In November: McCain and the Democrats

Here’s my latest fearless prediction, subject by pundit’s license to changing at any point and certainly before mid-October, by which time the political dynamic could be far different from what it is now:

It is for a John McCain victory for president coupled with significant gains for Democrats in the House and Senate, perhaps sufficient in the latter chamber to overcome filibusters with the help of the two or three reasonable Republicans.

We might get a little actual governing done on health care and illegal immigrants. We might get moderate Supreme Court nominees. Of course the war in Iraq could go on, and on, and on.

Why a McCain victory?

Because presidential races are about one of two things — a prevailing national mood or a prevailing national fear. The mood is all for the Democrats, but the fear is all of Barack Obama.

Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee, and Hillary Clinton, though cynical and opportunistic and selfish and destructive to her party, is right.

Obama isn’t winning Reagan Democrats. He isn’t winning rural white voters. He isn’t winning blue-collar white voters. He may not ever be able to win them. He is seen by people in those demographics — generally speaking, of course — as either a Muslim or a member of a frightening Afro-centric Christian group.

He is seen as one who, like previous Democratic nominees Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, is culturally alien to simple, down-home American middle-class values.

That being the case, he loses West Virginia and Ohio and Arkansas and Missouri and everything Democratic presidential candidates always lose in general elections.

Clinton could withdraw from the race and try to begin helping to repair these weaknesses that, instead, she chooses to showcase and exploit.

Last week Obama pretended his creaming in West Virginia wasn’t happening. He went to Missouri to talk to rural folks. He played pool and scratched on the eight-ball. He put a flag pin on his lapel, which was, at least, less comical and tactically transparent than putting on a helmet for a tank ride.

Republicans in Missouri welcomed Obama with the kind of thing we’re going to hear over and over and over again:

He is the "most hard-left" candidate ever nominated for president, and the National Journal’s latest rankings prove it. He is a tax-raiser not in tune with everyday people. His precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would signal to terrorists that America is a pushover.

That last one came from a usually moderate and circumspect Missouri Republican, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth.

So then: Why do I predict major Democratic gains in congressional races?

Because of that prevailing mood, which is all for the Democrats, and the now-demonstrated inability of Republicans to tie fear of Obama around the necks of local Democratic congressional candidates.

They tried it in two seemingly ripe locales, Louisiana and Mississippi, and came up short both times.

In a confirmed conservative Republican district of northwest Mississippi, a Democrat won a special congressional election last week despite the Republicans spending $1.3 million and dispatching Vice President Dick Cheney into the district, not to mention dispatching Laura Bush, McCain and Mike Huckabee to the phones for automated calls.

They invoked bad words: Obama, Pelosi. They lost anyway.

It’s simple, really. We face an electorate that fears Obama and is sick of Republican control of the government.


John Brummett, an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, is author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton’s first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@

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