Not feeling very super…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, as he is typing this, is seeing that the early returns on this Super Tuesday are giving Georgia and Illinois to Barack Obama and Oklahoma to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. On the Republican side of things it looks like Romney gets Massachusetts, Huckabee gets West Virginia, and McCain gets Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey. Your Maximum Leader is amused to see that some political types are speculating that Ron Paul can win the Alaska primaries.

Way to go Alaska!

You will recall that just a few short weeks ago your Maximum Leader mused that the Republicans could go to their convention without a clear nominee. Now he is beginning to think that the Democrats can go to their convention without a nominee. This is especially plausible considering the Democrats tendency to use a fun and exciting system of proportionally dividing delegates.

Depending on how things go tonight, your Maximum Leader is beginning to think that John McCain will wrap up the Republican nomination by the end of February.

Your Maximum Leader is attempting to look at these races as dispassionately as possible. He is not (admittedly) thrilled by any of his choices, so being dispassionate isn’t too hard. He’ll not lament that none of the candidates thrill him. (However since he did just mention it, none of the candidates thrill him.)

As your Maximum Leader mentioned a few lines ago, proportional division of convention delegates on the Democratic side of these primaries could really keep the Democratic candidates duking it out for weeks. Perhaps your Maximum Leader is the only one thinking this, but does it seem as though the Democrats are doing every thing in their power to weaken themselves during this primary season? By this he means that by making their nominating process more “fair” by not using many “winner take all” primaries, are the Democrats prolonging their nominating process and cutting into the time that their eventual candidate can raise money and campaign against the Republicans? Your Maximum Leader seems to think that this is the first step in the quadrennial march of the Democrats towards self-destruction. They always seem to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of electoral victory. And if there was ever a year where the Democrats would have to intentionally sabotage themselves to lose the presidential race, this would be the year. Your Maximum Leader can hardly see how the Democrats can lose this race – all things being equal…

Lucky for all of us… Not all things seem to be equal. The Democrats have raised boatloads of money compared to Republicans. That is a big advantage for the Democrats. Pretty much everyone but the most committed party partisans dislikes George W Bush – and by default many Republicans. That is an advantage for the Democrats. The economy is not very strong, and possibly in recession. People (rightly or wrongly – frankly more wrongly) tend to blame the economic situation on the sitting president and his party. This is another plus for the Democrats. There are lots of positives out there if you are a Democrat.

Of course, on the negative side for the Democrats, the two remaining candidates have issues. Do Hillary Clinton’s negatives need to be repeated? Your Maximum Leader thinks not. Barack Obama’s big negatives are inexperience and a perception among many as not having much substance. Of the two Democratic candidates, Barack Obama’s negatives can be overcome by hammering home the empty theme of “change.”

If there is a term in (American) politics that your Maximum Leader has come to loathe as he grows older it is the term “change.” Walter Mondale promised change in 1984. His promised change was to not be Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton was all about change in 1992. Bill Clinton’s promised change was to help the little guy and fix the economy. Bill Clinton was as obtuse as possible in detailing exactly what constituted change. In 2000 George W Bush promised a change from Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Change really doesn’t mean much unless you are specific. And as we all know, most people don’t want to hear the specifics. Most voters want to hear good sound bite and start feeling good about the future. Change in the future is a fun and good thing if you put the right spin on it. Don’t like the economy being bad – Change! Don’t like the war in Iraq – Change! Fear for your job because of outsourcing or illegal immigration – Change! Think the Supreme Court is too Liberal/Conservative – Change! To promise change in a presidential campaign is not really to promise anything.

The emptiness of “change” is actually a huge strength for Barack Obama. Your Maximum Leader believes that if Barack Obama can wrap up the Democratic nomination (no easy feat in itself) then all he has to do to win the general election is just preach “change.” This is especially effective if the Republican nominee is John McCain. An Obama/McCain contest is going to be the election of 1996 writ large.

Do you remember 1996? Bob Dole was our bridge to a better past. Bill Clinton was building a bridge to the future. Bob Dole was an old and bitter man. Bill Clinton was a young horny man. Bob Dole didn’t feel anything and spoke in the third person. Bill Clinton felt your pain and finished your sentences as you uttered them. It was sad actually. At least it was sad to your Maximum Leader.

In the event of an Obama/McCain race, your Maximum Leader will gird himself for what will come. Bitter old man John McCain versus optimistic and young Barack Obama. Snippy McCain versus empathetic Obama. McCain is “old” and a “Washington insider.” Obama is “young” and a “fresh faced uniter.” Indeed, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that John McCain can beat Barack Obama. Anything can happen of course. Politics are unpredictable. But it looks pretty damned tough.

That said… A Clinton/McCain fight. Now that would be a contest for the ages. Your Maximum Leader imagines that fight to be protracted and particularly nasty. He also imagines that John McCain wins that fight. Frankly, on the off chance that Mitt Romney becomes the Republican nominee, he can see Romney pulling out a win against Clinton. It would be very difficult for Romney, but Hillary is beatable.

At this point your Maximum Leader sees that the media are calling Super Tuesday thusly:
Clinton wins New York, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Massachusetts.
Obama wins Illinois and Georgia.
McCain wins Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, and Delaware.
Romney wins Massachusetts.
Huckabee wins West Virginia and Arkansas.

Slowly the story unfolds…

Carry on.

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