Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pulling out the crystal ball.

With the New Hampshire primary beginning in a few hours I thought I give my thoughts on what I am expecting to happen.

The big winners will be Obama and McCain. New Hampshire is a more educated state with more affluent individuals who tend not to be attracted to the Loony Left or the Religious Right. McCain will bounce here precisely because Huckabee is a fundamentalist fruitcake and Romney is a wannabe Christianist.

I say wannabe because Mr. Romney was not so infected with lunacy in the past. He remade himself to win over the Know Nothing born-againers in the GOP. Poor Mitt he’s been out-Jesused by Rev. Huckabee, who as a former televangelist, preacher knows precisely how to sucker amens out the congregation.

And Mitt is going to have a hard time convincing the faithful in the GOP (God’s Own Party) that he’s even a Christian. Giuliani can’t do it and he’s a Catholic so it will be tough for a follower of a charlatan who’s fraudulent claims are easily documented as bogus. Whatever Old Joe Smith said his book of Abraham wasn’t written by “Father Abraham himself” but is just a typical death certificate that accompanied a mummy to the hereafter. Unfortunately for Joe something called the Rosette Stone eventually allowed others to decipher the parchment he bought from a traveling circus.

At least Huckabee makes sure he follows a faith old enough that such inconvenient documentation isn’t quite the same problem. Alas none of that helps Huckabee in New Hampshire where fundamentalists are as rare as black folk at a League of the South klavern. Huck is more like a smiling, corn cracking Mussolini than anything else. Of course if you take out the hoakey cornball, the TV evangelist grin and the Jesus-mongering you get Rudy Giuliani. Our two battling El Duces will be competing with each other for third. I would normally guess that Rudy will beat out Huck but he's been crashing so badly that Huck may find it easy to top him. In fact Giuliani has done so badly he could be beaten by Paul and that means Rudy will be in the low single digits.

Lucky for Mitt a lot of Republicans in New Hampshire remember him before he tried to play the Jesus card in the election and shifted all his decent positions on civil liberties to the indecent views of the rabid religionist. Without those memories he’d be doing much worse. I think he can pull off a second place here. Hillbilly Huck has a chance of pulling third partly because of his boost after the hicks in Iowa shouted hallelujah for him last Tuesday. If Rudy can’t win pull into third in New Hampshire I think he’s finished and not a moment too soon.

The Paulists are in for another disappointment. Paul just missed 10% in Iowa (he got 9.9% actually but most press round up the numbers). In New Hampshire those positions he takes that are libertarian will have some appeal and that ought to serve him well. Unfortunately for Paul he also cobbled onto his campaign some very unlibertarian positions as well and those don’t set as well with the “leave us alone” types.

Paul has added some populist measures to his political mosaic and here he is having some problems. Hillbilly Huck is also something of a populist and some Paul support may be seeping into the Huck camp as the populist crowd look for a candidate who might win the nomination instead.

Paul also has a new problem. His past associations through newsletters he published under his own name are coming back to haunt him. Old Ron Paul Reports will be subjected to scrutiny by the New Republic and the word is already out that they contain some outrageous material that many people will find offensive. Lucky for Paul the announcement only came today and the material won’t be out till tomorrow so most voters are likely to miss the story until after they have voted.

But for Republicans in New Hampshire the kind of inflammatory statements that are being discussed won’t be appealing. Those who do hear about the story will be much less inclined toward supporting Paul. The most the Paul campaign is saying now is that while the articles were penned in a publication carrying Paul’s name he didn’t write them. From what I know this is true. Much of the material that Paulists drool over as coming from their White Knight was, in fact, not written by him. The Paul campaign has a small problem here. If they reveal that much of what comes out in Paul’s name is not authored by him there is a risk that supporters will loose some of the awe they have for the material he produces since he didn’t produce it.

However, some of that same material is clearly a liability today. So they can’t quite embrace it either. They merely say that he didn’t see everything that was published and that material was written by others. How much they don’t specify and, to my knowledge, they don’t reveal the actual identity of the real author. Again the behind-the-scenes talk is that the actual author is a top Ron Paul supporter and a close associate to this day. So they might not wish to name him now because they want people to believe that association is an old one and not a current one. And the alleged author, who is a big Ron Paul cheerleader, isn’t going to fall on his sword by admitting he penned those pieces -- at least he hasn’t so far.

All this will be bad for Paul in New Hampshire. However, South Carolina is up next and racism isn’t quite so unacceptable there -- at least not in Republican circles. In a general election it would hurt him there, because of the black vote, but he won’t be on the ballot in any general election there and blacks don’t vote in the Republican primary. Some of the League of the South types won’t be offended but they already consider Paul a supporter of their plans to resurrect the Confederacy. But none of this really matters for Paul since his support in South Carolina is significantly below what he’s polled so far. Most polls show him running with about half the support he can expect in New Hampshire. What this means effectively is that once South Carolina votes the Paul campaign will effectively be over.

On the Democratic side Hillary is in trouble and knows it. She is too obviously manipulative and insincere for her own good. Obama will easily defeat her in New Hampshire. He trounced her in Iowa and he will do it again. South Carolina polls currently show in the lead there by a small margin. But I expect that margin to grow substantially. Obama will get three wins in a row and that will set the tone for the rest of primaries. As I see the real question is who will the V.P. candidate for Obama. I think the Democratic nomination is not going to be messy and it will be Obama by a landslide.

The Republican race is going to a major mess for sometime to come. The Republican Party has contradictory strands. You’ve got neo-cons, Christianists, neo-libertarians, conservative traditionalists and such all hobbled together into one incoherent whole. None of the groups particularly like each other and are held together mainly by a stronger dislike for the Democrats. But this coalition is unraveling fast. And certain a Huckabee nomination ought to chase out the libertarians who have been hanging on with visions of Barry Goldwater dancing in their heads.

This is the problem the Republicans have in November. George Bush has energized the Democrats because he has been such a piss-poor president: not just inept and incompetent but wholly destructive. Worse yet these traits helped push independent voters, who have been securing Republican victories in recent years, over the Democrats. The Democrats didn’t attract these voters, the Republicans merely disgusted them. So all that the G.O.P knows it can count on is the coalition. But a Huckabee nomination will chase out many of the small government types. And that leaves the Republicans counting on just the neo-cons and the theo-cons -- a coalition that first wants to save your soul and then declare war on you. (Oops, I forgot they don’t declare war they just do it.)

But with the GOP so splintered now and Republicans knowing they are in for a major whooping come November they might just coalesce around more electable candidates. That ain’t Huck. A Romney/McCain or McCain/Romney ticket might just win them the White House. But Obama will be a formidable candidate. He speaks well -- he may say absolutely nothing of substance -- but he sounds good when he’s saying it. And in today’s America that counts for something.