Republicans this week are breathing a deep sigh of relief.
What was seen as a washout for them this coming November — with big losses expected in the House and Senate and a catastrophic loss of the White House — is now shaping up to be less ominous.
With the Democrats moving to pick Sen. Barack Obama as their nominee, the Republicans see a real opportunity to keep the Oval Office in GOP hands.
There is no question that the Republicans had viewed Hillary Clinton as the most formidable of the Democratic candidates.
During one of the primary debates, Obama suggested that the Republicans were “comfortable” attacking Hillary, suggesting they actually wanted her to be the nominee. Au contraire.
Republicans were attacking Mrs. Clinton because they believed she would be the nominee. They could hardly foresee Obama’s rise.
Indeed, she was the Democratic front-runner and hence the focus of their attacks. Now, Obama is discovering that he’s the focus of Republican scrutiny, with John McCain highlighting Obama's accommodationist views with tyrants.
The glee seen in GOP eyes this week can be chalked up to the clearly visible fault lines shaping up for the November election, a seismic battle between McCain and Obama.
There are many reasons the GOP would rather face Obama. Here are some of the best reasons:Obama is the risky liberal. Every time the Democrats run a liberal like Obama, who the National Journal reports has a 100 percent liberal voting record, they lose.
Remember President McGovern, President Dukakis, President Kerry? Mrs. Clinton, however, has been quite clever in her record and rhetoric to come across as more moderate. In New York state she consistently won hardcore Republican districts in her two Senate races.
A McCain insider told me this week that Obama’s support — for example, for driver's licenses for illegals — is worth at least “five percentage points in the election.” Mrs. Clinton was smart enough to back away from that hot-button issue.Obama energizes Democratic voters. It’s been talked about quite a bit that Obama is a charismatic man who energizes young voters. But young voters notoriously don’t vote.
Remember all the hoopla in the last election with MTV and its “Vote or Die” campaign to bring out antiwar young voters for President Kerry?
Indeed, Obama, as the first African-American candidate of a major party, will energize black voters. But don’t the Democrats know that black voters vote as a bloc for them already?
What does Obama actually bring to the table for Democrats? It’s not clear. Mrs. Clinton, as her longtime critic Dick Morris likes to point out, would have most assuredly energized women voters, especially millions of single moms that have never voted before.Obama’s Latino problem. Clearly Latino or Hispanic voters are shaping up to be the key swing vote in this election, as they have been in recent elections. Some political pundits say George Bush’s come-from-behind win in 2004 was due to the solid 40 percent of Hispanics who voted for him, tipping the election in his favor.
This year was shaping up to be a terrible year for the GOP vis-à-vis Hispanic voters. But in primary after primary, Obama has had great difficulty winning over Latino voters.
Even in Illinois, where he beat Hillary to 2 to 1 in the primary, he only captured 52 percent of his home state’s Hispanic vote.
There are a variety of explanations for Obama’s Latino problem, including the belief there is an ethnic rivalry between Hispanics and blacks. Hispanics would like to see a Latino president in the White House, so the theory goes.
Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, has done extremely well among Latino voters, perhaps owing to her husband’s likeability among these voters.
The recent primaries show Obama improving with Hispanic voters. Republicans, however, believe the problem with this key group will persist.
And then there is John McCain, who is the one Republican who is very well liked by Latino voters. He’s also a strong leader, which Hispanics respect. He’s pro-immigrant. As we all know, McCain joined Ted Kennedy in backing the recent immigration bill.
There’s little doubt Hillary could keep the Democratic stranglehold on Latino voters. Obama won’t. Obama’s naiveté. Don’t forget, America is still in a war on terror. It is doubtful America will be tempted to go for an untested leader, no matter how charismatic he may be.
Some have drawn the comparison between Obama and JFK’s election win in 1960 during the height of the Cold War. But the Kennedy-Obama comparison is a weak one. For starters, John Kennedy was a war hero when he was elected president. Obama can make no such claim. Kennedy also had far more Washington experience in Congress and the Senate than Obama.
JFK also had his well-known father Joe at his side. And Democrats like to forget this, but Kennedy outflanked Nixon on defense issues, arguing that Nixon was too soft on communism. Obama’s dovish complaints about the Bush administration being too hawkish on terror won’t resonate with middle-of-the-road voters.
With good reason, the GOP is feeling better, finding its second wind as it coalesces around John McCain.
Despite some differences with the maverick senator, the Republican base will turn out for him. His $12 million fundraising haul for January is just one sign of that.
But there are many other reasons the GOP is more comfortable with Hillary out of the picture and Obama as the nominee.
First, Obama will not be able to lay claim to the good economic times of the 1990s that Bill Clinton presided over, as Hillary can. And Obama will be a nightmare for Democrats with swing voters in key states. Take for example the highly influential Cuban-American vote that Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996 — and was the key reason George Bush beat Al Gore.
The Cuban vote has been moving into the Democratic column but they will not go for Obama because he has clearly stated he will open up relations with Castro.
Sen. Clinton’s announced Cuba policies take a hard line, which resonates with these voters. And then there are the key Jewish communities in swing states like Florida and Ohio that are already deeply worried about electing Obama to the presidency.
Obama has talked openly about sitting down — without any preconditions — with Iran’s diabolical leader Ahmadinejad, who just this week referred to Israel as “bacteria” and has said in the past that the Jewish state is a “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map.”
With the McCain campaign blanketing key markets with TV ads featuring “independent Democrat” Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Obama will be in deep trouble.
The Democrats haven’t completely abandoned Hillary. But it sure looks that way.
There’s an oft-quoted saying that the Democrats “fall in love and Republicans fall in line.”
After this November, we may have to change that to “Democrats often like to run off the side of a cliff and the Republicans love to watch them.”
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