Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Tale of Two Parties

During this holiday season, with apologies to Dickens, depending upon the political party with which you ally, it is the best of times; it is the worst of times.

In what already feels as an interminably long election season, just days away from the Iowa & New Hampshire contests, Democrats are feeling supremely optimistic about the chances for their various candidates, while Republicans are suffering from uncharacteristic ennui.

Read on, my fine young cannibals...

For the first time in so long that I have trouble remembering (at which elephants are supposedly better at than donkeys, anyway), the Democratic voters are suffering from an embarrassment of riches, while the Republican voters are simply suffering from embarrassment.

Three weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Republican voters across the country appear uninspired by their field of presidential candidates, with a vast majority saying they have not made a final decision about whom to support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Not one of the Republican candidates is viewed favorably by even half the Republican electorate, the poll found.
Read that last paragraph again...

Not one of the Republican candidates is viewed favorably by even half the Republican electorate, the poll found.
So badly has the Republican brand been tarnished, that even die-hard, primary voters can find little to love about their candidates. I'd long predicted that Huckabee would rise fast, then fall hard, largely on the dissatisfaction that potential voters felt with their cash-laden (and media-coronated) frontrunners. It seems my prognostications were on-target.
And in a sign of the fluidity of the race, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who barely registered in early polls several months ago, is now locked in a tight contest nationally with Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

It seems elementary to note that Huckabee's meteoric rise (17 points...in two months!) likely would never have occurred, had Romney & Giuliani (not to mention Thompson...not that anyone of note bothers to mention him any more) been the heirs-apparent to the ghost of Reagan that each man claims to be.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the divide, the contrasts could hardly be more stark.
More than anything else, the poll underlines sharp differences between the Republican and Democratic electorate in how each views its candidates. Democratic voters, on the whole, see their candidates considerably more favorably than Republicans see theirs.

Mrs. Clinton is viewed favorably by 68 percent of Democrats, followed by Mr. Obama, viewed favorably by 54 percent. Mr. Edwards is viewed favorably by 36 percent.

Though the poll cited above was a national poll, the shape of the race in Iowa seems to echo loudly the confidence that Democrats have in their overall field, at least of the three frontrunners. That's how I explain that Clinton, Obama & Edwards nearly evenly split 70% of Iowa voters. A blowout by one candidate, or a neck-and-neck contests between two, I could see. But a three-way race? It appears that a goodly portion of Hawkeye state sees something awfully appealing in that triad.

Both in Iowa and nationally, Huckabee has surged on the GOP side. Not that he should expect an overly warm reception from Republican voters as the race wears on.
[Huckabee's] gains come even as Republicans remain skeptical about his ability to win in the general election, indicating that "electability" is not a priority in the race for the nomination. Only 13 percent thought Huckabee was the most electable, compared to 43 percent who said so about Giuliani and 18 percent who said Romney would be the party's best candidate in November 2008.

The Republicans sound like a party going through a severe case of identity crisis.