Friday, February 17, 2012

When It's '64

Continuing good news for the American economy, and polls which calculate steep drops in GOP fortunes suggest that President Obama's reelection chances are looking better.  So pundits are focusing on  a number of precedents.  One, not surprisingly, is 2008, as polls indicate the 2008 Obama coalition is regathering (something I didn't necessarily expect until the fall.)  Another is 1996: an incumbent President with problems (in Clinton's case, a scandal and a little thing called impeachment) who gets an unexpectedly weakened and weak opponent, and whose reelection is hardly in doubt from the end of the conventions.

But the most tantalizing is suggested as Rick Sanctimonious becoming the GOPer nominee looks more than just possible, and as GOPers in Congress go full out on an issue that hasn't even been raised on the state level for a half century: contraception.  Clearly, Little Ricky is where the GOPer primary voter passion is, and he's ahead in Michigan--where a victory or even a very close second is now being interpreted as a near fatal wound to Richie Richney.    The idea is that Little Ricky as the nominee is so far right that he will lose spectacularly--that the operative election is 1964, when Barry Goldwater lost all but his home state of Arizona and five states in the Deep South.  Lyndon Johnson was elected in a landslide, and while the seeds of the Reagan brand of conservatism were sewn within the GOP, the immediate effect was to marginalize extreme conservatism even more.

So how does the analogy hold up?  LBJ was the sitting President, though it was because he was  vice-president when President Kennedy was assassinated just a year before.  Given the intense feeling in the country--almost unimaginable now--it's likely Johnson would have been elected anyway, to carry on the Kennedy legacy.  Goldwater won the nomination in direct opposition to a liberal Republican, Nelson Rockerfeller.  Extreme conservatism was not familiar to the broad American public, let alone to the GOPer establishment. 

Still, even though rightest rhetoric is more familiar now and some of it more accepted, the Sanctimonious brand of Rabid Rightitude is much more extreme than Goldwater, both in relation to the times and to the broad electorate.  Add to that his worse-than-Dole weaknesses as a candidate for the presidency, and an outcome similar to 1964 is very possible.  With Obama doing much better in the industrial heartland, he could end up carrying only a few states in the South, if that.

But for all the chatter this week--including the recount in Maine that might well take Richney's caucus victory there away--it is still more likely than not that Richney will wind up being the nominee.  The latest poll in Michigan shows him behind, but it's interesting that no pundit I heard pointed out that it has him behind by fewer points than previous polls.  His attack machine is just gearing up, and even with Ricky putting most of his big money chips into Michigan, Richney and his Pacs will still outspend him 2-1.  Plus Richney has a campaign infrastructure in the Super Tuesday states, and Little Ricky has no campaign infrastructure at all--not even a campaign headquarters. 

Richney could still win Michigan, and besides, I don't buy the pundit panic that Richney can't survive losing Michigan.  Though it does damage his chances on Super Tuesday, where his nightmare scenario has Little Ricky taking the Midwest and Casino Newt the South, if he wins enough on Super Tuesday, he could become Mr. Sort of Inevitable again.

On the other hand, he is already a deeply wounded candidate, and he may barely survive as a candidate even if he wins the nom.  His negative carpet bombing is hurting him almost as much as his targets, and Little Ricky is cleverly highlighting that as an issue.  Some candidates become better campaigners when faced with strong opposition, but so far that hasn't happened with Richney. 

So even though it's a long, long time until November, assuming slow but steady economic growth, and no major international crises (though that may not hurt President Obama anyway, when faced with these so obviously clueless warmongering demagogues,--by which I mean not only in Iran but in the GOP) we could see a 64-like outcome, even if Richney is the nominee.  You might remember that a few months ago none of these pundits were entertaining the possibility of an Obama landslide--just every other possibility.  But I was. 

By the way, it's also looking like this outcome could extend to the states, particularly now as the GOP is working hard to scare and alienate women, and there are some good Dem women candidates out there.  In the marquee race in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren was looking strong anyway, but when Sen. Scott Brown signed on to the bill that allows institutions and insurance companies to deny any category of medical coverage based on their assertion of a religious or moral objection, he just lost his seat.   

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