From America’s Newspaper of Record, Feb. 19: “Likely GOP presidential nominee John McCain is within single-digit striking distance of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in heavily Democratic New York state, and leads both in the suburbs and upstate, according to a new poll released yesterday. The Siena College Survey found Clinton and Obama just 7 points ahead of McCain — 49 to 42 percent and 47 to 40 percent, respectively — largely because of overwhelming support from heavily Democratic New York City voters … in the suburbs, McCain led Clinton, 53 to 38 percent, and Obama, 55 to 32 percent. McCain was ahead of the New York senator upstate, 49 to 41 percent, and the Illinois senator by a mere, 42 to 41 percent.”
In New York! This state has voted Republican in only four of the last twelve presidential elections. The last time was 1984. The last Republican president New York City voted for was, I think, Calvin Coolidge.
Memo to the DNC: You are fielding two lackluster candidates here. What’s more, they will get weaker, as the Clinton-Obama scrapping knocks coats of paint from off both of them between now and August. No doubt John McCain will trip over his tongue a time or two, but he won’t be doing any scrapping. Doesn’t need to. Within his party, he’s a winner. Everybody likes a winner. Are you guys worried yet? You should be.
For a sample of the weaknesses, just a sample, let’s look at the résumé issue.
- Hillary: U.S. Senator (7 yrs). Wife of President (8 yrs). Wife of state governor (12 yrs). Amateur, but sensationally successful, trader/investor (2 yrs). Wife of state Attorney General (2 yrs). “Rainmaker” lawyer (on and off). Law school, lawyering.
- Obama: U.S. Senator (3 yrs). State senator (8 yrs). Lawyer on behalf of community groups and discrimination claims (4 yrs). Part-time lecturing (12 yrs). Community organizing (2-3 yrs). Office work (2 yrs). Law school, lawyering.
- John McCain U.S. Senator (21 yrs). U.S. Congressman (4 yrs). Businessman (2½ yrs). U.S. Navy (22 yrs, including 5½ yrs as a prisoner of war).
What’s to be done? Lawyering, wife-ing, and “community” stuff is all very worthy in its own way, no doubt, but it all looks a little lightweight against McCain. And this is with things as they are. What if, heaven forbid, there is another national-security crisis between now and August? Do people really want a “community organizer” or an education-health-care wonk (who never actually accomplished much in either zone) as Commander in Chief when suicide bombers are blowing themselves up in shopping malls or the Russian Army is marching into Kosovo?
On the historical evidence, in fact, people voting for president don’t even much care for U.S. Senators as a species. The last time a senator got elected to the presidency was 1960. Since Clinton, Obama, and McCain are all U.S. Senators, there isn’t much to be done about this; but at least the voters are going to be more favorably disposed towards a candidate who’s done something substantial other than senator-ing. Which would be … McCain.
I assume that the folk at the DNC, who are not fools, have thought things through to this point. What comes next?
What do you think? I’ve been telling you for months, but you just won’t listen. I told you right here back in May last year.
Some weeks before that I had told attendees at a private lecture the same thing. The organizers of that event had asked me to give a talk on the 2008 field of candidates, which was at that point very large. At the end of my talk, they said, I should offer my opinion as to who would actually be the next president. Preparing my talk, I mulled over the matter carefully. At the very end of the lecture, after forty minutes of surveying the entire field, both parties, I said “Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States,” pressed the key (it was a PowerPoint presentation), and up on the screen came Al Gore. There was a chorus of boos and jeers — it was a conservative crowd. Derb: “Look, this is not my guy. I’m anti-Gore, and have a paper trail to prove it (see here, here, and here). But as an analyst, it’s my job dispassionately to weigh the probabilities. I weighed them. This is what they told me.”
It’s still what they tell me. And if this has occurred to me, it has sure as heck occurred to the Democratic Party bosses, and those who influence them. Eleanor Clift, for example: “Al Gore on the second ballot: A scenario that a few weeks ago seemed preposterous is beginning to look plausible to some nervous Democrats looking for a way out of the deadlock between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama …” Hey, it never looked preposterous to me, Eleanor … but then, I didn’t need to have several Hillary Clinton tattoos surgically removed before I could think straight.
“Plausible”? Try “inevitable.” It’s August in Denver. You have a convention hall full of party activists, nervous and weary from months of watching the party’s two candidates clawing and scratching at each other. Both those candidates are looking pretty tattered. Bill Clinton’s mistress has spilled the beans on O’Reilly, and Michelle Obama’s senior sociology thesis has come to light** — the one where she let loose on the “ineradicable racism of white Americans” and called the U.S.A. “a nation founded in crime and hatred.” McCain is looking stronger than ever. The Turks are advancing on Kirkuk. Iran has lobbed a ballistic test missile far out over the Indian Ocean. The Chinese are mad as hell following the collapse of the summer Olympics the week before, as athletes refused to compete in gritty smog, and are making new threats against Taiwan. It’s a dangerous world out there, and community organizing and ed-biz wonkery are being marked down as presidential qualifications.
What to do? What to do? The party bosses are slumped in their seats, staring blankly into space, or doing job searches on their Blackberries. All is gloom and despondency.
Then … A fanfare of trumpets! A shaft of light! Into the hall rides a man on a white stallion! Stirred from their lethargy, the delegates begin rising from their seats. They start cheering and applauding. The rider reaches the podium, dismounts, and strides to the dais. The applause is deafening now. Cheers ring round the hall! Women are weeping; men are hugging each other.
Broad-shouldered and confident, his sternocleidomastoid muscle flexing and rippling, the Rescuer sweeps his powerful gaze around the hall. A hush falls. He begins to speak. As he speaks, the same though settles on every listener simultaneously: This is the one. He has always been the one. What fools we have been!
Don’t think it couldn’t happen. Don’t, in fact, think it isn’t going to happen. The Democratic Party has two lame candidates, without a dime’s worth of executive experience between them. Competing on the campaign trail, by August each will have thoroughly alienated the other’s supporters, and turned off the voting public. Meanwhile, in the wings, there is this guy who was Vice President for eight years, who ran a campaign for the presidency and actually won it! (well, according to party lore). He looks presidential, with a fine strapping physique and a big square jaw. You’re hankering after moral authority? How about a Nobel Peace Prize, for crying out loud!!
But … does he want it? Does Al Gore want to be the President of the United States?
Are you kidding me?
** This was before Mrs. Obama’s thesis actually did come to light. I was surmising — not too wildly, as it turned out.