Friday, February 08, 2008

Conversations with myself

What a week. My head hurts. So let's wind down with a Q & A.

Q: How come Mitt Romney decided to cut and run, hours after he had promised to soldier on?

A: Because, thinking like a businessman, he came to the conclusion that he was a bad investment. (Makes sense to me. He wound up spending roughly $125,000 for each delegate received - and that's money from his own pocket.) Yesterday, he claimed that he was leaving the GOP race only because he wants to stop the Democrats from winning the White House and staging a "surrender to terror." But that parting blast of demagoguery can't mask the truth, which is that he surrendered his candidacy because the conservative base judged him to be a flip-flopping fraud. It was clear to me, way back last summer during the Iowa straw poll, that he was weak on his right flank, and he remained so. Thinking ahead, he has probably calculated that McCain will lose this year, allowing him to retool himself for 2012 as Ronald Reagan 2.0.

Q: So what about a John McCain-Mike Huckabee ticket? Doesn't the Huck bring along the conservatives that the Mack lacks?

A: Not necessarily. If we assume that running mates help at all (and I sometimes question that premise), then Huckabee potentially pulls in the religious conservatives. But, lest we forget, he is anathema to a lot of fiscal/economic conservatives, as well as traditional big business/Wall Street conservatives. The latter faction doesn't like Huckabee's populist rhetoric against corporations. The former faction doesn't like Huckabee's record as governor of Arkansas, where he raised a lot of taxes and increased government spending. And I wonder whether independent swing voters would be charmed by the idea of positioning, a heartbeat away from the presidency, a guy who doesn't believe in evolution.

Q: OK, but what about Hillary Clinton hooking up with Barack Obama, or vice versa? There's all this buzz about a Democratic dream ticket.

A: Dream on. If Hillary wins the nomination, why would she want to pick a silver-tongued partner who overshadows her every time he opens his mouth? Why would she want to trump her own narrative, about breaking the gender barrier, with an arguably more compelling narrative, about breaking the racial barrier? Besides, why would Obama want to be her understudy? Perhaps the worst job in the world, aside manning a highway toll booth, would be vice president in Hillary's White House - because you'd actually be the number-three official, with Bill as number two. Meanwhile, if Obama was the nominee, why would Hillary want to play second fiddle? She has already spent decades as backup to a charismatic male, so what's the upside of potentially spending yet another eight years waiting her turn?

Q: How come, all of a sudden, Hillary is saying that she wants to have lots and lots of TV debates with Obama, starting with a Fox News invitation on Monday night? Don't frontrunners generally want to debate less, not more?

A: Several theories. (1) She truly believes that she has lost her frontrunner status, and now she's thinking like a scrappy challenger. (2) She privately believes that she is still the frontrunner, but wants people to view her as a scrappy challenger because the latter image is more appealing. (3) She genuinely feels - not without justification - that she is the better debator, more substantive on policy issues. (4) With Obama holding the money advantage, she needs the free media exposure. The bottom line is that Obama, acting like a frontrunner, has indicated that he will not debate her again until the end of the month.

Q: McCain's support among independents is truly bizarre. All the polls have long shown that independents are strongly opposed to the war in Iraq...yet here they are, showing the love for a Republican who strongly supports the war. The exit polling, during the primaries, have verified this. McCain has repeatedly scored well with voters who are unhappy with the war. What gives?

A: Personalities trump issues in our mediagenic age. Even when one of those issues involves the expenditure of $10 billion a month to sustain one of the worst foreign policy miscalculations in American history.

Q: Will you please explain who the heck these Democratic "superdelegates" are, where they came from, why they exist, and how come they may become pivotal if Hillary and Obama are still stalemated when spring yields to summer?

A: I told you, my head hurts. I'll deal with the superdelegates early next week. In the meantime, entertain yourself with The New Yorker's primary season pop quiz, courtesy of the ever-witty Paul Slansky. It's designed for junkies only. And the wrong answers are the most amusing of all.