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Update: Clinton/Obama, McCain/Romney

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I’ve never lived through a presidential campaign like this one. No one has.

At various times last summer John McCain was the front-runner. Rudolph Giuliani was the front-runner. Mitt Romney was the front-runner. Fred Thompson was the front-runner—and all before a single vote was cast.

McCain’s campaign fell apart; it turns out now that was good timing and allowed him to recover. Thompson dithered about whether he’d run, then he managed to get in after he’d already peaked. Giuliani’s campaign never got off the ground; it didn’t help to have New York firefighters making videos condemning his performance after 9/11, or his children refusing to be seen in public with him, or having his police chief indicted, or that silly gimmick of taking his wife’s staged phone calls in the middle of a stump speech “because after 9/11, I always take calls from my (third) wife,” or Joe Biden’s withering observation that Giuliani’s speech consists of “a noun, a verb and 9/11.”

What a joke Giuliani turned out to be! He’s the George Romney of 2008.

So what’s up with Mitt? He hasn’t been able to take advantage of any of his opponents’ weaknesses—and they are all weak, as befits a Republican Party that painted itself into George W. Bush’s empty corner.

The problem with Mitt Romney is he’s a phony. People look at him and they just don’t believe what he says. To get himself elected governor of Massachusetts, he went way to the left, supporting abortion and Gay rights. Now he’s gone way to the right, opposing women’s choice and Lesbian rights, claiming to be a big fiscal conservative, backing the pariah Bush.

He even claims that his Mormon faith is within mainstream Christianity. It isn’t. No one should be oppressed because of their religion, but evangelical Christians aren’t buying it—and they’re one-third of Republican voters.

So the guy who ought to win, on paper, undermines his message by his behavior. Mitt Romney wants to be president, and he’ll say and do anything to become president, but that’s not how a person becomes president. A little “straight talking” is expected.

So the Republicans turn to the old familiar face, the default candidate McCain, who has the reputation for straight-talking even though there are thousands of times he doesn’t talk straight.

Rush Limbaugh and the talk show dittoheads (and I’m only referring to the other hosts!) can’t stand McCain. He dared to oppose Bush’s conduct on the war, to criticize torture, to try to curb campaign finance abuses and to form a realistic, compassionate policy on Mexican immigration. Given that Limbaugh staked his entire career on supporting the current president and doing his best to steamroller every Bush critic, Limbaugh can hardly kiss up to McCain now.

What this shows is the increasing irrelevance of Limbaugh and Fox “News,” which came in third in the ratings during the New Hampshire primary, after CNN and MSNBC. When you ride on someone else’s coattails, you go where they say.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

I take it McCain’s the Republican nominee. There’s no one else to stop him, since Jeb Bush dropped off the face of the earth.

Who will McCain pick for veep? Mike Huckabee is folksy and born-again, but McCain might turn maverick and pick a relative unknown. His friend Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the obvious choice, but Graham’s up for re-election this year. Of course, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is always available, but if McCain were picking today, I’d say he goes with Huckabee; a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

I expect McCain to be a formidable opponent to the Democrats. He’s got a lot of battle scars, but he’ll also get in some zingers during the debates, and if he can unite the Republican Party he’ll get lots of help from the Hillary-haters.

Which is why Barack Obama would be the best Democrat to go up against him.

Obama & Clinton

I was sorry and surprised when John Edwards suspended his campaign a few days ago. Even though he couldn’t win, getting only a consistent 15% of the vote, I felt he had the best message of the major Democrats, and I thought he would stay in through the convention to be a power-broker. Since it looks like Clinton and Obama are going to be forced into hand-to-hand combat for every convention delegate, I thought Edwards would hold onto the delegates he’s got and let the two finalists come to him. It seems foolish to squander that power.

But I’ll never forget that he started and ended his campaign in New Orleans, building Habitat houses. (I plan to do something similar in late March at Camp Coast Care in Mississippi.) Edwards has served his country well.

So on to the main event: Obama or Clinton?

Besides the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, I find myself dreading the dynasty-making return of a Clinton to the White House. I just can’t see us going through Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton and thinking that represents “change.” What it represents is nepotism.

We’ve done it before (John Adams-John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison-Benjamin Harrison, Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin FDR, President Kennedy and two Senators Kennedy and two Reps. Kennedy, plus a Maryland lieutenant governor), but it all seems so 18th-19th-20th century. This is not “change.” This is retreating to the safety of the status quo.

The good news is very good; we will either have a woman president or the first American-African one. Great!

But the African-American comes with no baggage, and won’t have Bill Clinton prowling around the back halls of the White House, dipping in policy and looking for blowjobs. If Dick Cheney has taught us anything, it’s “no co-presidents!”

We can’t impeach a First Husband without first taking down his wife.

And while I’m sure that Hillary Clinton would make a fine president, she’s not entitled to it; no one is. So I’m for Obama.

He faces an uphill climb. We have never before gone for an insurgent candidate. The Establishment always finds a way (Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy) to knock the insurgents down—and if the South Carolina campaign was any indication, the Clintons will stop at nothing short of violence to eliminate Obama on the way to Hillary’s coronation.

(I am really disappointed in those feminists who say that Ted Kennedy “betrayed” them by endorsing Obama. They should tell it to Caroline—to her face.)

What does Obama have to do to defeat Hillary? I think he has to run against Bill, the real opponent here, a liability to Hillary. That’s a way to undercut her without “being mean” to her (boo hoo hoo).

After all, she married the man. She made that bed and now she should lie in it.

And talk about phony… it wasn’t just her little sobsister act in New Hampshire that made me roll my eyes, it was that big smile on Beauty Contest Night in Florida, and that inappropriate, rehearsed laughter a month ago, after her advisers said, “You’ve got to smile more, laugh more, any time there’s an opportunity. Let’s trick people into thinking you’re not 100% scripted! Voters are so stupid they’ll believe anything, including that you have a beating heart.”

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Hillary Clinton is what you get after the Stepford Wives get reprogrammed to feminism. They’re still robots, but now they look more independent.

Obama also needs to translate all his backers into donors (including me). In January he raised a massive $30 million, after he lost in New Hampshire. That says a lot. If you support him, he needs more than applause, he needs checks.

Today’s prediction: Clinton. But if she wins she must turn right around and offer the vice-presidency to the man America believes in and the strongest opponent of McCain: Barack Obama.

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Barack, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.++

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