Someone recently posted a question about my long absence from the blogosphere, wondering whether or not I'd weigh in on the current political happenings. I hadn't planned on it because my thoughts are not altogether original or profound, but here goes...
First let me go on record as saying I was an Obama supporter from the get go (http://scjtoday.typepad.com/scjtoday/2006/10/index.html). Call me trendy (I've been called worse), but on this conviction I have not flip flopped. I still stand by Obama for a number of reasons. I think he's the most electable, the most capable of uniting the country after a polarizing eight years, and the best suited to take our country into the 21st century. Our nation seems to be in a pragmatic mood, ready to place results over ideology, which is one reason I think Obama is picking up Republicans as well as independents. And he just might be ready to cash in on that moment. Take for instance his health care plan, which has been heavily criticized by some on the Left. True it does fall a bit shy of the sort of universal coverage the Clinton and Edwards plans offered, and it lacks mandates. But it's those features that might actually make it supportable by some across the aisle, bringing us closer to the sort of universal coverage we so desperately need. Many former Clinton staffers who are now Obama supporters have expressed their appreciation for how Obama sees the world: through complex, nuanced lenses. He likes to see and hear all sides and perspectives. He likes to be argued against, and can see the strength of the arguments of others as well as the weaknesses of his own. They contrast this with Hillary Clinton's tendency to frame things in black and white, adversarial terms.
We now know that McCain is the inevitable Republican nominee. Interestingly like Obama his strength is cross-over appeal. He's won in several states where he didn't get the majority of conservative Republican votes, being pushed over the top by moderates and independents. Conventional political wisdom would say that McCain is destined to lose come November. Republicans tend to win with conservative not moderate nominees...1976...1996. It's the Democrats that do well with moderate nominees like Bill Clinton, not the Republicans. McCain's best hope is Hillary Clinton. Her lack of charisma cancels out his, one of his chief weaknesses. She's perhaps the Democrat with the least cross over appeal in the country, let alone the presidential race. And as many pundits have noted, Republicans are licking their chops at the prospect of getting to run against her because they're stockpiles are already full of ammunition. One party activist and fund raiser said that while he might have a tough time raising money for John McCain, he'll have no problem raising money to beat Hillary.
I think Obama vs McCain will be a tight race, with a slight advantage going to Obama. Experience is a thresh hold issue. People won't vote for you if they think you don't have enough experience, but they won't necessarily vote for you because you're the candidate who has the most. Ask George W. Bush. He learned it the hard way in 1992. Some think McCain picks up a significant edge if national security becomes the issue du jour. This may be the case if there is a terrorist incident. But if Iraq goes sour it helps Obama. If the surge continues to reduce violence, I don't know that McCain is helped, because when things go relatively better in Iraq it tends to become a non-issue, being overshadowed by the economy, rather than a winning issue for hawks. McCain is also hampered by the fact that a vote for him for many Republicans was akin to a vote for "none of the above." He represents compromise and frustration, not consensus and excitement. This doesn't send the base running to the polls in the Fall.
All my musings are assuming Obama can get the nomination. I think he'll do quite well this weekend, but even if he picked up all the delegates at stake (an unlikely scenario given the proportional appropriation in most Democratic primaries), he'd only pick up 223. Ohio and Texas still loom large on the horizon. And while Obama has momentum and a significant fund raising lead, Hillary still leads in these states. And don't think for a second the Clinton's won't get their way with regard to Florida and Michigan. These delegates will count. But if Hillary is the nominee, Obama can eye 2012. I'll still be a supporter.