Ross Mackenzie

So who’s going to win, McCain or Obama?

Good question — and some updated thoughts on veep choices. But first a reminder that 15 months ago this space predicted a McCain-Clinton race, and got things half right.

She blew it.

Yes she blew it. She entered caucuses she shouldn’t have (such as Iowa) and let Obama go practically unchallenged in too many others. She found herself overmatched in fund-raising. She had all that Clinton luggage, including her husband. And she ran up against one of the smoothest orators — rhetoricians — the nation recently has seen.

In her January 2007 announcement for the presidency she said: “Let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting.”

It wasn’t particularly. Despite a lot of throat-clearing, she never really found her voice — maybe because in this whacked-out Democratic Party to speak forthrightly about what one believes is to alienate the moderates the party must attract to win.

OK. OK. So how big is Obama’s margin over McCain going to be?

Whoa. Obama’s principal accomplishment is to be the first multiracial American to secure a presidential nomination. Other than that, he has spent three unachieving years in the Senate — two of them hungering after the presidency. Since March he has coasted, performing poorly in the primaries (losing most of the big ones to Senator Clinton), and dancing around in his version of Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope.

Surely you . . .

No, I don’t jest. And in the past months he has spent a good deal of time retreating from his church and his pastor of 20 years who preaches the racial separatism Obama says he doesn’t embrace. Oh, and retreating from his call for unfettered meetings with our most virulent enemies.

But isn’t Obama going to sweep the boards? What about those stupendous rallies of enraptured college students? What about record turnouts in the Democratic primaries? What about the polls? And what about a press that represents him as the best thing since the Beatles?

A press full of Obamatons is the same press that goes goo-goo over every leftie it accords a chance to win. Polls don’t mean much at this point: In May 1988 ,Michael Dukakis led Bush I by 19 points. And turnout? There’s little that correlates high party turnout in the primaries to victory for that party in the fall.

Usually the out-of-power party generates higher primary turnout yet fails to win in November. Even though Democratic primary turnout in 1988 nearly doubled Republican primary turnout, Dukakis ultimately lost. In 1972 George McGovern won the nomination with big Democratic turnout, but in November — against Richard Nixon — he lost 49 states.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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