I’d love to do an in-depth, state-by-state analysis of the Republican race the way I did for the Democrats yesterday. But let’s face it, John McCain has the nomination wrapped up. As bad of a position as the Republicans are in for the general election, the one thing you can say is that when it came to picking their nominee, they got it right. That doesn’t mean I think John McCain will make a better president than Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani or Mike Huckabee. But he’s the only one out of that group who ever had any chance to win in November.
Some of McCain’s nomination was due to the dynamics of the race and sheer luck. Giuliani gained no traction in Iowa and New Hampshire and ultimately pulled out of those places in the final weeks, thus allowing almost all the Independent, moderate Republican, and national security votes to go to McCain. And Giuliani dropping out to endorse McCain after Florida skyrocketed McCain’s numbers in the huge winner-take-all states, New York and California. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee took an enormous chunk of the social conservative votes that otherwise would have gone to Romney in Iowa especially, but also New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida– probably costing Romney wins in all four of those closely contested states. Even today, on Super Tuesday, Huckabee’s presence in the race will cost Romney what would have been big wins in Southern states like Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
But let’s not take anything away from John McCain. He’s an American hero and a fantastic senator, who has shown an uncommon willingness to step outside his party’s ideology to get things done. I think he’ll ultimately be handcuffed in the general election by his support for the Iraq War, but if the Democrats screw up their side of the nominating process and choose Hillary Clinton, McCain will make up for the anti-war votes he would lose with what will be a significant number of anti-Clinton, anti-dynasty votes from both parties. In other words, he has a real shot at being our next president. None of the other Republican candidates ever did.