Thursday, January 03, 2008

Caucuses Splitting the Harebrained

In yesterday's Left Ahead! podcast, we concentrated on the Dems in the pending Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Yet that other party's race is much, much more politically interesting.

Sure, there are definable differences among Dems, but Republican candidates have far greater ones. Moreover, it's easy to see nationwide Democratic voters rallying behind the eventual candidate. The divisiveness on the GOP side may leave many of their voters whimpering in the corner or even splitting the vote with third-party candidates more to their liking.

Personally, I find Clinton, Edwards and Obama squishy and too right wing. They are spongy on key rights issues like same-sex marriage. They sound a dreadful lot like the appeaser Bill Clinton, who snuggled in too often and too deeply with wingers.

Yet, in contrast to the GOP crew, their positions are much more similar. I don't see a single Republican candidate that would please a majority of their voters.

The range is astonishing. Consider:
  • Rudy Giuliani, a RINO who is much more akin to liberal Dems than to conservatives
  • Ron Paul, the libertarian, out-there guy, their Dennis Kucinich
  • Mike Huckabee, smooth talking extemist, but even more out there than Ron Paul, a crackpot without a chance of election
  • Mitt Romney, the sales type that no one trusts, the mercurial shape-shifter
  • John McCain, the self-described straight talker who manages to blend sincerity and abrasiveness to marginal effect
Someone who buys into any one of those is not likely to be happy with another brand. Without even considering the also-rans, you can see the turmoil that will certainly not still after Iowa or New Hampshire. The Republican have stakes out positions out of touch with most Americans and so different from other GOP subgroups that they are splintered.

It looks like Huckabee peaked just a week early for Iowa, roiling the turbid waters even more. In the best polls, those from the Des Moines Register, he would have tromped the sober, but big-spending, sailor Romney last week. Now the great irony in the apparent effectiveness of Romney's spending closing that six-point gap, is that the guy whose positions are written on the water could edge the one whose are carved in granite. Huckabee certainly stands for things, the wrong things.

If Huckabee slams Romney, he has a sudden shot on his threadbare budget in New Hampshire and beyond. If he nips him or loses to him, the fundies will have to look for another extremist to represent them.

Romney's not going to do well in New Hampshire and is likely to get skunked in places like South Carolina. He needs both of the first two states. Plus, the New Hampshire voters know and distrust Romney. I doubt that all the king's horses and dollars can buy a win there.

No matter which Republican takes a lead, the sniping and drive-by slanders will continue and taint each of them. Then, the final one standing is almost certain to be only marginally acceptable to the majority of the GOP voters. I don't think this is there year.

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