Thursday, February 07, 2008

With Romney Out Everything Has Changed for the Democrats

With Mitt Romney's departure from the Republican primary race, the whole dynamic of this election season has changed.

Before I go further, let me make the following disclaimer. I already endorsed Barack Obama because I think he is the most inspiring candidate the Democrats have. So, any accusation that the following remarks are cold, calculating and Machiavellian, while it might be true, is also besides the point. I already gave my support to Obama for all the right reasons.

So, here goes.

If you are still an undecided, one of the best reasons to cast your vote for Obama this coming Tuesday - Potomac Tuesday - is because he is the least polarizing candidate and the one the conservatives, sorely disenchanted with John McCain, will not come out to defeat. If you need further proof, see here and here. Admittedly it's an extreme view getting much push back on Bearing Drift. But it is representative of other comments I've been reading and hearing from disgruntled conservatives.

As much as I personally admire Hillary Clinton and believe the whole cottage industry dedicated to hating the Clintons is pathological, it can't be ignored. Hillary is, if possible, even more polarizing than Bill and with far less reason. It is unfair.

And spare me the crap about how the Clintons brought it on themselves. He got a blow job, ok. He didn't lead this country into an illegal, immoral and strategically totally unnecessary war. He didn't wreck the economy. He didn't turn his back on residents of the lower Ninth Ward. In fact, under Bill Clinton, FEMA was one of the best run agencies in a largely efficient and effective government.

Nevertheless, Hillary even manages to divide Democrats. And she's the one person who will bring out the Republicans in droves no matter how much they dislike McCain.

It's not that those Republicans will vote for Obama as a protest vote. They won't. Nor will they necessarily reach across the aisle for bipartisan solutions to problems like health care reform or the subprime lending crisis. They won't do that either.

But if Obama is the Democratic nominee, many of them will sit out the election. Indeed, some are even looking forward to the Republican Party losing. They see this as much needed discipline for the GOP. From their point of view, the Republican Party has betrayed its conservative values and deserves to lose so that it can turn inward, reassess its ideals, purge the moderates who have taken it down this disastrous path, and then emerge as a smaller, purer and better party that recaptures the public's trust. Once it emerges from defeat, in four years, the GOP will once again deserve to be the party that wins. Right now, to many conservatives, it no longer deserves victory.

And tactically, conservatives want to illustrate graphically to the GOP insiders that without their support, the party cannot win. If they can't actually control their party, then at least they can be the spoilers who keep it from winning elections. Or, at least, that's their hope.

Unless Hillary is the nominee. Then all bets are off and they will rally to whoever the candidate is.

But equally important, regardless of whether the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I think the Democrats would do well to put up a vice presidential candidate with strong military credentials and credibility to serve as a counterweight to McCain. Especially if the presidential nominee is Obama, it would serve him well to eliminate any fear about his relative inexperience in foreign policy to have somebody of the stature of Jim Webb as his running mate.

Now in the past, whenever the topic of Webb as a vice presidential contender has come up, I've been a staunch naysayer.

Webb is too independent, too much of a maverick. Those have been my arguments. I don't think he'd be happy as the subordinate member of a team. But I hope that for the good of the party he'd be willing to put some of those tendencies aside.

The role of vice president has changed exponentially since the days when it was largely ceremonial. For example, Al Gore played a substantive policy role in the Clinton Administration. Gore did not simply attend funerals for heads of state or chair inconsequential committees in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building (as it was called back then). I don't, of course, want a vice president in Dick Cheney's mold. Nobody needs a co-presidency with a vice president who has overstepped his boundaries as the current VP has done.

But Webb could play an important role as a foreign policy and military advisor. In addition, Webb has an excellent grasp of domestic issues, especially on the economy and vetarans affairs.

Selecting Webb would send a signal to voters that Obama is serious about issues and policy.

The only downside would be replacing Webb and keeping his seat in the Democratic column. Mark Warner will probably win his senate race this year. Tim Kaine has only another year as governor and can't succeed himself. He's got high approval ratings so he could step up to another statewide race.

We've got a good bench with players ready to be put into the game at the state level and Webb would give needed heft to the Democratic presidential ticket in a match up with John McCain. And Obama is the one candidate that inspires enthusiasm and hope and who will keep the disgruntled conservatives from coming out to support of McCain.

I'd say it's a plan!


Jim Hoeft said...

I heard a really funny comment on Rush yesterday supporting your theory. It's a suggested Obama campaign slogan:

"A vote for Hillary is a vote for McCain"

This is a play on what the Romney people were saying about Huckabee.

Great post!

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thanks Jim. High compliment from you.

Catzmaw said...

I, too, have found myself softening my position on a Webb Vice Presidency. A major reason for this opposition was Webb's early and obvious authority in the Senate and his terrific work ethic. Compare his website featuring highlights of his legislative initiatives and work to Allen's six year oeuvre and you'll see what I'm talking about. Allen occupied himself primarily with minor non-controversial matters and joining legislation drafted by others (such as his outright theft of Durbin's brain injury bill), while Webb's site is crammed with references to major initiatives such as the Webb-McCaskill Commission, the New GI Bill, efforts to address the high incarceration rates in the U.S., etc., etc. You can't even find everything he's doing on the website, but he's always doing something. The legendary hothead is in fact a measured and rational voice in the Senate, carefully weighing how he presents his positions without backing off from them. His writer's precision in expression is evident in his statements on the floor of the Senate and his prefatory comments during committee hearings. There's a lot of there, there as Dorothy Parker might have said. At any rate, I would hate to lose this wonderful Senate leader.

Then I think of the larger Webb picture, the one you mentioned, the one who dreams of the transformation which would take place if the two historic antagonists, African Americans and the Scots-Irish - the mountain people and Southern whites - decided to join forces against the monied interests, the lowland overlords with their trickle down theories and noblesse oblige concepts of good flowing from the top down. I think of how Webb would appeal to the Reagan Democrats and the moderate Republicans who are sick of their party's kowtowing to the religious right.

Historically the vice presidential part of a ticket doesn't seem to have that much to do with the ticket's success, but there's a lot going on in politics today which is bucking the received wisdom of past races. Politics is changing into something different. I may still harbor doubts about Webb as VP, and these doubts are purely selfish ones wishing he would stay and grow in his Senate role, but I sometimes think of how great it would be to have his experience and common sense in such close proximity to the White House. It's tempting.

Duck said...

I think it is just the opposite. From the Conservatives I have spoken with, they are more likely to vote for McCain if Obama is the nominee. Many conservatives believe Hillary will not let us lose in Iraq. She may not like what Bush has done, but she will not be saddled with a loss especially since many accuse Democrats of being weak in the foreign policy arena.

Obama will mess up the situation in Iraq, and McCain's strong point is his military background, and his desire is to do well in Iraq. Because of this, many Conservatives will pull for McCain over Obama, but they may not show up if Hillary were the Democratic candidate.

Even if Conservatives hate Hillary, we don't like McCain. Hate for Hillary will not be enough to motivate us to vote when we are not at all excited by McCain.

We may not like Hillary, but we are not afraid of Hillary. Many of us are afraid to turn this country over to an inexperienced guy who looks good and talks even better. He reminds us of a used car salesman, or worse a shyster lawyer. Fear is a better motivator than Hate. I might scream at the TV because of Hillary, who really is not much more liberal than McCain is, but fear of Obama and where he will lead this country may be enough to motivate me to vote for McCain.

To me, Obama is a better candidate because he will inspire his base and independents to vote for him. Even if the Conservatives show up, this may be enough to push him over the top.

Democrat turnout will be lower if Hillary is the candidate, and Independents may break for McCain, but Conservatives will not show up to support McCain.

Given these factors I think Hillary and Obama have an equal chance of beating McCain. Independent voters--not Conservatives--may give Obama a slight edge.

sjl said...

Accepting obama blindly is a big mistake.
Which one of those states has Obama won will take him through the General Election? Will it be KS, ID, NE, AK, IO, AL, GA, SC? Which one? Obama hasn't won the majority of states that matter. Washington is holding another vote, this time a Primary it is going to be interesting to see who the MAJORITY votes for, obama doesn't do well when EVERYONE gets to vote, now does he. People really need to start looking at the racial divide and there is one, you may not want to hear it, but he won't win the general becuase of it. WE saw it in NV, SC, FL, and LA. LA Clinton/Obama:
White Men 66 28
White Women 73 24
Black Men 19 80
Black Women 16 84
You may think obama can win these votes, maybe a few, however, then you go back to the ethnic diversity on the West Coast, the majority will go to MCCain, if you think I am wrong again you are living in LaLa Land.
The delegates won by obama yesterday were 29 more than Hillary, and we haven't even included MI and FL, which we will eventually, Hillary clearly is winning this in all ways that count. You people better wake up and see the writing on the wall. I am not even going into obamas lies and distortion, but the rightwing are already preparing their attacks. 4 more years of Republicans? Thank god there is TX, OH, PA, FL, MI who will make the final decision on this primary season.

L. A. said...

Duck...Well said.