Super Tuesday has come and gone and the smoke has cleared leaving the landscape clear, with only one man left standing with any chance, mathematically, of gaining the Republican nomination: John McCain.Mitt Romney has bowed to reality; and with his grace and good sense in doing so spared the Party a now pointless competition. Mike Huckabee, of course, is still in but his candidacy is now more clearly seen for what it has always been, a route to the vice-presidency, not the presidency. Oh yes, Ron Paul is still in as well, acting as he has from the start, as a sort of political poultice, drawing out the poisons (conspiracy theorists and other whackos) in the Party.
McCain is now the presumptive nominee, the establishment is lining up behind him and the Democrats have already crafted a playbook on how to handle him in the general election. The Straight-Talk Express has now reached critical mass. But maybe not.
In all likelihood McCain will be the Republican nominee, but in politics, as in life in general, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And there are some troubling signs on the road ahead for the McCain candidacy. The Republicans start this election season off with a number of distinct disadvantages; attempting to follow an unpopular Republican president completing his second term; the memory of a corrupt, profligate Republican Congress that was swept from power only two short years ago, still fresh; a newly energized Democratic Party that is almost psychotic in its lust to get back into the Oval Office and, most damaging to the now apparent nominee, a candidate whom a large part of the Republican conservative base (and this is no exaggeration) loathes.
Due to the front-loading of this year’s primaries John McCain has wrapped up the nomination earlier than any other nominee in modern times. While this affords some opportunities, such as giving him time to assemble his general election policies and team, it also presents some possibly fatal difficulties as well. As stated earlier, the Democrats have more time to assemble their strategies for taking McCain apart and while McCain has always been the mainstream media’s favorite Republican, in a general election, against a Democrat the msm is going to go after him with the same vigor they do any Republican. And where a Republican would normally have the support of the so-called “alternative media” i.e. talk radio, the conservative blog-o-sphere etc., McCain’s years of treating the base with contempt has left it dispirited and frequently antagonistic to him.
Taking all of the above into consideration, the following scenario now becomes possible: With eight months to go before the Republican convention McCain, lacking an energized base and under constant assault in the press performs abysmally in national head-to-head polls with either of the two likely Democratic candidates and come September it is obvious that McCain is such a damaged and flawed candidate that it will be impossible for him to win the general election. The Party, in a desperate attempt to save themselves from a disaster of historic dimensions, does what it did when the writing was on the wall for Richard Nixon: they send a group of respected Republican emissaries to inform him that he must go. McCain, the bottom having dropped out of his campaign steps aside “for the good of my party and my country” and releases his delegates, thereby throwing the convention wide open.
Now this scenario is far more likely to occur if it becomes clear fairly soon that Barak Obama will be the Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton is so flawed as a candidate herself that polling is likely to show a fairly close race between her and McCain. But if Obama becomes the presumptive nominee within the next month or two, the enthusiasm of the Democratic base coupled with a press-in-love with him promises to reveal poll after poll of a Republican Armageddon.
Should this scenario play out, who would inherit the Republican nod? Mitt, perhaps? Fred Thompson? Someone who hasn’t been in the field yet at all perhaps. That would certainly make for an exciting convention and perhaps even set up the possibility of a Republican win.
Is any of the above likely? Not terribly but in this unusual political season which has been filled with the unexpected, I wouldn’t rule anything out just yet.
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