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Super Tuesday was planned by both parties as the coronation of a candidate, followed by six months furious fund raising to finance the fall race for the presidency. Such hopes were deliciously dashed on Tuesday as chaos descended on both parties.
John McCain won his Republican primary contests largely in states which will probably vote Democratic in the fall New York, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and California. In the “red states” likely to vote Republican in the fall, he had to split the vote with both Romney and Huckabee and even when winning rarely rose above 40 per cent. Huckabee won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia. Romney won Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Utah.
Across the last two weeks conservatives have paraded incredulity and disappointment that their party should have selected a traitor like McCain. At the end of last week, Ann Coulter, the Saxon Klaxon, announced if McCain gets the nomination she would not only “vote for” Hillary, she would “campaign for her if it’s McCain” because Clinton “is more conservative than he is”.
Rush Limbaugh has been frothing at the mouth about McCain for months. A few days ago the dirigible of drivel screamed to his vast audience that Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina was “so close to McCain he’s likely to die of anal poisoning.” On Monday Richard Viguerie, one of the creators of the modern conservative movement said McCain has only a short time to reach out to conservatives–to “stop the bleeding before it’s too late.”
The same day saw the most ominous message from all, from the mouth the Rev James Dobson, now the single most influential voice among evangelical Christians. He damned McCain conclusively: “I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language.”
Although the main newspaper in John McCain’s home state, the Arizona Republic, endorsed him earlier this month, the paper’s editorial verdict on McCain the last time he sought the nomination, in 2000, was being tossed around the internet:
“But there are other aspects of McCain’s character, less flattering, also worthy of voter attention and consideration … . Many Arizonans active in policymaking have been the victim of McCain’s volcanic temper…McCain often insults people and flies off the handle….If McCain is truly a serious contender for the presidency, it is time the rest of the nation learned about the John McCain we know in Arizona There is reason to seriously question whether McCain has the temperament, and the political approach and skills, we want in the next president of the United States.”
The conservative movement, which has dominated the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan, has been destroyed by the neocons and their war in Iraq, and by George Bush with his Clintonesque “No child left behind” education bill, his multi-billion expansion of Medicare and his relatively enlightened position on immigration. Amidst this immolation McCain’s candidacy has flourished but at the probable expense of the Republicans taking the White House.
Against McCain the conservatives have had no reliable champion. Romney has no identifiable fixed position, except one of assurance that he had hundreds of millions in the bank. Mike Huckabee embarrasses the conservatives because he constantly stresses class issues and during his terms as Arkansas governor had an enlightened posture on immigration, parole, social services and public works projects. In fact Huckabee is the only candidate, on either side of the fence, who speaks to the old LBJ model of rallying the voters by glorious visions of publicly financed employment savagely denounced by McCain. Hillary and Obama never talk with any enthusiasm about big programs to provide jobs, thus continuing Bill Clinton’s obeisances to Wall Street and grandstanding as a deficit buster. On Tuesday, for voters either side of the fence, the state of the economy was the paramount concern.
It’s becoming clear that as the economy tilts into recession prominent conservatives are coming to the conclusion that it might be no bad thing to have a Democrat win the White House this year, get stuck with recession and the mess in Iraq for four years, until the Republicans recapture the Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012. On Super Tuesday Limbaugh came right out and said it in plain language: “If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit rather than a Republican causing the debacle. And I would prefer not to have conservative Republicans in the Congress paralyzed by having to support, out of party loyalty, a Republican president who is not conservative.”
The Democratic Party is also fractured. Super Tuesday left the nomination hanging until the Convention, when the “super delegates” will tilt the balance, in a blizzard of under-the-table pledges and bribes in the smoke-free caucus rooms. The fissures were glaringly exposed in yesterday’s votes. Hillary won eight states Arkansas, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Obama won thirteen Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah where polygamists presumably rallied for Obama in honor of his father.
Hillary won the white south in Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and maybe Missouri. She won the support of women, a commanding slice of the Hispanic vote and (in California) the Asian vote. Above all, she maintained a decisive grip on the white over-60s. The youth vote, long predicted but only this year materializing at the polls, is Obama’s . Courtesy of Bill Clinton’s outbursts in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the black vote has gone to Obama on a scale that dwarfs Jesse Jackson’s historic triumphs in ’84 and ’88. So if t comes to the nomination of Hillary Clinton by super delegates, there will be a lot of alienated and angry black and youthful voters.
Presidential elections these days are really decided by swing voters, classed by the pollsters as “independent”. Super Tuesday showed Obama as the Democratic candidate who is more capable of winning this vote. It was independents and first-time voters who gave the Illinois senator his victories in states like Idaho.
Brace yourself for a funding scandal. The Clintons have to find money fast. Obama is outraising Hillary by $3 to $1 and can continue doing so, since Hillary’s big donors have reached their legal limits whereas Obama’s legions of small contributors can go on giving him money.
Super Tuesday had some particularly pleasing features, such as the repudiation of the Kennedys by the Democrats voters of Massachusetts.
Looking ahead to the fall, John McCain will have the hard task of selling his 100-year American presence in Iraq to a electorate that by a majority of about 70 per cent wants the troops home. If Moqtada al Sadr and the Shia decide to fight it out in a summer and fall campaign against the Sunni New Awakening, and the Surge’s supposed success dissolves in a sea of blood he may fare even worse than Bob Dole against Clinton 1996.
Looking ahead to a Ms. Clinton administration, should it come to pass, we’d guess that the political price tag of an expanded health insurance program will be the privatization of social security, which was proceeding rapidly forward under Bill Clinton until the day that Monica Lewinsky snapped her thong.