Monday, March 10, 2008

Fighting Democrats, Irrelevant Republicans

Norm Geras asks the question of the hour:

One view is that the fact that the Republicans have settled on their candidate while the Democrats still have a fight ahead of them will be damaging to the latter because of the mud that will be slung in-house. The other view is that this fight will in fact benefit the Democrats, because it is they who will be the centre of media attention, getting free publicity and engaging the interest of voters for several more months, while John McCain is on the sidelines.
This expands into several sub-questions: will Obama and Clinton continue to wield ever sharper attacks on each other, and if so, how will it affect their chances in the general election -- will it give them a chance to refute lines of attack before the Wide Stance gets a chance to make them, or will it just leave the eventual winner weak and hobbled?

How much of Obama's appeal is tied up with his novelty, and as he ages on the big stage of presidential politicking, will he age more like wine or more like mayonnaise? In the eyes of Democratic primary voters? In the eyes of presumptive general election voters?

What kinds of headlines will McCain manage to grab while Clinton and Obama hold the lion's share of media focus? Will he seem to be only marginally relevant -- surely not a favorable figure to cut in the world for a would-be president -- and can be spring back into relevance after the Democrats name a nominee? When he does manage to get headlines, will they reinforce his irrelevance or otherwise highlight his shortcomings (e.g., he will continue an indefinite occupation of Iraq, George W. Bush thinks he'd make a good president, he supports torture, he is very, very old and cranky)?

Last but not least, is there any chance that voters will bother to cut through the fluff in such questions (not that it's all fluff) and make a decision based on, you know, policy and stuff?

Questions, questions.

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