Politics & Policy

Keystone Lessons

As the Democratic race continues, here are four things conservatives should keep in mind.

First: Today’s Democratic party is well to the Left of where it was in 2000: on health care, on taxes, on trade, on foreign policy. On social issues it has moved right only cosmetically. A very few conservatives have flirted with endorsing the Democrats this year, out of their frustration with President Bush or Senator McCain. Their cases are fanciful.

Second: Even though he just lost Pennsylvania decisively, Senator Obama is still likely to win the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton’s supporters will argue that she is a stronger candidate, more capable than he is of reaching the downscale whites, union members, Catholics, and Hispanics the party will need to win in November. It is a plausible argument. But there are sufficiently plausible arguments on the other side that super-delegates are unlikely to be swayed in large numbers to support her over Obama — especially since Obama has a popular-vote lead and the support of both black voters and the media.

Third: Obama has real weaknesses, which, as liberal writer John Judis put it after the Pennsylvania vote, “grow more apparent with each successive primary.” Senator McCain can turn those weaknesses to his advantage if he devises a conservative program that can help lower middle class voters pursue their aspirations. We like both McCain’s corporate tax cut and his health-care plan, but it would be wise if he spoke more about the latter and less about the former than he has been doing.

Fourth: Even with those weaknesses and a smart Republican campaign, the Democrats have to be favored to win the presidential race. The Democratic candidates have been tearing each other down, but McCain has lost a little ground against Obama in the polls and is now slightly behind him. McCain has his work cut out for him, and so do conservatives.

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