Many, perhaps even most, Democrats and Republicans are conflicted as to whom to vote for in the primaries.
Among Democrats, Barack Obama has enormous appeal — even to most erstwhile Hillary Clinton supporters. He seems to evoke the John F. Kennedy enthusiasm that Democrats have been seeking for over a generation. He is young, vibrant, charismatic and very smart.
And he is on the Left, where most Democratic Party activists are; the National Journal rated him the most liberal Democrat in the U.S. Senate. But he wears his leftism lightly, and by basing his campaign on “unity” and “change,” he has alienated few Democrats, while apparently appealing to many independents.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has been popular with Democrats for years, and she is especially appealing to a core constituency of the Democratic Party — women, especially single women.
So, many Democrats are genuinely torn. They admire Hillary Clinton, whom they have long known and supported, but they love Obama, whom they hardly know.
Among Republicans, the internal debate is quite different. Whereas most Democrats admire both their candidates and many love at least one of them, few Republicans love either John McCain or Mitt Romney. It is only a slight exaggeration to state that while Democrats wonder which of the two they love more, Republicans wonder which of the two they dislike, or, if you prefer, distrust, more.
Most Democrats go to the voting booth thrilled with one or both of their candidates; most Republicans are thrilled with neither of their two leading candidates.
In that way, the thinking of most Democrats and most Republicans could not be more different on this Super Tuesday. Ironically, however, many Republicans and Democrats are using the same reasoning in deciding whom to vote for: They are voting for the candidate they think has the best chance of winning in November.
Many Democrats who want Hillary Clinton to be the next president wonder whether she will always be too polarizing to win a national election. And many Democrats who adore Barack Obama wonder whether he can win given his inexperience, his youth, the fact that he is unknown — and who knows what will yet be revealed about him?
Therefore, many Democrats are choosing whom to vote for not on the basis of who they believe will make the better president so much as who they think has the best chance of being elected president.
On the Republican side, the exact same thing is happening. Given the distrust — deserved or not — of both candidates among many Republicans, many are not even asking which candidate would make the better president, but which one has the better chance of winning the presidential election.
So, though they come from opposite views of their respective candidates — Democrats from great enthusiasm and Republicans from little enthusiasm — many primary voters in each party are choosing whom to vote for on the same basis.
I humbly but strongly suggest to Democrats and Republicans alike that they not vote today on the basis of who they think will win in November, but on which candidate they think will make the better president.
Many Americans have become so politically savvy that they are in danger of outsmarting themselves. Republicans and Democrats who vote on the basis of who will win rather than who they think would make the better president may well be making a big error. Between now and November is far too long a period of time to make any predictions.
The general election is eight months from now. Consider how much has changed in both parties in just the last 90 days: Hillary Clinton was virtually assured the Democratic nomination and Rudy Giuliani was way ahead in all Republican polls.
If there is any major terrorist attack in a Western country, not to mention in the United States, everything can change.
If the economy tanks or prospers, everything can change.
If the war in Iraq continues to improve and/or al-Qaida seems to be weakening, many more Americans may come to view the war in Iraq as having been worth the sacrifices Americans paid.
If one of the candidates stumbles, everything can change. Perhaps Barack Obama may have to confront revelations about his personal life, or about his church, or maybe some aide will get into trouble, or he may say something he regrets; Hillary Clinton may not recover from her negatives, or Bill Clinton may turn off more voters; John McCain may tire and look old or alienate much of the Republican conservative base; Mitt Romney may never connect with voters or recover from charges of flip-flopping.
So, Democrats, if you think Barack Obama would make a better president of the United States, vote for him. If you think Hillary Clinton would, vote for her. Don’t vote for either because you are sure that he or she would do better in November. And, Republicans, if you think John McCain would make a better president, vote for him for that reason, not because you think he’ll do better in November. And if you think Mitt Romney would be a better president than John McCain, vote for him. Don’t deprive him of your vote because you don’t think he’ll win. Prophecy ended a long time ago.