1. We've been hearing about lack of GOP voter enthusiasm, which is true. We've been told about red states turning purple (Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, Missouri), which is also true. There is also a tinge of McCain winning almost by default, like Ohio State backing into the BCS Championship by playing its final regular-season game against Michigan around the seventeenth of November, then sitting around while all the contenders beat up on each other. We heard the litany: Mitt never closed the deal emotionally, Thompson got in too late and seemed lazy and half-hearted, Guiliani squandered a national lead by running the most inept campaign since Mitt's father George Romney in '68, and Huckabee was, well, Huckabee. All true, all true, but know this: the Dems are scared out of their socks tonight, if only because McCain is the one guy they have no clue how to run against. Surfing the other side today, I've twice read how John McCain would be "George W. Bush's third term." Never mind if it's true, which it obviously isn't. If Howard Dean thinks anyone outside the netroot echo chamber would believe it, he's on drugs.
2. Do the Dems have anything else? "A hundred years in Iraq?" No. Age? No: the guy was tortured for five years in the Hanoi Hilton, and now we're supposed to wonder about his falling asleep in the Sit Room? "He looked the other way during Abramoff" means, of course, he had no involvement whatsoever. And the first time you hear Dean or Chris Lehane or Mark Fabiani say "Keating Five," you may color the Dems desperate.
3. The big story, this primary season, is the virtual certainty that the Dems will end the primary/caucus process with no one within 300 delegates of the nomination. Because of the binary nature of the process, because of the states that remain, because of the number of super delegates who remain uncommitted or could be peeled off (and if I were an uncommitted SD, I would be refusing all phone calls until my vote could be traded for an ambassadorship to Bermuda), neither Clinton nor Obama will get to the magic number before the convention. Now, this may not necessarily be a bad thing, in the long run, simply because a brokered convention hasn't happened since the invention of cable television. Never mind blogging: the last brokered convention (Dems, 1968) predates the personal computer by a decade. Will the suspense lead to increased ratings, a billion dollars of free advertising, and a candidate with an air of being battle-tested? Or would the chaos hurt the inevitable? What is certain is that, in the coming months, the Clintons will be coming after Obama like they've come after nobody else. Obama's perceived inexperience isn't working as an issue; the nominating process itself is digested by the voting public as on-the-job-training. Tony Rezsko has fallen off the map as an issue. Whatever Bill and Hillary find, whatever more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger pose Bill takes, both Hillary and Obama will probably end up diminished.
4. This from Marty Peretz, in the center-right New Republic:
Now that it's clear that John McCain will be the Republican presidential candidate, my sense is that many Democrats will be making themselves comfortable with him just in case Hillary Clinton gets the nomination. The fact is that she discomforts almost everyone who does not support her, and many who do. She is so brittle, so calculating, so self-besot, so small that you get a half-apology even from her earnest backers. The truth is that she is sometimes--although less and less--grudgingly admired. But she is not loved. Which is what she wants most of all.