Friday, January 04, 2008

The US elections

I'm no great expert on American politics. Indeed I have never really understood it, how for instance someone who couldn't remember the name of the Pakistani president in a live TV interview (I'll bet he can remember it now) could ever be elected, or how someone who lied about not having had "sexual relations with that woman Miss Lewinsky" could have remained in office after being found out. It's clearly a political culture where different sorts of rules apply to that of our own.

Nevertheless, I do know enough about politics in general to know that elections are generally won and lost in the centre ground, and enough about the USA to know that for many Americans, Hillary Clinton remains a dangerously divisive figure. It is my strong hunch, therefore, that if Clinton emerges after Iowa, New Hampshire and "Super Tuesday" as the runaway favourite for the Democratic nomination, the election is the Republicans' to lose.

Realistically the presidency is going to go to one of six men and one woman. Although there are a number of fringe contenders, the serious candidates are, on the Republican side, Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and John McCain, and on the Democrat side, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Mrs Clinton.

Tonight's Iowa caucuses are likely to be won by Obama and Huckabee. That does not, however, mean they are likely to be their party's nominees. In fact it will mean little in the bigger scheme of things besides giving them some temporary momentum going into the more important battles over the coming weeks.

So who do I think will emerge victorious? Well, with the Republican nomination more wide open, and hence less likely to be resolved by Super Tuesday, I have a view that that party's eventual choice may well depend on who ends up as the Democrat front-runner.

If that is Clinton, my hunch is that the Republicans will plump for the experienced and reassuring figure of McCain. If however Obama emerges victorious on the Democrat side - I think Edwards has probably left himself too much to do - the Grand Old Party may feel that it, too, can gamble on a younger and less experienced candidate such as Romney or even Huckabee.

The key question for the Republican Party in this election is the one rather inelegantly posed by a lady at one of John McCain's campaign meetings, namely: "How do we beat the bitch?" The (rather obvious) answer is to choose the candidate with the greatest appeal to swing voters, and that is McCain.

It is early days, but I am convinced that if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, then the Arizona senator will go on to win not only the Republican nomination but also the presidency.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

It's got to be Obama, the Democrats would be shooting themselves in the foot massively by choosing Clinton - as you say, she's just too divisive.

As I've just said on my blog, I really like the look of Ron Paul for the GOP. He's got momentum at the moment, too. As for the rest, well, Huckabee would be ideal simply because he's so eminently beatable; the whole evolution business alone should make it pretty hard to draw undecideds.
So my dream match would be Obama vs Huckabee; I reckon that's the Dems' best chance of winning.
Ron Paul would be fun though!

Anonymous said...

Evolution is the least of it - Huckabee has suggested quarantining AIDS patients and has compared homosexuality to bestiality and necrophilia.

I wouldn't write him off in a general election, though - his 'aw shucks' homespun manner and affability would resonate with many voters. While many of his views are antediluvian, he has skilfully crafted an image of being a social conservative who isn't mad at anyone.

Paul asked how a man who didn't know the name of the president of Pakistan could be elected - my answer is Al Gore's woeful campaign, including his decision not to do any work in New Hampshire (which he lost by just 1%). Had he done a bit more work in New Hampshire, the chicanery in Florida wouldn't have mattered.

And yes, Hillary is a very polarising figure, with some surveys suggesting almost 50% of respondents opposed to her election. With negatives like that, 'all Kerry's states plus Ohio' would be difficult, particularly when a Hillary nomination would be just about the one thing to bring together a splintering Republican coalition, and bring out disillusioned GOP voters in droves.

Obama's success in Iowa, by contrast, showed his appeal to Independents and Republicans.