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Summertime blues and reds

Democratic Voices

Posted: July 15, 2008 12:52 a.m.
Updated: September 15, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 

This is shaping up to be one of the best political years ever. The Democratic Party has already presented us with a historic primary race (and near dead heat) between two U.S. Senators, one black, the other a woman. On the Republican side, the nominee is the oldest presidential candidate in the history of the United States. America has come a long way in my lifetime. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have broken the barriers of race, gender and age, finally making millions of parents, teachers and politicians correct when they told the children that anybody can grow up to be president.

Thanks to the new paradigm of perpetual presidential campaigns, the political doldrums between the primaries and the conventions are largely a thing of the past. Barack Obama and John McCain continue to speak out on important issues like the Iraq War, energy, the economy, health care and the environment.

And thanks to the American media and the American appetite for fluff and nonsense, silly issues like fist bumps, Jesse Jackson, who is more patriotic and killing Iranians with American cigarettes continue to get coverage, as well. However, most Americans will not tune in until after the Olympics, the conventions and the traditional Labor Day kickoff to the presidential campaign. Polls, leads and conventional wisdom should all be taken with a grain of salt. Dukakis, Gore and Kerry all led in July, only to see Dukakis and Kerry lose in November.

In the meantime, July or not, there is no shortage of fun to be had on the campaign trail. We have been given a preview of McCain's verbal styling and the political lore is already richer for it. He has called Social Security an "absolute disgrace", he joked about killing Iranians with American cigarettes and he has bounced all over the political spectrum trying to win back the conservative Republican base, while at the same time straight talking Independents in the political center. His monotone stump speech, punctuated by awkward laugh lines and creepy grins is the talk of the blogosphere, luckily for the Senator, the mainstream media is still on board the Straight Talk Express and no real harm is being done, yet.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, Obama has just unilaterally moved to the center, with no apologies to the progressives and liberals on the left, who carried him in the primaries. While this has riled the most vocal lefties, it is not going to hurt Obama much in November, because after eight years of George Bush, six years of Republican congressional majorities, two right wing Supreme Court justices and one disastrous war, the left wing base is not going to abandon Obama for more of the same. His move to the center is good politics and is to be expected. And Obama will still position his campaign to the left of center, while McCain must edge way right, if he expects to keep the Republican base from defecting to Libertarian candidate and uber-conservative, Bob Barr.

The most fun to be had this summer will be playing guess the veep. The Democrats political bench is deep and has many fine prospective vice presidential candidates. Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd are two popular frontrunners, but my money is on Bill Richardson. He is a former governor of New Mexico, a battleground state this year. He is a Latino and speaks fluent Spanish.

He has been a congressman, Secretary of Energy and Ambassador to the U.N. He would have made an excellent president and will compliment Obama very well as vice president.

John McCain has a more difficult choice, he needs to balance his age with youth and shore up his right with a conservative. Three names keep coming up during idle speculation, all of them Republican governors: South Carolina's Mark Sanford, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty and Charlie Crist from Florida. Minnesota and Florida are swing states McCain needs to win, boosting the stock of Crist and Pawlenty and in the spirit of allowing myself to be second guessed later on, I will predict Republican nominee will be Charlie Crist and Florida's 27 electoral votes.

Remember anything, however improbable, is possible in American politics. George Bush's win in 2004 should be enough of a cautionary tale for any sentient voter lulled by Obama's lead in the polls and McCain's lackluster campaign. This is a great year to be a Democrat, but please, no complacency until November 5th.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. Democratic Voices runs Tuesday in The Signal.

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