I have to start this post with two disclaimers. The first one is that half my family is British (mother's side) which means that this date means a lot to me. The second is that I was a political operative in my youthful past, raising money, being an advance man, setting up press databases for certain politicians who won. I coined the phrase, "You spend a day with a politician and you feel like you need to take 12 showers."
Having made those disclaimers, I'll provide you with the thesis of this essay: Getting beyond the normal journalistic approach to American elections and talking about the meat and potatoes, someone as jaded as I am sees only two candidates and I'll explain why.
When actual voting starts, at the beginning of 2008, what the pundits say – including me – will be fish wrap. Hillary's coronation will be a distant memory, as will her so-called "gaffe" during the debate at Drexel University last week. When the rubber hits the road, the Dem side of the equation, IF they use smart political consultants, will boil down to three choices.
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- Bill Richardson, if they want the most vanilla candidate and get the clue that they can get a lock on the Latino vote for years to come. Richardson is just "mainstream" and "experienced" enough to be so bland that Wall Street will support him while bringing the trendy ethnic spin to the mix. This Analyst wouldn't choose him but he'd be a safe choice for the Democrats who would go out of his way not to alienate anyone during a general election while bringing in a new tier of voters.
- Joe Biden. Yeah, I know, he's considered a "third tier" candidate but – let's face it – he's articulate, authoritative, experienced and folksy. He won't play well with the African-American community without making lots of amends but, at the end of the day, he can play on both Wall Street and Main Street AND he did come up with a clear-cut plan for dealing with the quagmire in Iraq. Besides, Congress would love this guy.
- John Edwards. Yes, believe it or not, John Edwards. The general election would move him toward the center, as it does every candidate. He'd play well in the South, he brings a First Lady to the table that everyone but a dyed-in-wool ideologue would have sympathy towards. His populism in the primaries would be tempered by his solid business experience and his wealth during the general. He's telegenic and would be the anti-Hillary that Obama can't be for most white males. He gives the Dems the free pass they want to not go too leftist – oddly enough – for the general populace.
The Repubs have it much easier. They have so many candidates with baggage and skeletons – PLUS the Bush-taint – that they need a clean break to even consider getting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue back with a tough fight. The only one on their roster who would have a clean shot is Mike Huckabee. He's fine for what they have left of a base, to start with, brings in the Southern vote and has no problem concerning conservative bona fides. Otherwise, they can kiss the White House good-bye.
I know this analysis is not exciting and is certainly jaded. At the same time, when you go to circus, you want to see elephants, monkeys, girls in tights swinging from a trapeze. It's what you expect. When you look at politics, you want to see the end game. Sadly, most of the choices from one party are just part of the sideshow and the other party offers up three bad choices.
IF American elections were about what people wanted, Ralph Nader and Mike Gravel would be welcomed – encouraged even – to attend every single nomination debate, on the Democrat side, in order to get the other poll and money driven candidates to talk about issues people might care about.
IF American elections were about what people wanted, Ralph Nader and Kinky Friedman would be welcomed – encouraged even – to attend every single nomination debate, on the Republican side, in order to get the other poll and money driven candidates to talk about issues people might care about.
This analysis was not about issues, fundraising or the political future of what's left of the American republic. It was sadly, about, "electability." That term is bandied about quite a bit but seldom from the point of view of the pragmatic reality of what the electorate in a country where all things are commodified will likely – and , yes, predictably – decide. It's more fun to focus on the horse race, the push and tug of events no one will likely remember in a few weeks (nor should they) and the drama of the moment than what backroom knowledge dictates. Enjoy the show.
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