There seems to be very little doubt now that Senator John McCain is in the driver’s seat, if not almost assured of the Republican nomination for president.
With Giuliani about to drop out, before Super Tuesday, and with only Governor Romney left as a serious challenger the conclusion does seem clear. But in politics, as they say, anything can happen and often does. To quote old Yogi Berra, "It ain’t over until it’s over." And since Governor Huckabee plans to stay in the race through next Tuesday he will likely take more votes from Romney than from McCain.
The two debates this week, one tonight and the other Thursday evening, will obviously be crucial to the Super Tuesday voting. This is the one window of opportunity that both Obama and
Romney have to create new momentum. (Obama already has considerable momentum, the question comes down to this: "Is it enough?")
Will Senator McCain be able to attract the most conservative members of his party? (He did very well among evangelical voters in Florida, which tells me this vote is not monolithic at all.) Again, who knows? If Senator Clinton is the nominee of the Democrats then I think the answer is a strong yes. If it is Obama I think the story could be very, very different. I have long argued that Obama has a serious shot at the nomination. I still think we could be shocked on Super Tuesday now that John Edwards has dropped out of the race. Obama is running an impressive campaign and team Clinton is still prone to injecting all kinds of foolishness into a political race. (They are "old school" in their approach and this might work in securing the nomination. Then they will have to adopt a new strategy to win in November.) Polling data this morning shows a phenomena that I have been looking at for some time. Lots of women, mostly white but not totally, and a lot of lower income people, people who earn under $50,000 and have no college education, vote heavily for Senator Clinton.
Obama, on the other hand, appeals to the young, the affluent and the highly educated within his party. Go figure. I think again this underscores the hunger among many thoughtful people, both liberal and conservative, for a new face and a new leader with new ideas. Conservatives simply look at the voting record of these two Democrats and don’t get the very real differences in their style and approach to leadership and the new challenges that face America.
Dick Morris, who has no love loss for the Clintons, has explained in a column that he wrote today why he believes that only Senator McCain can beat Senator Clinton in the general election. I am of the opinion that no one can beat Barrack Obama
if he is chosen, but then I am an amateur in this business and what do I really know. Remember, I have said over and over that I am a "political junkie" who simply enjoys the whole process regardless of who you like or don’t like. I am big on democracy and like the whole business of we the people choosing our leaders. I also think Americans, in their collective gut, want to change the party in power in the White House this year but John McCain can still appeal so broadly that he could be exactly what the Republicans really need, which is the argument Dick Morris makes if you check out the article linked above.
I still stand amazed at the level of hostility that the far right feels toward John McCain. I find it curious that the radio talkers, who claim so much influence in these elections over the past eight years, have expressed their disdain for Senator McCain over and over and yet he keeps winning, and he wins a good bit of the conservative vote in spite of them. These same talkers seem to think they have a lot of influence with people. They now want to say that they do not. They can’t have it both ways, at least in my estimation. Michael Medved and Bill Bennett, who have proven to be far more reasonable about all of this, have noted that this election may move some of these far right talkers to new issues and to new ways of engaging their audience. I sure hope so. I confess that the reactions of Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham make me want to never be known as a conservative.
It is, as is so often the case, a label that may have lost its real meaning in the popular culture. Senator McCain may be redefining the political moment in ways that only time will tell. Some think he will prove to be a Bob Dole in this election, losing easily to a Clinton. It will be interesting to see. His appeal is plainly not to those who embrace these right wing talkers. And since Republicans alone voted in Florida yesterday it would appear the party is pulling back from going further to the right when you put his votes and those of Mayor Giuliani together, neither of whom appeals to the far right at all.
For the Church the question remains: Can we engage each other over the next nine months without polarizing one another and dividing our congregations over partisan politics? I, for one, long for a campaign where "church" identity is not central to the campaign.
We need to talk about secularism, moral issues, judges, abortion and the real role of religion in the public square but we can do all of that without the far left and far right turning this into another "culture war" over religion.
Think about the very term "culture war." In a war you have winners and losers. You have casualties and victors. You have body counts and celebrations. In the Church you should have brothers and sisters. Some will differ over this issue or that and often for good reasons. Let us keep this all in perspective as we discuss the issues and then vote.