Tread Lightly, Hillary and Barack

With Mitt Romney out of the way, there are some interesting and frightening possibilities for Democrats.

McCain, who I think we all knew was going to win anyway, has time now to start looking presidential and appealing to those segments of his party that doubt his credentials as a Reagan-channeler (you are all thinking it, I’m just sayin’). He is strong with Independents and moderates already, and is widely perceived (wrongly, I believe) to be a person of enormous character. He could be very compelling for those who want to see Republicans hold on to the White House, even if that means making some allowances on certain strains of conservatism.

This will be no cake walk for Democrats. If anything — anything at all — happens to energize an anti-liberal sentiment, it will bring voters out in droves to vote AGAINST the progressive Democrat (and they’re both pretty progressive). As strong as these candidates look to us Democrats, their credibility with the general electorate is a lot more tenuous.

1. There is unfortunate lingering suspicion about race and gender.

2. Fiscal conservatives may not love McCain’s waffling on tax cuts, but they HATE socialized medicine.

3. Two kinds of Republican sentiments on globalization will work against the Dems. On the one hand, Republicans with protectionist and anti-immigration (an issue that is unfortunately conflated in the minds of many voters with outsourcing) tendencies will attack a democrat who seems to favor globalization, such as Obama. On the other hand, any misgivings about free trade agreements (like the ones Clinton has sometimes expressed) will be roundly condemned by pro-business, pro-Wall Street fiscal conservatives. Not that free trade AGREEMENTS are necessarily good for free trade… but that’s a different discussion.

McCain is vulnerable on some of these points too, but he seems to have mastered the ability to get away with that. Pro choice people support him, even though he is staunchly anti choice. Anti-war people support him. He’s been running as an “outsider” alternative to all the corruption in Washington, yet, he is a veteran Washington insider who was one of the “Keating Five” during the Savings and Loan scandal in 1989.

4. A Clinton-headed ticket might mobilize masses of otherwise disaffected right wingers who harbor a largely irrational personal animosity toward her.

For all the dramatic rhetoric coming out of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, McCain is hugely popular among Republicans (check the election results) and, more importantly, he is palatable enough to a broad and seemingly unlikely cross section of the general electorate (for an old man he enjoys enormous support from young people, for instance) that the Democrats need to walk a VERY fine line and TREAD LIGHTLY ON EACH OTHER so as not to make DEMOCRATS (women, African Americans, Latinos, blue collar workers, liberal intellectuals, young idealists….) decide to stay home on November 4.

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