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25 August 2008
John McCain looks set to win the November election
Can John McCain win the American Presidential Election in November? The omens look increasingly likely that he will, or rather that the Democrats once again will gift the election to him. The brilliant polemicist, Michael Moore, has this to say about the Democrats' love affair with defeat:
Beginning with their stunning inability to defeat the most detested politician in American history, Richard Nixon, and continuing through their stunning inability to defeat the most detested politician in the world, George II, the Democrats are the masters of blowing it. And they don't just simply "blow it" - they blow it especially when the electorate seems desperate to give it to them.
Moore's essay pretty much sums up why the Democrats blow it, so I don't need to repeat his arguments here. What I do want to look at is one Republican strategy that has worked time after time and which the Democrats have never been able to counter. What the GOP does is take the Democratic candidate's strongest card and create doubt in the minds of the punters about its validity.

Four years ago the Democrats had John Kerry as their candidate. Kerry's strongest card was that he was a genuine Vietnam War hero up against a man, George W. Bush, who had spent the war skulking in the Texas Air National Guard. Faced with this unpalatable fact, the GOP created a front organisation called Swift Boat Veterans For Truth which chipped away at Kerry's war service. The fact that just about everything that this group said has turned out to either be a lie or a wild distortion of the truth, is neither here nor there. What it did during the election was to create a doubt in the minds of about 35 percent of the electorate who went away thinking that there was "some truth" in what the Swift Boaters were saying.

That is not to say that all that 35 percent then voted for the Chimp, because obviously they didn't. However, that is not what the campaign was about. It was about creating just enough doubt in people's minds about Kerry's strongest issue so that his weaker issues became more important.

The Democrats could have responded in a variety of effective ways. They could have said that Kerry's record spoke for itself, invited an investigation into it, and then taken the fight to the Chimp by banging on again and again that here was a man who spent the war years in a drunken stupor out in Texas. They didn't, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Michael Moore reached which is that the Democrats basically suffer from a lack of balls when it comes to rolling around in the shit.

As far as Barack Obama is concerned, a similar thing looks likely to happen. Obama's strongest card is that he represents young America, the future in other words, against John McCain who speaks for the past. So the Republicans are now attacking the notion that he is, in reality, even an American. Or if he is an American, he's a secret Muslim, which amounts to the same thing. They haven't set up a front group as they did four years ago because the growth of the internet means that any number of stooges will run these smears for them, as the comments to this post show, but the claim that Obama is lying about his place of birth or his religion is straight out of the Swift Boat script and will probably have the same effect.

Obama's campaign is replying to all this in the way that Kerry did four years ago, and as then it will probably turn out to have the same lack of success. The issues that can be used to attack McCain are there and waiting. His alleged collaboration with his North Vietnamese captors all those years ago have been bubbling around for a while, just waiting for someone to pick them up and run with them. His short temper and seeming memory lapses - the other day he couldn't remember how many houses he owned - are ready made issues for an aggressive Democrat campaign, but they are pretty much being ignored.

So the GOP will make the running, it will set the agenda, and John McCain now looks likely to be the next president of the United States.
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