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Richelieu: Obama-McCain Race Takes Shape

4:40 PM, Mar 22, 2008 • By RICHELIEU
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Happy Easter. Some thoughts on the Presidential race:

1) Obama is 90 percent likely to be the Democratic nominee, although the press seem to have continuing trouble with basic arithmetic and thereby doubt this. It's important to note that many of the superdelegates are DNC members which means many are not unfeeling calculators of general election odds who are likely to switch in a second but instead real live ideological activists. That helps Obama even more. HRC will be out in early May, after losing North Carolina.

2) General election polls now, like those before the actual primary contests began, are close to meaningless. Wait till after both nominees have given their convention speeches to take a real look.

3) Nonetheless, the Wright kerfuffle has hurt Obama in the long run. He is off his pedestal now. This tension between the inspiring idea of Obama's campaign and the reality of his pragmatic political climb through the hard corners of Chicago Democratic politics is a growing fault line inside the Obama candidacy.

4) Despite a generic political environment that is as awful as awful can be for Republicans, McCain still stands an excellent chance to win the general election but only if he commits to the one obvious and powerful strategy available to him.

5) McCain wins by being acceptable to the independents and white Democrats who will inevitably, over time, crumble off Obama's imperfect reality. He loses if he becomes caught in a partisan base versus base contest with the Democrats. The job for Team McCain is not to tear down Obama, it is to give those who will become increasingly disenchanted from him (Hillary voting blue-collars, Jews, moderates) a reason to see McCain as acceptable. This means McCain should return to his roots and run as the different kind of Republican he truly is. The GOP base will not enjoy this, but they--sorry AM radio crowd--will not control the outcome of this election. Ticket-splitters and swing voters will.

6) Does McCainland understand this? It's unclear. So far, the only strategic news out of the McCain campaign has been a half-baked scheme to fool around with regional offices and "decentralization." Such plumbing and wiring trivia misses the critical point: what McCain needs at once is a well-executed back to the center message strategy to enlarge his appeal beyond just national security issues and win this vital election.