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February 28, 2007

BREAKING: Blacks Shift Support To Barack Obama!

Who could have seen this coming?

Well, pretty much everyone except for Washinton pundits with a weekly deadline to meet who decided to pretend that Barack Obama might not be "black" enough for black voters, and so couldn't necessarily count on their support.

Not black enough? Well, he's no Wesley "Always bet on black" Snipes, I admit, but he does seem blacker than, say, Dennis Kucinich.

Please. Was there ever any real doubt? Sure, blacks seem more attached to Hillary! in the early going -- she having been married to the first Black president and all -- but come on.

This is Hillary's problem, as many have noted. Her success depended almost entirely upon her perceived inevitability, and the idea (a quite crackpot one) that she was the most "electable" Democrat out there.

That notion would seem to conflate name recognition with electability. Her positive/negative differential was, is, and always shall be woeful. Even indendents don't like her -- they don't know much, but they know they don't like her.

So along comes this Obama guy. The media gushes. He seems, at first blush, like a normal kind of guy. Even I have trouble objecting to him on a purely gut-level, do-I-like-this-guy-or-hate-this-guy sort of way. He has no obvious weird psychological defects like Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary!

And two major constituencies are going for him -- blacks and Hollywood -- and suddenly Hillary! isn't looking so inevitable as she once did.

And without Hillary's inEVITAbility, what is she? A stuffed suit -- well, a stuffed pantsuit, more accurately -- and nothing more. Not even her supporters actually like her. The left despises her, the liberal establishment disdains her, the center is creeped out by her, and the right loathes her (but, truly, our opinion hardly matters as far as the Dem nomination goes).

Without inEVITAbility, what, precisely, does Hillary! have going for her? A winning personality? Charm? A melodious, pleasant voice and inspiring speaking style? An interesting, innovative policy platform? "Maverick" positions that interest goo-goos (good government types)?

A real promise of healing this nation's partisan rifts?


So what does she have in her favor, then? What other than the gratitude Democrats have for her being a good little enabler and "standing by her man" during the Impeachment Wars?

Yes, she has the money; she has most of the big players in the Democratic permanent political establishment on her team. But what's gotten her that?

Only her inEVITAbility. What happens when she's no longer perceived as inEVITAble?

InEVITAbility only takes one so far. Basically, it takes you all the way to the point where people realize you're not inEVITAble. And then the ride stops abruptly.

I think she's toast; and I think that's too bad, because I consider her a much easier opponent than Barack Obama, who I think is now the actual frontrunner in the race.

Making it all the more crucial we nominate someone with electability and a bit of cross-over appeal ourselves. Which is a calculation many Republicans seem to be making:

In the Republican race, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who recently made clear his intentions to seek the presidency, has expanded his lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Giuliani holds a 2 to 1 advantage over McCain among Republicans, according to the poll, more than tripling his margin of a month ago.

The principal reason was a shift among white evangelical Protestants, who now clearly favor Giuliani over McCain. Giuliani is doing well among this group of Americans despite his support of abortion rights and gay rights, two issues of great importance to religious conservatives. McCain opposes abortion rights.

He'd better get right on guns and immigration, though, unless he wants to blow his chances -- and ours -- for capturing the White House.

Romney Has High Unfavorables Despite A Low Name Recognition: I think he's getting a very bad rap, but the numbers don't lie. (Well, of course numbers lie. But, look, they're numbers.)

Is it the flip-flopper thing? The Mormon thing? That he governed Taxachusetts (even while he held down taxes)?

Who knows, maybe it's fallout from the Big Dig.

I don't know why an attractive, articulate (am I allowed to say that about a religious minority?), conservative (well, conservative recently) candidate is getting so little love from the GOP, but that seems to be the case.

I think Romney should be taken more seriously, but the fact is, at the moment, he's not being taken very seriously by too many people.

I think it's the rock star thing. George W. Bush was, believe it or not, a rock star when he ran for President. (Well, a lower-level rock star, like the guitarist from Foghat, but still a rock star.) I remember reading, way back in 1999, a reporter being surprised at how much he'd light up a room when he met supporters in their homes, and how he was perceived as having a "touch of Elvis" in him. The reporter concluded that while people who hadn't attended such intimate-setting fundraisers might not get the whole GWB thing, or attribute his appeal solely to name recognition, anyone who saw him in action could easily see why he was generating enthusiasm.

Barack Obama is a rock star.

Rudy Giuliani is a rock star.

John McCain was a rock star, but a rock star who fronted a band you never much liked, like the Jefferson Starship, and then really pissed you off when he changed the band to just "Starship" and recorded We Built This City (On Rock and Roll).

Mitt Romney isn't a rock star. He's solid, he's got some charisma, he says the right things. But rock star? No. Maybe a sessions keyboardist for Mister Mister.

This may seem like a silly analysis, but really, we're electing a President here, the most powerful man on the face of the earth, and it's hard to imagine most men assuming such a role. A candidate needs to be perceived as nearly a Superman of sorts in order for people to be comfortable putting our very lives in his hands. Some guys seem to have that; other guys seem to not have it.

Michael Dukakis was decidedly not a rock star, for example. Contra Mojo Nixon, it was Michael Dukakis who was actually the Anti-Elvis.

A hidden strength of Guiliani's, by the way, is his personal warmth. That may surprise people who know him, just from the papers, as the hard-charging, my-way-or-the-FDR-highway mayor of unruly NYC, but anyone who saw him speak at the RNC knows he has a warm, reassuring, avuncular manner about him. He seems like a cool, wise uncle, the one who made it big, and isn't unwilling to lend you a couple hundred bucks here or there as long as you promise you won't spend it on crack.

He also used to host a rightwing radio show in NYC. Well, it wasn't quite Rush Limbaugh, but it was a call in show where people got to complain to Mayor, and he was pretty engaging, and very even-tempered and likable, even while fielding phone calls from people calling him a fascist.

So he's not afraid of communicating with the public, and, like Reagan, seems to actually relish it. He likes arguing, but manages to not be disagreeable even while disagreeing.

Not just a mayor-- a rightwing talk show host.

Again, maybe not Rush Limbaugh, but how many public figures are willing to take tough questions from the public a couple of times a week?

Part of what will hurt the supposedly-inEVITAble Hillary! is the public's weariness from the partisan warfare of the past -- well, at least ten years now, right? True, these issues are important, and we can't paper over them just to have a "nicer" and "more civil" political culture. But I think the public wants to be tricked into thinking we can have a bit of that, and they may be so tricked by Giuliani's warm manner and his post-9/11 hero status.

And as Reagan proved, you can fight pretty hard as a partisan without the public really thinking you're a nasty partisan idealogue. Bush couldn't manage ithat trick, though Lord he tries (and many of us would like him to stop trying, as it buys him no goodwill); but maybe Giuliani can.

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posted by Ace at 04:49 PM

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