10 January 2008

After New Hampshire

The one thing that New Hampshire settled is that nothing is settled yet. It's not over till it's over. I still think that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee and the next President, but only a fool would claim to be able to see the future with certainty at this point.

As in Iowa, none of the eight major candidates* did badly enough to have reason to drop out. Some are doubtless disappointed -- it doesn't look like Edwards is getting anywhere, for example -- but Hillary's poll-defying return from the dead just shows that even a candidate who is being written off as finished can sometimes pull off a surprise victory and get back in the race. Those who aren't currently doing well will note this, and resist pressures to quit.

This means, among other things, that the Republicans will still continue to suffer the divisiveness brought on by a crowded field. Settling on a consensus candidate will be difficult because almost every one of their five leaders antagonizes some core Republican constituency. Huckabee infuriates small-government and secular conservatives; Romney is anathema to the anti-Mormon fundies; Giuliani inflames anti-abortion fanatics; McCain remains widely unforgiven for his support for the Bush illegal-alien amnesty and campaign-finance reform (yes, the latter is opposed with startling ferocity by some Republicans). Only Thompson seems to arouse no strong antipathy on the right, and he doesn't seem to arouse much enthusiasm either.

On the Democratic side, I think we will continue to see further cases of the pattern noted in New Hampshire, where Clinton does better against Obama in the actual voting than the polls have predicted. This will be, not because of the "Bradley effect", but because of something subtler. People responding to polls are likely to be reacting to the idealism Obama represents, but in the voting booth where the actual decision needs to be made, they will be swayed by the sobering question: which of these two is tough enough and ruthless enough to defeat the Republican nominee in the election and to overcome Congressional Republican resistance to Democratic policies afterwards (to say nothing of dealing with the jihadists)? Andrew Sullivan touts Obama's less divisive politics and the prospect of "transcending" the culture war, but we all know the Republicans would view this as weakness and take advantage of it; and as long as they keep attacking science, abortion rights, the separation of church and state, and so on, we need to keep fighting back -- to win, not "transcend". The time for conciliation is after we've won, not while the aggressor is still making war on us.

As I expected, the first actual votes have thrown a bucket of cold, harsh reality over the Ron Paul cult. No, there was not some vast pool of support for their guy lurking out there, below the polls' radar, waiting to emerge and startle the political world. The New Republic's exposé probably had (and will continue to have) an impact, but its general thrust won't be news to anyone who has looked into the issue on the internet, though of course TNR has a broader audience than Orcinus does. But it's Paul's own disturbing and extreme positions, and the Moonie-evoking obsessiveness of his followers in exalting him as more a messiah than a politician and in spamming every anti-Paul posting on the internet with a flood of robot-like comments, that have kept him on the fringe.

A few links of interest:

This posting sums up the current situation pretty well.

This attack on McCain's support for amnesty is harshly written, but the point is an important one, and such tough rhetoric is an important part of the conflicts within conservatism these days.

One of Sullivan's readers rebukes the media -- including him.

A Paulist blogger (with some pro-McCain leanings) laments New Hampshire.

Politics sure creates hard feelings, doesn't it? And with the internet being so conducive to overheated rhetoric and vulgar language, it's worth looking once again at this amusing video.

*Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said, "As with Iowa, none of the eight major candidates did badly enough to have reason to drop out."

Have you accounted for the money factor? They may not have political issues, but these days no one goes anywhere without money. Hillary and Obama are raking in big bucks while the other candidates subsist on pocket change.

BTW, I read this morning that Richardson will probably announce his withdrawal today. Also, I liked the linked articles.

10 January, 2008 07:47  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Have you accounted for the money factor?

Good point. I hear some of them are running low. But I think as long as each candidate seems to have some real chance of winning, his (or her) supporters will keep making donations.

A related point is that Ron Paul has managed to prove two things: (1) it's possible to raise a lot of money without catering to special interests, and (2) raising a lot of money won't get you anywhere if you're too far outside the mainstream.

10 January, 2008 09:20  
Blogger Rita said...

amusing videos aside, IMH opinion this is where the rubber meets the road. we need to keep fighting back -- to win, not "transcend". The time for conciliation is after we've won, not while the aggressor is still making war on us.

12 January, 2008 20:27  

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