with many in the party is hardly a slam-dunk. Conservative radio attack dog and one-time pharmaceutical enthusiast Rush Limbaugh has vilified McCain on the radio, claiming that the senator’s conservative bona fides ain’t bona enough for him to gain the nomination. Some others on the right have called his personal attributes into question. And then there’s the question of money; McCain’s believed to be driving his campaign bus on vapors, and it’s a long way to the nomination in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt (ATM) Romney. Mitt’s been thought to be coasting since his win in the Michigan primary. With Rudy Giuliani’s exit and Mike Huckabee’s gear stuck in third place, Romney has the advantage of focusing the electorate’s mind on a two-person race.

Positives for Romney: Mitt brings solid financial gravitas to the GOP campaign in a time when the national economy is in a downward spiral. His rep as a best-of-breed corporate turnaround specialist, and an apparently growing self-confidence after one of the most recent debates point to a willingness to stay in it for the long haul. His deep war chest, and a personal net worth in the nine figures point to an ability to stay in it for the long haul.

Negatives for Romney: His wins and near-wins have been hit or miss, and rightly or wrongly, a sense may be building among voters that Romney’s peaking too late, like a football team that desperately fights to come from behind, fighting to get back in the fourth quarter the momentum it had in the first. One more silver medal may be enough to disqualify him from the Nomination Olympics.

Huckabee’s gone as far as he can go on charisma and playing bass guitar [see “The Mike Huckabee Show”]; with single-digit finishes in the last two contests, he’ll be passing the hat at campaign rallies from now on. Right up until he pulls the plug.

So finally, this herd of elephants is thinned out enough to see which one will limp home victorious. Pre-Election Election Day is dead ahead.
Image credits: Both images public domain

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