Friday, February 08, 2008

What Romney's departure means for the general election.

With Mitt Romney now out of the Republican race for president, John McCain is much, much closer to locking up his political party's nomination. What does this mean for Democrats? Bad news, and here's why:

McCain now has less to worry about going into November. Mike Huckabee might yet pose a serious challenge, since he has the backing of the religious far right. But this assumes that Huckabee manages to win most states in the remaining primaries and caucuses. And there's no reason to think this shall be the case. The most likely scenario is that McCain continues to do well, and there will be no brokered Republican National Convention.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are essentially tied for delegates, both are likely to go to the Democratic National Convention to settle who shall be the party's nominee for president. Obama has a slight advantage of money; Clinton has had to lend her campaign money from out of pocket, and have her paid staff go without their salaries for a while. But since Super Tuesday, both Clinton and Obama have managed to raise roughly equal amounts of campaign money.

As reported by DHinMI, Howard Dean is trying to get the two prima donna candidates to make some sort of deal to avoid a brokered convention. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee knows why a brokered convention would be bad for the party; while McCain uses the time between now and his party's convention to shore up support, raise money, and form a general election campaign strategy against the Democratic nominee, we'll still be fighting the nominating process out until August. That means whoever the nominee is shall go into the general election exhausted from a drawn out primary fight, and having expended much of his or her financial resources.

So the advantage clearly goes to McCain, if Clinton and Obama insist on staying in competition for the Democratic nomination until convention. And this is where Dean's attempt to make the two prima donnas reach some sort of deal shall fail. Because their egos are so huge, neither Clinton or Obama is willing to accept second fiddle status as vice president. And the fierceness of the campaign so far has taken a publicly visible toll; at the shrub's last SotU liefest, Obama gave Clinton the cold shoulder as she moved to shake hands with Senator Edward Kennedy -- who endorsed her rival. Obama's latest 'Harry and Louise'-style attacks on Clinton's health care plan (which is pissing off a lot of progressives, including economist Paul Krugman), strengthens the likelihood that there will be no Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket.

So while many are cheering Romney's departure from the Republican race, it also presents a serious problem for Democrats. The opposition now has less of a reason to worry about its chances in November, while we have plenty to worry about. Howard Dean's attempts to get the prima donnas to shelve their differences and reach some kind of deal are a public acknowledgment of this problem.

Which makes it all the more sad that John Edwards and not Clinton or Obama was the one to call it quits. Had he won enough early states to be the likely nominee, all this would have been settled and we would be able to stand a chance in November. But now, with Obama and Clinton duking it out until convention, we have once again shot ourselves in the foot by sticking our party with a fundamentally weak candidate going into the general election. The Democratic Party, as usual, has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. And that is bad for all of America.