Thursday, February 07, 2008

The GOP's Ideological Civil War

E. J. Dionne, Jr., has some interesting reflections on the presidential primaries in today’s Washington Post ( and he evaluates the difficulties faced by the leading candidates. He places particular emphasis on the splintered GOP and the civil war raging within that party. He also looks at the relative weaknesses of Hillary and Obama and notes the risk of losing young Obama supporters if Obama does not get the nomination. The one thing he does not mention is the one issue that could suddenly re-unite the GOP: Hillary as the Democrat nominee. George Will in contrast DOES focus on this reality. I cannot stress enough how important it is for the Democrats to focus on this reality. I suspect even James Dobson who has again reiterated that he will not vote for McCain ( might reconsider if the choice was between McCain or Hillary in the White House. Here are some highlights from Dionne:

Clinton and Obama face different challenges. Democrats have declared in poll after poll that they like both of them, but the two have reached parity in part because of difficulties each has with important constituencies. Obama is the overwhelming favorite of voters under 30, and he has inspired a disciplined army of youthful organizers who helped him win decisive victories in caucuses in Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota and Alaska. If Clinton is the nominee, how many of these young voters will walk away from a process that thwarted their hopes?

Sisterhood has certainly been powerful for Clinton. But does her weakness among male Democrats -- she lost men by 20 points in Delaware, 21 points in Connecticut and 39 points in Georgia -- portend problems in a general election?

For his part, Obama has consistently lost badly among white and Latino voters who are over 65. Outside his home state of Illinois, he has yet to make serious inroads among white working-class voters who were central to Clinton's victories in states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey. Obama will need a larger share of these voters in the Ohio showdown in March and, possibly, in Pennsylvania in April. And he would need them in November.

But the larger challenge is to a Republican Party that faces, simultaneously, an insurrection and a lack of enthusiasm in the ranks. Super Tuesday anointed McCain as the favorite for nomination. It did not make him the favorite of his party's most important wing.
Here are highlights from George Will's column which is exactly on target (
Tuesday's voting armed Democratic voters with the name of the candidate that their nominee will face in the fall. Will their purblind party now nominate the most polarizing person in contemporary politics, knowing that Republicans will nominate the person who tries to compensate for his weakness among conservatives with his strength among independent voters who are crucial to winning the White House? Perhaps. The Republican Party's not-so-secret weapon always is the Democratic Party, with its entertaining thirst for living dangerously.
The surest way to unify the Republican Party, however, is for Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama, the foundation of whose candidacy is his early opposition to the war in Iraq, would be a more interesting contrast to the candidate who is trying to become the oldest person ever elected to a first presidential term and who almost promises a war with Iran ("There is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran").

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