Monday, March 10, 2008


All Gain for Republicans from Democrat Contest?

Last Thursday Jonathan Freedland argued that the extended 'mud-wrestling' contest between Hillary and Obama could only assist McCain and the Republicans. On Sunday Andrew Rawnsley argued pretty much the same thing. The argument is that as the two Democrats bite chunks out of each other, McCain can stand aside and appear not only above the fray but able to cherry pick the best of the negative arguments to use in his November campaign against whoever proves to be the Democratic victor. This is especially the case when negative smears against Obama seems to have stopped his relentless surge in the Texas and Ohio contests- as Rawnsley notes:

The Clintons did not just throw the kitchen sink at Obama; they bunged in the lavatory as well. For months, the internet has been used to spread smears that he is a closet Islamic radical. Asked whether her opponent might be a secret Muslim, Hillary archly encouraged the slimesters by responding: 'There is nothing to base that on - as far as I know.'

If the April Pennsylvania contest doesn't produce a knock-out blow for one side or the other then it could be down to the wire in late August in Denver. And then it could down to those 'super-delegates' which we don't really understand too well on this side of the Atlantic but seem to be senior party people with the equivalent value of one fifth of all the convention delegates. Hillary was well ahead with this group- as might be expected of a politician of such influence and longevity; but Obama is said to be making inroads even in this 'Clintonite' constituency so it's hard to foresee how this group would vote in any case.

But I wonder. Will an extended contest really damage the Democrats' chances? We have seen how Guiliani's bid for the presidency withered as he foolishly stood aside from the early primaries. McCain maybe will be free of the mud slinging but will he not have a lower profile imposed upon him? Both Hillary and Obama will dominate the headlines for much longer now and who knows whether this lion's share of the election limelight will be more important than the negative attacks both candidates will no doubt use?

I still think the essence of this election is the desire for change and that Obama will emerge the winner in consequence. I'm sure I'm indulging in a slice of wishful thinking here, but I reckon if Obama wins through, McCain will find it hard to counteract an idea whose time has arrived in the form of the charismatic mixed race Senator for Illinois.

One of the speakers on one of the Economist's (highly recommended) podcasts recently suggested that the contest is at least it's keeping the Democrat candidates and their policies in the public eye. This was said to be good news for them because no one's currently talking at all about the GOP...
It's a good point that the continuing battle keeps the Democrats in the public eye - and the old political adage that any publicity is beeter than none might well hold true. The real problem for the Democrats are all these super delegates, who are going to keep a dirty race alive all the way and then might well ignore the electoral verdict. There's such a thing as too much publicity, even at the expense of giving the rival candidate no coverage.

The personalities involved are simple. If Obama wins the nomination then he should beat McCain. If the Democrats decide, in the teeth of all reason, to go for Clinton, then McCain's got it all to do if he wants to lose. She's shown this last fortnight that she's tough and determined - also that she's spiteful, conceited, arrogant, dishonest and as inexperienced as her opponent in actual political work. McCain would clean her up - and a good job too!
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