Six months ago, looking out at the world of politics, I knew a few things for sure:
1. The Republicans had a mess on their hands. No viable leader for the social conservative movement was stepping up to the plate and it looked like the primary was going to be reduced to a five-way slugfest with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney best-equipped to make it through the long haul. John McCain was out of dough and neither Mike Huckabee nor Fred Thompson were to be taken seriously. It was a wide-open field and no one candidate was going to be able to get the party to unify, for anything.
2. The Democrats had an annointment. This Obama kid, he has promise, but he needs to go be Governor of Illinois for a few terms so he can get ready to run to replace President Clinton in 2016. Because Hillary’s got all the money locked up, all the endorsements locked up, all the name recognition and voters will be excited about electing a woman.
3. Iraq was going to be the Republicans’ albatross. Ultimately, the Democrats would have a huge advantage in November because the country would still be saddled with an unpopular, bloody, and inconclusive war.
So, how did I do?
1. Huckabee won Iowa and credibility. McCain won pretty much everything after that. Giuliani’s strategy turned out to be very poor, and poorly-executed. Romney hung in there and picked up a few wins here and there but people figured out he was a phoney. And Thompson might as well have been James Stockdale, unable to answer the question “Who am I? Why am I here?” With precious little money and in the face of what should have been strong opposition, John McCain effectively sewed things up on February 5. And we haven’t heard a word from him since.
2. Obama turned out to have more money than God. Seriously, if Jesus ran for President, he couldn’t raise more money from more small donors than Obama. I think you can wire his campaign five bucks a month from your cell phone or something like that. Not only did Obama make it a fight against the Crown Princess, he figured out that a delegate is a delegate and put effort into “red” states to rack up some wins, and never lost hope. Eventually, he overtook her in votes, in delegates, and fundraising. And now it looks like he’ll be our next President.
3. Astonishingly, we seem to be winning in Iraq. The Maliki government is standing up and conducting internal military operations with fewer and fewer U.S. advisors; political violence is down although not completely gone; and while they aren’t necessarily happy about it, Iraqis are resigned to the idea that their future is now inextricably intertwined with ours. Our “temporary” bases are likely to become permanent. Yes, the country is still politically immature and religious parties and ethnic separatism are significant forces that could tear at its fabric. But it looks like it’s finally on its way towards our newly-defined victory conditions. Again, not that you’d know from reading the news.
But the Republicans still have an albatross — the economy. Distilled to its essence, the GOP is being held to answer for the outrage of paying four dollars a gallon for gasoline. I’m not hearing huge cries for health care reform, tax cuts, or the silly and unwise economic stimulus. People just want to be able to afford to drive to work. Amazingly (in sort of an ominous way), we are starting to reach the point where the allegedly and famously inelastic demand curve for gas is starting to bow, and people are really driving less. Not that the Democrats are going to solve that problem any more than the Republicans have; they haven’t a clue. But that’s looking like the most likely reason voters will be dissatisfied in November.
Then again, I’ve been wrong before. Let’s revisit this in mid-October, shall we?