Political Strategy: Handicapping The Homestretch

The presidential field has narrowed. With John McCain apparently having the inside track on the GOP nomination, it makes sense to handicap his chances against the two remaining Democratic candidates. Our future may depend upon our willingness to transcend our divisions in order to elect a president to represent all Americans.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Now that it appears that John McCain has the inside track on the Republican presidential nomination, it’s time to draw some general election comparisons with his two potential Democratic opponents.

Before focusing on narrow specifics, my general impression has long been that McCain is the most formidable GOP candidate…despite the tepid support he receives from establishment conservatives and his shaky bona fides with the evangelical base.

Race & Gender:

When looking at either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, both must overcome potential bias…her with regards to being a woman and him with regards to being an African American. My own suspicion is that gender and race could cost either candidate a segment of the voting public. I’m of the opinion that could equate with a low to mid single digit percentage. Advantage McCain.

Conversely, race and gender may be an advantage for both candidates with their respective voter contingencies. If so, it would seem that Senator Clinton would have the most to gain given that women make up a larger portion of the overall voting public. However, that advantage may be somewhat offset by the fact that Clinton elicits high negatives amongst GOP voters. No clear advantage.

Experience (Age) vs. Change:

With regards to experience, the lines of demarcation are relatively clear. Clinton and McCain have more experience and each can be viewed as a Washington fixture. McCain can argue his maverick persona gives him an advantage over Clinton…pointing out that her election would be a return to a prior era of partisanship and acrimony. At the same time, John McCain’s record as a Senate contrarian could lead some Republicans to sit out the election. No clear advantage between Clinton and McCain. Both have an advantage over Obama.

As to change, this may be an area where one candidate has an unmistakable advantage. The mood of the country and voter dissatisfaction with the country’s direction support the notion that voters are looking for measurable and meaningful change. Obama’s age and his inspiring orations position him as a man of vision. Advantage Obama.

Nonetheless, that segues into two important caveats. One, while Obama’s message of change provides him with a noticeable advantage, the degree to which he is able to convince voters he can implement it and that they should forego the safety of two known commodities would be essential to his success in capitalizing upon it. Two, this requires a look at age. McCain could appear too old and Obama could be viewed as too young (green vs. eclipsed). Thus a slight advantage affords to McCain based upon historical data suggesting that the elderly turn out in greater numbers than the youth vote. Clinton’s age is generally neutral though her primary success with the elderly offsets McCain’s age advantage and leaves her with the same n

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

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