We are having fun trying to understand the candidates in this 2008 election process. Obama is young and vibrant, Clinton has the bet grasp of issues, McCain is a moderate Republican, Huckabee wants to replace the constitution. In the nominating process we like to look at the political Parties. Who is conservative enough, liberal enough, centrist? But elections do not happen in a vacuum, much to the chagrin of Tim Russert and other pundits.
We look to the past. Jimmy Carter was a moderate Southern Governor and he wrested the nomination from the established left wing. Ronald Reagan was the far right scary guy who snagged the Republican Nomination in 1980. Each of these men ultimately won the Presidency. George H. W. Bush was Reagan’s Vice President. He was to carry the mantle of Reagan into the future – but no one really believed that.
George the First was elected by Michael Dukakis. Elections are not in a vacuum – each candidate has to be considered in light of their opponent.
If there were a simple vacuum where the demographics and campaign strategies are predictable then Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. Senator Clinton had the best campaign, the most comprehensive positions on issues, and was very presentable. Given the vacuum of surface political analysis, Mitt Romney would have been the nominee.
Clinton and Romney are frustrated because they did not understand or appreciate their opposition.
McCain is making similar mistakes. McCain discounts Huckabee. McCain discounts Obama’s youth. McCain discounts the message of hope. McCain has discounted the far right. McCain and Clinton have both acted as if their positions are reasonable – thus people will vote for him. The flaw in the logic is in discounting the opposition.
Elections are not pure creatures. Simply claiming the mantle of conservative or liberal, simply catering to talk radio, or simply holding the banner of a political Party is not enough.