As Hillary Clinton continues to wage vicious attacks on likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama, many have suggested that John McCain now has a good chance to win the November election. But political reality says otherwise. Consider that in 2004, when the economy was not a national problem and public opinion remained almost equally divided on Iraq, a relatively weak Democratic presidential candidate came within 50,000-100,000 votes in Ohio from defeating a Republican incumbent benefiting from an unprecedented turnout of conservative voters. Ohio will go to the Democrats in 2008, as will Colorado, Iowa, and likely Virginia, three states Bush won in 2004. John McCain is on the wrong side of both Iraq and the economy, and there is no chance that voters will elect a candidate who will implement George W. Bush’s third term.
A surprising number of progressives are convinced that John McCain will be our next President. This is partly attributable to a hard-earned pessimism about national politics, but is also based on the erroneous view that voters will focus on personality and cultural issues rather than on health care, the economy and Iraq.
2004 Spells Democratic Victory in 2008
Ironically, those most pessimistic about the Democrats chances point to the 2004 race, which, in fact, provides evidence to the contrary.
George W. Bush entered the 2004 campaign with a decent national economy, and with voters still split over the wisdom of invading Iraq. His campaign had also amassed record new voter registration of Christian evangelicals in key states like Florida (the Bush campaign boosted Republican registration in 2002, while Democratic-linked groups did not begin huge voter reg drives until 2004).
Bush’s Democratic opponent, John Kerry, never had a strong grassroots base. Kerry won the nomination in what in retrospect appears to be a particularly weak field, which had an obscure Vermont Governor named Howard Dean as its longtime frontrunner.
Try as he might, John Kerry could never get away from his patrician background. He was a true war hero who courageously spoke out against the Vietnam War upon his return from combat.
But Kerry showed no such fire during his lengthy Senate career. And his efforts to relate to rural voters by proving he was a longtime hunter---he even discussed how he split apart doves---did no more to establish himself as a “regular guy” than did Hillary Clinton’s recent attempt to effectively portray herself as most happy when crouched in a duck blind.
Kerry soundly defeated Bush in the three presidential debates, and galvanized the nation’s progressive activist base, but Kerry was not a candidate who could win the southwest, mountain and Midwest states that Bush won in 2000 and would win again in 2004.
Despite all these limitations, Kerry would have defeated Bush but for record turnout in conservative parts of Ohio, and an intensive effort by the Republican Secretary of State to limit black voter participation.
If Republicans nearly lost the presidency with an incumbent President, a decent economy and with many Americans still believing that Iraq was behind 9/11, the Party has at best a remote chance to keep the White House in 2008 with a deep recession, rising gas prices, continued chaos in Iraq, and a strong Democratic opponent.
Latinos Increasingly Favor Democrats
Since 2004, both Latinos and young people have dramatically increased voter turnout and have shifted toward the Democratic Party.
As recently as 2000, the national Republican Party viewed Latinos as part of its future political coalition. Media disinformation about the 2004 Latino vote implied a pro-Bush shift that did not exist, but the facts notwithstanding, a “message” from that November was that the Latino vote was still up for grabs.
But after Congressional Republicans passed legislation to turn millions of undocumented Latino immigrants, and those that provided services to them, into felons, Latino voters moved en masse to the Democratic Party in November 2006.
John McCain was the Republican Senate sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform, and his campaign manager has argued that this should attract Latino voters. He’s kidding himself. Latinos continue to see the Republican Party as anti-immigrant, and Latinos are projected to cast at least 70% of their votes for Democrats.
That’s why the Democrats are a deadlock cinch to win the former red state of Colorado in 2008, and will likely win New Mexico, which Bush took in 2004. Republicans will even have to prop up McCain in Texas, whose Latino voters are both increasing in number and in their preference for Democrats.
Young People Now Favor Democrats
In the November 2006 elections, young voters significantly increased both turnout and their preference for Democrats. Based on the enthusiasm generated among young people toward the Obama campaign, these trends will continue in November 2008.
This demographic group is not focused on a single state or region, but will increase the Democratic vote across the nation. Young voters could make the difference in states like Virginia, which has been leaning Democratic but went for Bush in both 2000 and 2004
It’s the Economy, Stupid
James Carville is a tired Clinton hack, but his famous four-word analysis of the 1992 election also applies this year. The Party occupying the White House cannot win another four years with a bad economy, and it looks like the U.S. economy will be in a particularly bad place this November.
Last Friday, the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan found that consumer confidence is at its lowest point in over twenty-five years. And a recent Pew report found that a smaller percentage of Americans said they were better off now than five years ago than at any time during its forty-four years of polling.
Adding to this woeful economic environment is McCain’s recent assertion that he doesn’t really know much about economics, and his claim that the government should not help distressed homeowners facing foreclosure. Voters in November are not going to give Republicans four more years of running the economy.
Hopelessness in Iraq
Americans have lost interest in Iraq, and are increasingly angry over the billions we are spending there. But John McCain sees great progress in Iraq, and is asking voters to support his plan to keep troops in Iraq if not for 100 years, at least for the indefinite future.
Voters are not going to elect a President who supports continuing the Iraq War. Some held their breath and reluctantly voted for the pro-war Bush in 2004, but the public has lost any sense of a link between “terrorism” and the civil war in Iraq.
George W. Bush has driven the nation into such a deep ditch that even the combined efforts of John McCain and Hillary Clinton cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Barack Obama will trounce McCain, and then it will be up to the grassroots and netroots to prevent the media and elite institutional forces from sabotaging his presidency.