Monday, March 13, 2006

Straw Poll In The Wind

For me, straw polls are a waste of time. They are taken far too early to be anywhere close to accurate, and they don't include anyone outside of the party so as to gather real world data on how these candidates would do in an actual election. Well, the Republicans have had one, and the winner was... Bill Frist. No joke. Then again, the conference was held in Tennessee. I guess home field advantage should count for something. But the vote was regarding the 2008 elections. For those keeping score, this is 2006, and we haven't even had mid-term elections yet. In fact, candidates for 2008 haven't all stepped forward yet. (There are still those hoping for a Condi Rice ticket. You know who you are.) The person that everyone was talking about, though, was John McCain. I was watching Hardball with Chris Matthews toward the beginning of the conference, and a tidbit caught my attention: John McCain asked his supporters not to vote for him. Instead, he asked that they write in George W. Bush's name. I watched as Matthews and several political pundits tried to figure this one out. Why would McCain throw away his votes like that? There was some speculation as to whether or not McCain was genuinely suggesting that the Republican party make a gesture of support during a time when most potential candidates are struggling to distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular president. Then there was the suggestion that McCain, in some brilliant politically strategic move, was attempting to somehow knock Bill Frist out of the running. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that last one-- mostly because McCain is no Karl Rove. He's a great leader, but I wouldn't say that campaign strategy is his strongest point. If anything, he has a tendency to tick people off. Then I laughed, because I had a feeling that I knew exactly what he was doing. Based on McCain's personality and his relationship with his party, it would be more likely that he was (in his own way) giving them all the finger. Consider that McCain's relationship with "Dubya" hasn't exactly been peachy. Senator John was the target of some vicious attack ads during the early 2000 campaign-- Swiftboat Veterans style. Later, during the 2004 campaign, McCain's support of President Bush seemed nothing if not forced. McCain later co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Graham that would put an end to torture of U.S. prisoners, and although the president threatened to veto, the bill passed with enough votes to show that Bush's signature wasn't really needed. Regardless, the right-wingers have made it clear that they don't like or support Mr. McCain in any way, shape, or form. If they had the opportunity, they'd boot him out of political existence, and McCain knows it. He doesn't dance to anybody's tune. He tries to cooperate and compromise with Democrats when the need arises. He's a peacemaker. He's a negotiator. He's predictably unpredictable, and the Republicans are scared. They should be. But something else scares the Republicans much, much more: "President Hillary Clinton." With so many scandals rocking the Republican party, and with so many Americans sick of the Bush Administration, the concept is becoming more and more likely. Even people who were consistently shaking their heads from 1992-2000 are starting to believe that maybe those Clintons aren't so bad, after all. There is a hope for the Republicans, and that would be John McCain. They know it, and McCain knows it. When he went to the Republican Southern Leadership Conference this weekend, he was saying that he didn't really care whether or not conservative activists supported him because he really didn't need them. He already knows that, within the party, they'd rather have someone like Bill Frist. But he also knows that Bill Frist would lose badly to Hillary Clinton. So the question remains. Would the Republicans forgo their top choice and instead nominate McCain because he's the only one who can win? If not, would McCain run (and win) on an independent ticket? Time will tell. Interestingly enough, Matthews has posted a virtual straw poll on his site, with some very interesting results.

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