A Clinton Trap in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin primary this Tuesday is widely expected to be another win for Barack Obama. He's opened a consistent lead in the polls, and Clinton is leaving the state a day before the voting, after spending most of last week in Texas instead of visiting the Badgers. But is she conceding, or is something else at work?

Wisconsin has a very lax same day voting registration law--you can show up on election day, use a credit card as your id (!) and register and vote. It wouldn't be that hard to bring in some volunteers from nearby states to vote on Hillary's behalf and if the race is close, that could make the difference. At this point, a win for Obama in Wisconsin hurts Hillary, but a shocking upset for her could be a mortal wound for him. It would allow all the super delegates to stay with Hillary.

Maybe this is too far-fetched and conspiratorial...we'll find out in a couple of days.


He Voted Today

This morning my (youngest) child voted for the first time. (Ouch.)

When I talk to the students in my college history and government classes, I find that most of them are not registered to vote. The truth is that America typcially has a fairly low voter turnout compared to most of the rest of the world. And that only counts the people who are registered to vote.

Why don't most people vote? I think it's partly because they are turned off by the political process, which is frequently ugly. But it's also because they don't have parents like mine. Voting in our family was a civic duty and a sacred trust. I don't miss elections.

And I'm glad my kids want to vote. I hope they always will (and can).


The End of the Beginning

Tomorrow will not end the primary campaigns (or the endless commercials) for the Republican and Democratic nominations. But it will reveal much about what is coming next.

For the Democrats, Obama appears to have the momentum, but it's not clear whether he can overcome Hillary's institutional advantages. I frankly do not understand his appeal at all. Change and hope are not a governing philosophy. The inexperienced Illinois senator does not inspire confidence in a dangerous world. But he is obviously connecting with an awful lot of voters...and contributors.

On the Republican side, the talk radio/opinion magazine axis is under attack by John McCain. The outcome of Super Tuesday might end the contest, but since Romney can stay in simply by writing another check, what would destroy another candidate may only be expensive for him. The question is whether he's willing to invest so much in a major turnaround project. I repeat the contention I made nearly two years ago: it was a horrible mistake for Romney not to run for reelection as Massachusetts governor. If he had run (and won) he would have a much longer track record to convince skeptics like me of his conservative bona fides. I think he's done--but then I thought McCain was done a few months back too, so we'll see.

I'm voting tomorrow, and you should too if you're in one of the 20+ contested states.


Why the Campaign to Derail McCain Is Failing

There are some pretty powerful forces within the Republican Party arrayed against John McCain. In addition to Flippin Mitt Romney and James Earl Carter Huckabee, he's facing the scorn and opposition of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and many others in the conservative media and the right side of the blogsphere. So how come he's got a lead over Romney in every poll?

1) Distortion and exaggeration. There are many things to complain about regarding the maverick Arizona senator. I can't stand his position on immigration, campaign finance reform, judicial confirmations--the list goes on and on. But the things being said about McCain go beyond genuine complaint to absurd overstatement. McCain is not a Democrat. He's not a liberal. (He's not as conservative as I'd like, but be serious.) He's not going to destroy the GOP. He won't wreck the country. His election wouldn't be the end of the world, and most of the "normal" people out there recognize that.

2) Choice of opponents. It's laughable to hear Mitt Romney tell people that John McCain hasn't been a champion for conservative causes. Has he got a mirror? This after all is the guy who said he wasn't a Reagan Republican, who said he'd do more for gay rights than Ted Kennedy, who pushed through a huge state run health care program and Massachusetts, and was pro-choice up until two years ago. And Huck is worse. You can't stop McCain for not being conservative with candidates who aren't as conservative as he is.

3) Heroism sells. The torture John McCain suffered as a POW and the courage and character he displayed there, refusing favorable treatment and early release are a powerful testimony. The first time I remember seeing/hearing McCain was at the 1988 Republican National Convention when he told the story of a fellow prisoner who made an American flag out of scraps that the prisoners could salute. When you slam somebody with McCain's history for being an unprincipled scoundrel, it just rings false. Again, a lot of McCain's positions leave me cold, but you can't sell a story that conflicts with history that much.

4) Winning matters. The GOP is in big trouble in this election cycle. The Dems have a huge advantage in fund raising and turnout. Most Republicans think McCain is their best shot at holding the White House. And the polling data backs that up. For people who would rather win than have all of their pet issues addressed (and there isn't a candidate in the field today who hits the right notes for most people) McCain is the best choice.

Of the three remaining serious candidates (sorry, Ron Paul doesn't count) McCain is the most conservative. And therefore, I'll be voting for him next Tuesday. He's not my first, or even second choice, but he is the best option available.