If the swing towards Romney in California continues, he will emerge from Tuesday’s contest in a solid second place with a new narrative and a renewed debate about the race –can Romney surpass McCain in Ohio and Texas in March? The rapidly fading Huck would simply disappear, as he is doing in many places where the obvious has already registered: A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain.
Assisting Romney is the rise of Obama and the growing recognition that the Illinois senator represents something completely new in modern American politics, and that the $32 million Obama brought in in January is just the beginning of a tsunami of funding, attention and enthusiasm flowing to Obama. To match a candidate of the past against one of the future is close to political suicide, and not just for the top of the ticket.
A Romney-Obama contest would be between two new faces proposing two different visions of America’s future. The GOP has a fighting chance with those optics.
A McCain-Obama race is the past versus the future; old conflicts and credentials against a post-partisan tomorrow. McCain would have no chance of matching Obama’s funds or earned media, and his support for the surge will be overwhelmed by the rhetoric of change and tens of millions of contribvutions and 527 support for the promise of a new politics.
As the Arizona numbers underscore, McCain would not even bring a marginally united party with him. Given his animosity towards Romney, McCain wouldn’t add Romney to the ticket ,and the die-hard opponents of McCain will spend the next nine months hammering on how Huckabee blocked the consolidation of the conservative vote thus allowing the Reagan coalition to be eclipsed. Many would get over it and pull the lever for McCain, but how many would work for him or contribute to his coffers? And how many irreconcilables does it take to doom the campaign from the start –5%? 10% Not many, especially when it comes to the purple states of Colorado and Ohio.
This isn’t hard to see, or the result hard to project. Most conservative pundits, including me, will argue the case for McCain should he be the nominee, but that’s like a competing network throwing up anything against a ratings giant in prime time. Sure, it might work. But don’t blame us if it doesn’t.