The tangible excitement emitting from the Democratic and to a slightly lesser extent Republican primaries has been captivating the attention and emotions of it seems everybody, not just the vast swaths of the American population or the excitable, foreign, political junkie inhabiting here or abroad. It has also also raised the eyebrows and ears of the rest who may only signal it through a joke or passing mention.
American presidential politics has appeared to have this wide reaching hand for a while, leading to the apparent ‘fact’ that the two people who are known by everybody in the world are the American President and Michael Jackson, don’t ask me why the latter is included. It is therefore going to be interesting to see whether this momentum carries on into the General Election in what is likely to be a contest between Hillary or Obama against McCain.
The crucial difference so far between the Republican and Democratic contests has been a Democratic race focused primarily on differences on how to get to a fairly similar set of policies, in contrast to a Republican debate of what policy issue is most critical (McCain – Security, Romney – Economic, Huckabee – Social). This plays into the hands of Democrats who have clearly seen the consensus boost turnout numbers with them averaging the Republicans 2:1. This is a good sign for an election given the strong correlation between those who vote in the primaries and go onto vote in the general election.
However, it is worth speculating on how the policy debate will play out in a General Election, this will in part matter on how McCain intends to woo the social conservatives who Huckabee has been plucking off with apparent ease and whether he will stick to his guns, but pick a socially conservative running mate or try and swing a bit to the right to capture the vote. I would have thought the former would be more appropriate and more in McCains nature. In addition it would leave him less susceptible to the ‘flip flop accusation’ that so effectively battered Kerry and could lead to disenchanted Republicans not turning out to vote for somebody they do not sincerely feel has their interests at heart.
The two leading Democrats both face potential election political pitfalls too though. Clintons are more apparent in that she will garner many Republicans and Conservatives to put aside their different emphasis’ and rally on the ‘anybody but Hillary’. It is also questionable whether the independents whom Obama has enticed out of the woodwork would follow Hillary with quite the same fervor. Obama though may also encounter some tricky issues when, as is likely, the election switches to the policy differences between the Republicans and himself, you can be sure the fact that he was rated the #1 liberal senator of 2007 according to the National Journal will not be overlooked (http://nj.nationaljournal.com/voteratings/) and his oratory ability to convince people that they are not part of a liberal or conservative, but a United America, may show some cracks.
If you are a Democrat though optimism is thankfully rational and the longer the Republicans forgo healing the divisions of the Conservative split (let us pray for Huckabees stubbornness) and the Democrats don’t resort to any negative bitching (no more South Carolinas) then November 4 2008 should usher in a period of anticipation, hope and for me curiosity on what a truly Democratic Washington can achieve.