In this weird presidential campaign, almost everything has turned
out opposite from what pollsters and pundits predicted. Even Super
Tuesday proved not-so-super; things are still not quite settled in
either party race.
The election was supposed to be about a
shaky Iraq. But after the successful surge and the recent U.S. economic
downturn, candidates now talk more about mortgages and illegal
immigration than chaos in Baghdad.
John McCain was said to be
finished by July. Then he was back again as a contender by January and
is a supposed sure thing in February.
Barack Obama was at
first just to be a runner-up; front-runner Hillary Clinton once worried
more about the fall Republican nominee. Then, after the unexpected
Obama victory in Iowa, his surging poll numbers assured us Hillary was
toast in New Hampshire. But she suddenly came back there, and also won
in Michigan and Nevada — but that was all before Mr. Obama resurged in
Then there was the topsy-turvy history of Rudy
Giuliani — a supposed insurmountable lead turned into an unexpected
implosion. Not long ago Fred Thompson was also hyped — only to crash
and burn. And who knows the status of Mike Huckabee?
are irate at Mr. McCain — especially over his past stances on taxes and
immigration and his sometime alliances with Democrats — and some
promise to sit out the general election if he is the Republican nominee.
some Democrats repulsed by the Clintons promise to vote for Mr. McCain
if Mrs. Clinton gets her party's nomination. And a few angry voters of
both parties claim they like nice-guy Mr. Obama better than either of
the other likely nominees.
What causes these wild swings among jittery and fickle voters?
(1) We are in the middle of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are
still fighting against radical Islamic terrorists on other fronts.
Trillions in U.S. dollars are held abroad by rivals and belligerents.
The economy is slowing. Energy prices are sky-high.
most, the medicine is as scary as the disease: Should we send more
troops to finish the job overseas, or are there too many abroad
already? Should we prime the economy to prevent recession? Or are
stimulus plans unrealistic now that we are running federal deficits and
piling up debt?
(2) Without a single administration incumbent
in the running, both the Republican and Democratic races are especially
volatile. In contrast, in every other presidential race after 1952,
either an incumbent president or the sitting vice president has run in
the fall election. But now there is no status quo. Instead, a war has
broken out within each party.
Bill Clinton is no longer a
senior statesman, but has devolved into a rank partisan, more a
liability than a help to his wife. President Bush hasn't endorsed any
Republican. He has a low approval rating, and has had issues with both
Mr. McCain and Mitt Romney, who quit the race Thursday.
current leaders — John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — are
all U.S. senators. But we haven't had a sitting senator win the
presidency in nearly a half-century, not since John Kennedy in 1960.
Democratic nominee for the first time in election history will either
be a woman or an African-American. Sons have followed their fathers to
the presidency, but never a wife after her husband. Former presidents
have ended up in Congress or the Supreme Court, but we've never
contemplated one back as First Gentleman in the White House.
Clinton and Mr. Obama are not the only trailblazers. If Mr. McCain
wins, he will be the oldest man to assume the presidency.
that Super Tuesday is over, here's what we are left with. A surviving
Hillary Clinton can't muzzle Bill, whose name got her the lead and
whose narcissism has nearly squandered it.
No one can cite
anything specific that the still-surging Mr. Obama has done or will do.
And conservatives are supposed to damn Mr. McCain for taking some
liberal stances when he didn't have to in conservative Arizona.
this crazy year, the election may finally come down to how many
Democrats — scared they don't know enough about Mr. Obama, or know too
much about the Clintons — will vote for a veteran pro like Mr. McCain.
Or, on the flip side, how many "true" conservatives will stay home in
November to ensure a liberal wins the White House just to prove their