Since McCain solidified the nomination, and since the Hillary and Obama fight turned ugly, periodically I’ve heard conservatives express a strange confidence about 2008. It’s as if they don’t want to say it too loudly, lest they jinx it…
If nothing else, McCain seems to be matching up quite well in the general election, and both Democratic nominees have glaring weaknesses. I’m not certain that McCain will beat Hillary or Obama, but I know that he can beat either one of them. It’s simply a matter of getting the right information about either one of them to enough persuadable voters.
If it’s Hillary, the information will already be out there — she’s divisive, and she seemingly can’t “turn it off.” She touts her experience, but it’s wildly exaggerated, and she’s proven to run a terrible, disorganized, unprepared, slipshod campaign. Her default mode is negative campaigning, with surrogates willing to say the most awful things without regard for veracity. She shouts, she cries, she offers canned sneering one-liners that fall flat, she plays the victim and then turns around and sinks her claws in. Her strategists and spokesmen offer the most implausible of spin and expect everyone to believe it. And then, of course, there’s the guarantee of four to eight more years of the Clintonian soap opera. Americans will voluntary subject themselves to at least one more term of that?
Nominate Hillary, and Team McCain ought to be able to strip away independents, moderates, and frustrated Obama supporters who will prefer a reform-minded maverick Republican over the woman who played dirty to take down their man. (Who will get more done, the Republican who campaigned with Joe Lieberman, or the Democrat who tore apart her party on the way to the nomination?) The gender gap may be off the charts, and as we’ve seen, there may be less sense of sisterhood than Hillary’s strategists expected. (Nominate Hillary, and I think a lot of those who have fallen in love with Obama stay home.)
If it’s Obama, it may be even “easier”; most Americans have heard almost nothing negative about him. Most suburban soccer moms don’t know that Louis Farrakhan sings his praises, or that he voted against mandatory minimums for violent criminals. Jews may wish to reexamine his pledge to sit down with Ahmedinijad without preconditions. Every gun owner will learn of his past support for legislation that would be a backdoor ban on gun shops, every church will learn of his refusal to vote against partial-birth abortion. Every Jacksonian national security voter will be reminded that even Hillary Clinton said he’s got no foreign policy or national security experience when compared to McCain.
Nominate Obama, and Team McCain ought to be able to strip away large swaths of the white working class vote, the Reagan Democrats, Hispanics, seniors, and Hillary backers who see the Illinois Senator as dangerously unprepared for the challenges of the office.
And so suddenly what looked like a terrible year for the GOP might… I emphasize, might… be a really good year. The Democrats are splitting their party down the middle, with hard feelings, and either possible nominee might be really out of step with the times, in contrast to a man that even his rivals commend as a genuine American hero.
This is a long introduction to the latest Rasmussen numbers. If I had told you a year ago that McCain would lead both Hillary and Obama in both Michigan and Pennsylvania (albeit by a small margin), would you have believed me?