Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Election Forecast

The Prince of Darkness offers his political forecast following Super Tuesday.

1. Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) late-night Super Tuesday victories in Missouri and then California give him half the convention delegates needed and all but clinch the nomination for him. Once again, Romney's tactics such as pouring $10 million into California worked in theory but not in practice.

2. The anti-McCain barrage from conservative talk show hosts led by Rush Limbaugh did not work. The old GOP tendency to get behind the presumptive leader trumped irritation with McCain. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour went on TV last night to say it was time for McCain's opponents to get out and make him the nominee.

3. There is now no clear path for Gov. Mitt Romney to the nomination. The former Massachusetts liberal never was able to sell himself as a conservative, finishing third behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and McCain in Southern states.

4. McCain is still a heartily disliked figure in the Senate, but usually soft-spoken Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), uncharacteristically, was the only anti-McCainiac to speak out. The reason may be that Cochran is the Senate's king of pork while McCain is a leading anti-porker.

5. A test for McCain comes Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an event he stiffed last year. He has to repeat what he has been saying lately: First, he will veto any tax increase passed by the Democratic Congress. Second, he will name Supreme Court justices in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. More than that, he has to say he is one of them.

6. McCain's asset is that there is no genuine conservative left against him. Huckabee is an evangelical, not a conservative (which is one reason he is unlikely to be picked as McCain's running mate). In next week's "Potomac primary" (Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.), it looks like McCain will be the winner, with Huckabee a strong second in Virginia.

7. Thanks to proportional representation, the Democratic fight will stretch out into April. It would have been a very big night for Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) had Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) not squeezed out a win in Missouri. The next really big tests come March 4 in Texas and Ohio.

8. The overriding story is that twice as many Democrats as Republicans voted on Super Tuesday, and the gap in enthusiasm was even larger. McCain as nominee faces a massive task ahead.

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