Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No Clear Leader

Democracy has broken out in the Repub Party. The party which traditionally coalesces around one candidate- generally the next in line- and demands virtual allegiance to the establishment's choice, is in flux, a "muddle," as Chris Matthews is calling it today (1/16/08).

Four primaries/caucuses have been held and there have been three victors- Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Mitt Romney (twice). There is no clear front-runner, though Romney has the greatest number of delegates and, objectively, is marginally ahead of the pack.

The next big Repub primary is South Carolina which, from what I can tell, is often the GOP kingmaker. Romney, who has the most money, has little chance to win there, and is actively downplaying expectations while McCain is predicting victory. A victory in South Carolina by Huckabee would propel him to the top of the pack, though the media would be tempted to write it off as a Southern candidate winning in a state heavily influenced by members of the Southern Baptist Convention, Reverend Huckabee's denomination. Further, a Huckabee victory might panic- er, energize- the Repub establishment (as in Wall Street establishment) into uniting behind a candidate to block the nomination of what passes in the Repub Party as a "populist."
That candidate would be Anything for a Buck Fred, if the former Watergate counsel, lobbyist, Tennessee senator, and actor surges to a victory in South Carolina. (Though if he finishes lower than second, he's done.)

That obviously leaves the sinking Rudolph Giuliani, who has banked practically everything on Florida, a huge state with huge numbers of New York (and, generally, northeastern) emigres. Not only has Giuliani been running neck-and-neck with Ron Paul, he faces another obstacle- the lack of a discernible base. The foreign policy conservatives have McCain, the cultural conservatives have Huckabee, and the economic conservatives have, well, anybody but Huckabee, but preferably Romney or Thompson. It is, happily, an extremely steep battle for the guy who delights in using the murder of 3,000 Americans as a prop in his effort to gain unlimited power.

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