This was supposed to have been an ideal year for the Democratic
Party. An unpopular, lame-duck Republican president presides over an
iffy economy and an unpopular war. Plus, the Democrats won big in the
2006 elections, and there's no Republican vice president in the race to
draw on the power of incumbency.
No wonder that for much of
2007, the polls suggested the only mystery would be by how much Sen.
Hillary Clinton would beat former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in
the general election. Indeed, for Democrats not to walk into the
presidency in November 2008, the conventional wisdom was that the
absolute unthinkable would have to transpire. And now it almost has.
Republicans have done something unimaginable in making Sen. John McCain
the presumptive nominee. And so have the Democrats in allowing their
primary season to drag on.
On the Republican side, Mr.
McCain, not too long ago, was running far behind in the primaries, and
his maverick positions enraged influential conservatives. Yet he proved
to be the only Republican candidate who had any chance of capturing
moderate and independent voters. And for all their bluster, most
diehard conservatives now seem like they're going to hold their noses
and vote Republican.
On the Democratic side, Mrs. Clinton was
stopped cold — but still has yet to be finished off by Sen. Barack
Obama. Now we can expect months more of infighting. As the Democrats
raise tens of millions to destroy themselves, Mr. McCain can only sit
back and smile.
With Mr. Obama the likely nominee, we can
also expect to hear more from, and about, his former pastor, the Rev.
Jeremiah Wright. Reporters no doubt are scanning Mr. Wright's massive
corpus of texts and DVDs for more hate speech.
the Wright controversy, the Democratic vote had been split heavily
along racial lines — whites for Mrs. Clinton, blacks for Mr. Obama — in
certain states, including the all-important Ohio. That's not a good
sign for a party that is supposed to be a model of racial transcendence.
Clinton will weaken Mr. Obama for months to come. There is no reason to
believe the former front-runner will quit the Democratic race soon,
even though Mr. Obama has an all-but-insurmountable delegate lead.
Mrs. Clinton has momentum and should win sizably in Pennsylvania
later this month. Millions want to vote for her in the remaining
primaries. By convention time, she could even end up with a slight lead
in the aggregate popular vote.
Mrs. Clinton has also so far
won all the big states that will be in play in the general election.
She knows the superdelegates were created precisely for a year like
this, and so will argue these Democratic pros are there to check the
exuberance of a liberal electorate that might actually nominate someone
untested like Mr. Obama.
Had Mrs. Clinton run under Republican primary rules, her wins would have already sealed for her the nomination.
Clinton can also point to polls showing an Obama nomination will lose
more Democrats to Mr. McCain than would her own. In other words, she
thinks she has every reason to continue her last-chance campaign, even
as it hurts her party, Mr. Obama and the Clinton legacy.
no matter who ultimately becomes the Democratic nominee, it may not be
so easy to run a campaign against Mr. McCain on the notion that
everything is falling apart — or that it is his fault.
not at all clear that the Iraq war will get worse, despite the latest
news of Shi'ite in-fighting. Most Iraqis — especially the Sunnis of
Anbar — have long wanted the Shi'ite government to put down the
militias of Muqtada al-Sadr. If this happens, the good news of the
surge could get better.
At home, we not are yet in a
recession, and may avoid one altogether. For now, despite financial
jitters, mortgage fears and a weakening American financial position
abroad, unemployment, interest rates and inflation all remain fairly
low — and could still stay that way through the summer.
of our problems like gas prices and deficits transcend politics — or at
least were due to bipartisan mistakes of both Congress and the
administration and won't play out to partisan advantage. There is no
Democratic or Republican answer to stop Iran from getting the bomb, or
to bring a roguish but increasingly wealthy and powerful China into the
By late summer, a rested John McCain will
try to reassure Americans that he will run their country just like he
ran his campaign. A wounded Barack Obama will have won a Pyrrhic
nomination. And an angry Hillary Clinton will be gone — but the latest
addition to the Clinton legacy not forgotten.