Edwards and Giuliani are gone. The Republican nod appears to be McCain's to lose (my dream of a brokered Republican convention is all but dead; sigh . . .). 1.7 million Democrats came out to vote, close to the 1.9 million Republicans, even though their vote will not count, due to the fact that the party is punishing them for holding their primary too early (I just love the way the parties are disenfranchising voters over what are some of the flimsiest, stupid reasons ever imagined), so the on-going, under-the-radar story of high Democratic turnout continues. More than any of the previous contests, I believe last night's was, as all the hype suggested it might be, a watershed.
I cannot pretend to be sanguine about Edwards' departure. He pushed both Obama and Clinton to the left, and despite the near-blackout of the major press on his speeches and policy stances (although they certainly paid attention to his haircuts and girly-manness, didn't they), his was a necessary, important voice. I once thought I would support him, but changed my mind after a consideration of other things besides issues and policy-stances. I believe that Edwards needs to return to the Senate, or perhaps run for governor of North Carolina - I believe one term in the Senate just doesn't show a willingness to tough out the world of politics (although, considering the press he received, especially after it was revealed his wife had cancer, both and he and his wife are to be commended for their fortitude).
Giuliani became a bad joke. Once the front-runner (of course, before any votes were cast), the nomination was at one time seen as his to lose. He managed to do that quite handily through the simple act of campaigning. He offered his vision of himself, his record - and Republican voters responded with a collective "No" loud enough to be heard over the din of press adulation. His response - all 9/11 all the time - became a parody of itself in the end, only adding fuel to the fire the burned his candidacy to the ground. He added nothing but a combination of comic relief and fear and loathing among many Democrats over the even remote possibility of his becoming the nominee. Like Fred Thompson, he will not be missed because he didn't really do much more than provide a target for slavering press coverage for what was, in essence, a non-entity.
The McCain win is the real story. Here is where my crystal ball gets put on the shelf, and, to change the metaphor, I stand deep in my own end zone to punt. I once thought Republican Establishment disdain for McCain would be strong enough either to give Romney the momentum necessary to eke out a narrow victory, or push the race to the convention floor. It seems, however, that Republican voters are smarter than I am. With the choices narrowed to these two men - despite the Huckabee surprise in Iowa - Republican voters have done what they often do and gone on to support the elder statesman of the Party. Bob Dole's nomination in 1996 was the same kind of thing, as well as a final bow to what was then touted (and repeated far too often in subsequent years) as "the greatest generation". I do believe McCain has the nomination all but sewn up, with next week's Super Tuesday contests most likely putting the finishing touches on that fact (of course, should Romney end up splitting the vote, winning enough states to keep his hopes alive, this dynamic may change; this is why I should keep my mouth shut about political predictions . . .).
That, I believe, creates a fundamental problem for the Republican Party going in to the general election. For whatever reason - and I just can't fathom it, considering his record and rhetoric - McCain really is despised by many constituencies within the Republican Party. Most especially, despite recent attempts to pander to them, the right-wing evangelical groups - representing the single biggest grass-roots constituency in the Party - might just vote with their feet and stay away in droves, regardless of whatever empty promises he and others make to them. Bridging that gap will be the biggest challenge a McCain campaign will face, and while not insurmountable, it certainly will be formidable.
It might be made less so should Sen. Clinton get the Democratic nomination, but I think that Clinton-hatred, despite its deep roots among many the further right you float in the political spectrum, will only get any Republican candidate so far.
There is the larger dynamic of the campaign, coalescing recently in the almost-constant blathering about "Change" coming from both Democrats and Republicans. The country is ready to move on from the disasters of the past seven years, and so that one word has become the mantra of all the candidates, even conservatives for whom change should be as bad a word as the phrase "blowjob in the Oval Office". I think the yearning for change is real. I also think that a McCain candidacy will face the dual hurdles of his love affair with the occupation in Iraq (as well as his enthusiasm for unprovoked attack on Iran) and his age going up against either of the Democratic front-runners. Especially embodied in the candidacy of Barack Obama (I'm sure you were wondering when I would sneak my endorsement for him in here), I believe that the choice in the fall could not be more clear. Taking nothing away from McCain's biography, the kind of courage and inner strength necessary to survive what he went through with some semblance of his mind intact, I believe this story is, like fear of another terrorist attack, a bit played. The truth is, McCain is a creature of Washington, DC, and a supporter of our current, unhappy, status quo. Obama is offering voters a vision of something more, something better, a chance to believe and work for America. McCain, like the current President, believes in a kind of caretaker vision for the Presidency. Like Bush when the first economic downturn occurred in 2001, McCain does not believe it necessary for our leaders to ask us to sacrifice in the face of challenges and adversity. Bush infamously enjoined us to go shopping - as if, somehow, spending money we didn't have would make our fears of another terrorist attack, an anthrax mailing, and an economic slump all go away.
This, I think, is the key to Obama's ultimate success. The country does not believe we are, as we constantly hear from many on the right, that we are a nation at war. Simply put, we haven't been asked to do anything, to give up anything, to live our lives differently because of the threats we allegedly face. Bush says, "shop" because, essentially, he and most Republicans do not believe it necessary to pull the country together in shared sacrifice to face the threats. That is government's job, and he will do it, without submitting to the will of Congress, either for money or oversight, because he and his Administration believe that the title "Commander-in-Chief" somehow insulates him from the rule of law. Imagine a man who spent years in the military occupying the office of President, a man who believes in more and bigger wars, and that is a recipe for disaster.