In the next few weeks, more and more states will be holding their primaries to select which Republican and which Democratic candidate they want to run for president. As the field narrows, voters and party leaders will begin to decide less and less which candidate they think is best, and more and more which one they think can win. Right now, it seems the Democrats are down to basically two choices, Clinton or Obama. While Edwards remains in the race, it seems his best bet is to again become a running mate since he has not won any primaries and cannot seem to break out from behind Hillary or Obama. On the Republican side, the field is still open for a couple candidates. Romney, McCain and Huckabee have all had major victories in the primary and are running pretty even. Behind them, Giuliani and Thompson have yet to win a primary but seemed determined to hang in as long as they are making news.The first step for party leaders and voters for picking a winner is to figure out what demographic a candidate appeals to. Republicans present candidates with various offerings. For the evangelical and fanatical, Christian-based Huckabee has taken the Bush model for being overtly, and at times eccentrically, religious. Giuliani has worked very hard to make himself the tough guy, war candidate. McCain is trying hard to make himself the immigration candidate. Romney has by default fallen into the moderate not to hard not too soft candidate. Thompson seems to have not picked an issue. He seems determined to make Republicans think of Ronald Reagan when they think of him. On the other side, Democrats have a choice between the experience of Clinton and the change of Obama. All of the candidates seem to have a good niche with which to draw voters, but all also seem to have glaring faults.
Once they know which voters will vote for a candidate and why, they then have to figure out who will not vote a candidate. This is where the real strategy comes in. For the Republicans, all the faults seem to center around some kind of similarity with the current administration. For McCain and Giuliani, it is their support of the war in Iraq. McCain has been a staunch supporter of the war in the last two years and has caused a drop in his Democratic supporters. Giuliani has not stopped saying 9/11 since it happened, and his inability to say much of anything else has alienated many. Huckabee’s aforementioned borrowed strategy of being the evangelical candidate is drawing together as much conservative support as it is causing liberals to run screaming. Romney has flip-flopped so much he is becoming the Republican John Kerry. Finally, Thompson is almost referring to himself as Reagan at this point and that does not make Democrats want to see him in charge anytime soon.
Finally, the parties have to consider how the other party will attack their nominee. They have to anticipate each other’s strategy for attacking their candidate and pick which candidate they think they can best defend. For the Democrats, this poses an interesting choice. Obama has three large faults. First the most painful and the most obvious; He is black and there are people in this country that will not vote for him simply because of the color of his skin. It is not right and shows how far our country has to go with race relations, but it is there and it needs to be considered. Next, he lacks experience. He is young; in fact, he would be one of the youngest presidents ever if elected. He has not been in the senate for long and lacks major experience before that. Finally, he appeals mostly to younger voters. And while that always looks nice for the news and TV, history shows us that in the end young voters do not turn out nearly as much as older voters. As much attention and support as he is getting now, party leaders will have to decide if they feel he will bring all that support to the polls when it matters.
Clinton on the other hand is faced with two basic issues. First the ugly one; she is Hillary Clinton. Like it or not the Clintons represent to Republicans and conservatives in general what George W. Bush represents to Democrats and liberals. She and her husband are as polarizing political figures as George Bush is and she has the potential to unite Republicans behind any potential candidate as long as they can keep her out of office. Second, she is a woman. Like Obama’s race, this is a fact that just needs to be dealt with. It stinks and no one should be judged on their race or gender, but in our society, they still are so they will have to forge ahead.
For the Republicans, they have to choose which ideal has the best chance to win. A guy posing as Ronald Reagan reincarnate, a guy trying to get Christians to vote for him because he is Christian and vocal about it, or which two guys best promote the War on Terror.
It will be interesting to see what voters and party leaders decide is the best course of action in the coming months. As the campaigns for each party’s nomination winds down it will be interesting to see what happens when the real campaign begins.
Ted Trevorrow is a third-year majoring in English. He can be reached at ET666499@wcupa.edu.