Republicans voters, who seemed at times to be hunting for the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, chose self-styled maverick and rugged idealist Sen. John McCain.
Once considered politically unviable, McCain is now the new leader of the Grand Old Party, and has vowed to go on a national tour to introduce himself to Republican voters who might need some reassurance that he’s one of them — whatever that means in a country so evenly divided between conservatives and progressives. But at least a Republican candidate has been chosen, giving McCain time to clean house (phasing out some of the old guard and figuring out the new electoral math) and to get going with his homework (figuring out how to revive the economy, make health insurance more accessible and deal with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).
Democratic voters are, understandably, still shopping.
Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each enjoy strong voter support, an equal number of enthusiastic volunteers, and an inability to settle for the No. 2 spot on the ticket.
There’s no question that when voters back Clinton, they are embracing her call to provide “real solutions” to tough, intransient problems like our healthcare system and the economy. I think that when people vote for Obama, they’re opting to end the status quo of the Washington establishment. This includes the incompetence of the Bush administration and often-spineless congressional Democrats, whom many now believe are incapable of ending this war and shielding the middle class from the economic onslaught of the current administration’s policies.
I still don’t have a clue who will win. But I can count, and so I know which candidate now possesses the most delegates. It’s the math that counts, not just the momentum of breaking someone’s winning streak.
Obviously, the ultimate victor will be the candidate perceived strong enough to defeat McCain. In the general election, which candidate can win the big states, such as California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey? And can that same candidate offer us a new roadmap to victory by also carrying states like Virginia and Ohio?
Voters in the remaining 12 states must also focus on who has the best ideas, the best solutions and the right kind of experience and judgment to lead the nation at this very difficult time in its history. And, of course, whom they feel can lead America a new, united direction so this nation can address the critical challenges we will face in trying to win the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting Al Qaeda, strengthening our domestic economy to American workers to compete in the global marketplace, and invest in our education.
Many of Hillary’s supporters will fret if she loses. The same is true of Obama’s supporters, especially the young people he has inspired to get actively involved in politics.
How does one end a political season that stirred up historic levels of voter participation and record sums of low-dollar donations from ordinary folks?
Only one way: on a positive note.
There’s no question that a vote for the first woman or the first minority president is another way of voters saying: “Throw ALL the bums out and let’s start from scratch!” McCain must start preparing for this dynamic electorate or face the verdict of the voters.
For now, these enthusiastic supporters must remain patient as voters in the upcoming primary elections begin their jubilant quest to choose a Democratic nominee.
Clinton has found her rhythm and has started to make substantive points about Obama’s qualifications. Obama, now facing the type of vetting front-runners traditionally receive in a national political campaign, is asking what kind of experience a first lady has that makes her more prepared. This kind of debate is expected in a tight race with so much at stake.
However, if the candidates start to go down the road of personal destruction — a path that will rip apart our party’s base and drown out the real substantive differences between the GOP and our party — the only winner will be McCain and the Republican Party.
Divide and conquer seems to be the old way which led us to lose so many previous electoral seasons. Unity is the way forward for Democrats.
Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, and former campaign manager for Al Gore.