Can McCain win the upcoming Fall Election? Unlikely--but not impossible.

My advice to GOP die hards: deal honestly with the percentages. Take a deep breath and say to yourself three times: "Barack Obama is going to be the next president of the United States." Prepare yourself.


1. Barack Obama is taut and handsome; John McCain is weathered and shrunken. Obama is young, vibrant, and charismatic; McCain is old and faded. Obama can deliver a speech with the best of all time; McCain is haltingly inarticulate. Obama shows all the signs of true political genius; McCain is an old warhorse.

2. The Republican brand is at its nadir and inextricably linked to the most unpopular president of the electronic age. The Democrats are not stellar---but they have the distinct advantage this cycle of not being Republicans.

3. The uncertain economy (exacerbated by the ubiquitous breathless reporting thereof) has us all dazed and queasy, nervously waiting for the other shoe to finally drop.

4. The mainstream media is invested in Obama--and they will surely (most have already) turn on their former favorite Republican, McCain.

5. Even worse, McCain cannot seem to get any traction within GOP ranks. Quite frankly, it remains a mystery to me how he even won the nomination. I am quite sure that I am the only Republican I know who voted for him.

Unfortunately, this is merely a partial enumeration; the list of McCain disadvantages goes on...and on.

And, again, Obama is a remarkable candidate. He possesses an extraordinary political IQ. He has impeccable timing, as demonstrated in his stunning nomination victory---knowing when and exactly how to challenge a 500-pound gorilla, how to make hay while the sun shone, and when to hunker down and weather a pretty horrible three months at the conclusion of the primary season. He has expertly exploited every one of his advantages of character and culture. He seems to know when to ignore, when to obfuscate, when to deny, and when to renounce (think Jeremiah Wright). And he shows no sign of getting any dumber between now and November.

What about some of McCain's strengths?

John McCain has experience in government, and he is a war hero. Does that count for anything? Not really.

Americans do not elect presidents based on foreign policy. If we did, no one would even remember Bill Clinton, the youthful Arkansas governor who unseated the steadiest and most capable chief executive of the twentieth century in the midst of the most dramatic moment in American foreign relations history. America's reaction to that ultimate defining geopolitical crossroads back in 1992? A big long yawn. What we really wanted was someone who could feel our pain and not look at his watch during debates.

Americans are not particularly impressed with war heroes either. Think about 1992 again and 1996. The WWII heroics of George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole proved virtually meaningless against a Bill Clinton who had avoided military service under questionable circumstances. And what about John Kerry? Democrats thought they had pulled a fast one on the red, white, and blue crowd---but, again, politics trumped dog tags. The Vietnam veteran awarded three Purple Hearts lost to National Guardsman George W. Bush in 2004. I am afraid that the electorate is in agreement with Wesley Clark on this one, military service doesn't carry a lot of weight in the presidential sweepstakes.

Having said all that, John McCain has an outside, long-shot chance to pull off the biggest upset in the history of modern American presidential elections.


There is something slightly disturbing about Barack Obama.

It is not race. His pigment makes him unique among prior serious candidates for president, no doubt, but in the year 2008 we generally like that he is a person of bi-racial parentage.

It is not the rumor that there is a rumor that he is Muslim. Newsweek reported last week that 10 percent of persons polled mistakenly believed that Obama was Muslim. Quite frankly, that number is a relief (shockingly small). Turn it around: 90 percent of Americans do not misidentify him as a Muslim. Could 90 percent of Americans identify the vice president? Speaker of the House? Could 90 percent of Americans name the three branches of government? Remember the National Geographic poll from a few years back (merely a few months subsequent to Hurricane Katrina) in which 33 percent of the respondents could not point out Louisiana on a U.S. map. Ninety percent of Americans comprehend that Barack Hussein Obama is not Muslim! That is an amazingly promising statistic.

Neither is his exotic and unfortunate appellation much of a real problem. Of course, it is almost sinisterly comical in its blending of two American villains, but, keep in mind, we elected Dwight Eisenhower a mere seven years after the conclusion of an all-consuming war between the USA and the nation of Ike's German ancestors. In the end, what's in a name?

However, aside from all that there is something that is not quite right about Obama. His Ivy League elitism and internationalism-slash-cosmopolitanism rankles some. His America-hating, race-baiting, former pastor of twenty years leaves a bad taste. His wife's remarks concerning her national pride makes us wonder. His association with an unrepentant sixties radical and domestic terrorist is unsavory. His inconsistent position on flag pins makes us chuckle at him (not with him). His unwillingness to pay his political dues strikes some of us as a disconnection with traditional American values. Taken together, these are traits about the man that set off alarm bells. He does not seem to be one of us.

Three "P"s: Patriotism, Petraeus, and Petroleum.

Add all those things up and we have an uneasy feeling, which we struggle to articulate under some broad and nebulous idea--perhaps like "patriotism." This attempt at identification is not quite right, not quite satisfying--but it may be as close as we can get, finding ourselves limited by language--an imperfect form of communication.

But the fact that he is already delivering speeches explaining and defending his patriotism proves that he has a patriotism problem--for lack of a better word. Again, this deficiency is hard to confront directly; therefore, it is hard to extinguish.

Petraeus. This may seem contradictory in light of my thesis above: "Americans don't have much patience or capacity for foreign policy questions during a presidential election." Hit people hard with something scary like a "missile gap" or another terrorist attack and you might score a few points in the short run---but, generally, big and complicated issues like the Cold War or the War on Terror don't tickle the fancy of your standard citizen.

However, as unpopular as the war in Iraq remains with a vast majority of voters, there is a growing number of Americans who see progress in that interminable war. When pressed, these folks do not actually want to walk away from our investment in the Middle East, unwilling to give back the demonstrable and increasingly undeniable gains we've registered recently.

A growing number of Americans see General David Petraeus as the symbol of our recent upward turn of fortunes. Obama's non-relationship with Petraeus is part of his overall awkwardness (his delay in condemning the radical left for the "General Betray-us" controversy points up his lack of dexterity in this area). Obama's opponents ask why he will meet with Ahmed Ahmadinejad unconditionally---but he has never met America's great winning general. A lot is riding on Candidate Obama's visit to Iraq to meet with the Cen-Com chief in August. I don't see how Obama ever squares his anti-war stance with the image of Petraeus as a heroic man of honor, vision, and surprising success.

His lack of relationship with David Petraeus is increasingly awkward and seems unpresidential.

Petroleum. Four-dollar per gallon gasoline.

The Democrats are nearly completely beholden to environmentalists who are adamantly opposed to aggressive new drilling and refining policies as well as politically incorrect alternate fuels. A major pivot before the Fall Election is highly unlikely (although, after the last two weeks of Obama's shamelessly clever re-positioning, nothing is impossible). The Republicans, on the other hand, are in perfect position to propose a pragmatic policy of increased exploration, drilling, and refining that will strike so many of those swing voters as a perfectly reasonable response to a vital question.

Could it happen?

A Republican victory in November remains improbable---but not impossible.