Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Empire Strikes Brown

Before we finished watching the early returns from Ohio's Democratic primary, my wife leaned over to me, looked dead in my eyes and asked in a plaintiff voice, "Will it be O.K. if Barack loses Texas?" In consideration of the fact that she is both an inveterate liberal and nine-months pregnant, I did not give her my honest response.

It is hardly an oversimplification to suggest that the brown team won last evening's primaries. Those of blue collar and brown teeth, and those whose skin is brown (whether evenly pigmented or mottled with liver spots) carried the day in both Texas and Ohio. Sen. Hillary Clinton reestablished her sway over blue collar whites, Latinos and older women in both states, while managing to rack up a win in Rhode Island as well.

Even as she confounds the pundits who have twice written her campaign obituary, it is still the case that math will eventually overcome both money and momentum. Clinton is essentially no closer to taking Sen. Barack Obama's lead in pledged delegates. (Indeed, if the past few days are any indication, he may do more damage to his own candidacy than Hillary ever could hope to do.) For the moment, each camp plans to forge ahead, with Obama anticipating more wins in smaller states and Clinton turning her steely gaze to Pennsylvania.

For his part, having clinched the Republican nomination, Sen. John McCain took a small but important step towards unifying the party faithful and differentiating himself from the eventual Democratic nominee. While I still expect the race in November to be very close, it is now clear that two important trends are working in John McCain's favor. The Democrat death march to Denver will leave their nominee and the party with depleted financial resources and a shell-shocked psyche. It is unclear whether either Obama or Clinton will have sufficient time to fully shift from primary to general election mode before the fall campaign season, especially if the convention ends up being brokered.

Which leads to the second advantage to be enjoyed by Republicans. While we have the time and space to coalesce around John McCain, Democrats continue to play out the now-visible divisions of race, gender and class that have been subcutaneous throughout the primaries (as discussed elsewhere.) Democrat averments to the contrary notwithstanding, exit polls continue to indicate that the Left's varied splinter groups have yet to rally around either Clinton or Obama. To be sure, whichever candidate wins the nomination, there will be more than a few disconsolate Democrats who may sit out the general election in November.

Four More Years!

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