Magazine article The Spectator

Will Obama Dace MaCain? We'll Know after Super Tuesday

Magazine article The Spectator

Will Obama Dace MaCain? We'll Know after Super Tuesday

Article excerpt

Tampa, Florida

If the Democrats vote with their heads on Super Tuesday -- 5 February-- Barack Obama will survive the Clinton assault and go on to become the party candidate in November. He already appeals strongly to Independents and Republicans. In Iowa, Obama won 44 per cent of the Republicans who shifted registration to take part in the Democratic caucus, and he won 41 per cent of Independents.

Even though he lost in New Hampshire, he beat Clinton there among Independents by ten points. In South Carolina, Independent support is what drove up Obama's numbers among whites. Furthermore, he does better in polls against every possible Republican opponent than Clinton does. This difference will only grow because even if Hillary Clinton holds off his challenge, she will enter the general election as a diminished figure because of the ugly way in which she has eked out her victory. If Obama defeats Clinton, he will emerge as a battle-hardened candidate who has survived the worst that one of the most formidable political machines ever assembled could throw at him.

At one point it looked as though the Republicans would lose all by themselves in 2008: both history and circumstances were against them. Only once since the war has a party managed to win the presidency after one of its members has served two full terms, and that was in 1988, after the most successful presidency of the modern era -- Ronald Reagan's. It will be a long time, if ever, before anyone lists George W.

Bush's presidency as a success. Meanwhile, conservatives seemed oblivious both to the stench of corruption surrounding their movement and how out of touch they were.

But the Republican survival instinct has kicked in and they are set to nominate their strongest candidate, John McCain.

McCain has the most impressive biography of anyone running on either side.

It might be remarkable for a former First Lady or the son of a Kenyan goatherd to become president of the United States, but it would even more striking -- and a greater testament to character -- if someone who survived five and a half years of torture as a prisoner of war did so. McCain's deeds exert an even more powerful emotional pull than Obama's magnificent words.

The Arizona senator was declared politically dead last year when his campaign imploded following divisions among his senior staff. His positions on immigration and Iraq, furthermore, seemed to be eroding his support among Republicans and Independents respectively. But by sheer willpower, the same quality that got him through those years in the Hanoi Hilton, he revived his political career. He now campaigns with the exuberance of one who knows that what doesn't kill you politically makes you stronger, and the nearer he gets to the nomination the more up for the fight he appears.

In Florida McCain looked about a decade younger than he did in the days before New Hampshire. Just after the tracking polls had shown him with a four-point lead on election eve, McCain strode into a rally in Orlando with the same strut that he had as a naval aviator: he is just about the only 71-yearold who could get away with using the music from Top Gun and Rocky at his appearances. Indeed, the mix of tunes seems appropriate given that McCain combines the cockiness of a Maverick with the resilience of a Balboa. McCain's arms, which he can only raise above his head with pain because of the torture that he endured in Vietnam, are also swinging more freely -- and being raised higher -- than they have been in a long time. This is a man who is as tough as he is determined.

Hillary Clinton would be just the opponent McCain would wish for, something that won't be lost on senior Democrats or Democratic voters. Her galvanising presence will ensure that McCain will find it easier to unify conservatives behind him than he would otherwise. Stylistically, McCain -- the POW who never lost faith with his country and just asks for one more chance to serve -- offers a winning contrast to the Clintons with their grasping ambition. …

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