Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Are the Republicans throwing the election?

By now, most of us know how this election is going to play out. Even the nefarious Karl Rove predicts that Obama is going to win this with 338 electoral votes. (I'm predicting a more modest victory in the 310-320 range) So a lot of media focus has been on how the Republicans are going to handle this (answer: not well).

Canadian Cynic seems to think the Republicans are intentionally trying to lose this time around:
If I am wrong and this is the very best effort of the vaunted Republican machine, then I stand in awe of the nearly complete failure of their proven apparatus to gather and horde power, to massage and control the media and the message. Yes Obama is good and yes the Democratic party has done a good job but the Republicans just aren't this inept, disorganized and disinterested. The only thing that makes sense to me is that this is a fix.
I don't think that's the case. I think they genuinely tried, but failed in crucial areas. They definitely massaged the message when they could, but a lot of it what happened was simply out of their control.
  • They didn't expect Obama to win the primary. For a while, Clinton was the odds on favorite. Obama had a tough uphill battle, and managed to pull it off. If Clinton had won the nomination instead of Obama, this election would likely be a heckuva lot closer.
  • McCain was their best candidate. In the Republican primaries, McCain had the dubious distinction of being the most qualified and least insane guy there. He was up against Archangel Brownback, that 9/11 Guy (I think he's called Giuliani when he's not in a dress), Person-of-Faith Mitt Romney, Pastor Huckabee, etc. And even though he's distrusted in some quarters, he was able to convince enough people to get the nod. After all, in 2000 he did put up a decent fight against Bush.
  • Their smear campaign against Obama didn't work. And they didn't have much to go on to begin with - Obama himself is pretty clean so they resorted to guilt by association and pulled out the crazy pastor to impugn his character and then when Obama explicitly rejected his pastor's craziness, they howled that mean ol' Obama "threw him under a bus". Then, they tried blatant appeals of racial bigotry, which definitely backfired on them. Finally, and we're really grasping for straws here, there was Joe the Plumber, followed by Tito the Builder. The Republican hate machine tried, they really did, but they weren't able to demonize Obama in a convincing way to most Americans. And in general, I think the American public is getting more and more resistant to these kinds of ploys. You can't just say 9/11 and expect people to soil themselves anymore.
  • Any Republican candidate is going to have a tough time defending Bush policies. Let's face it, Bush isn't a popular guy right now. A lot of Americans really are fed up with these disastrous policies and want something to change. But any Republican candidate they pick is going to have to explain his votes for Bush policies while simultaneously trying to market himself as someone who's going to change things. McCain answered that challenge brilliantly: He's a Maverick Reformer who's going to bring change. What kind of change, I haven't the foggiest.
  • McCain really screwed up in choosing Palin. What a trainwreck. It's obvious that this was a calculated move to win over former Hillary Clinton supporters, and it certainly helped him with the religious right. But her utter inexperience and numerous gaffes (not knowing what a Veep does, fruit fly research, questionable understanding of the 1st Amendment) alienated independents, galvanized democrats, and probably led to some of the conservative disillusionment with McCain. McCain clearly didn't expect his pick to backfire as much as it has.
The Republicans didn't throw this fight, they lost it. They lost it because they had a really hard fight starting out, they weren't able to control the message, and because the McCain camp shot themselves in the foot on several occasions. It may be tempting to look at this with an air of overconfidence and mock their impotence, but considering how close this election has been after 8 years of such vile and loathsome rule, it's a testament to their power that it has been this close. But 4 years from now, they'll be back to try again, and next time, they just might win.

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