Friday night I spoke at the Galveston County, Texas Lincoln Day Dinner.
It was a great event. Maybe 300 people came on a Friday night to chat with each other, greet candidates, bid on tshatshkes placed on tables against the back wall which no one really wants or needs to help raise money for their county party, and listen to a speech.
Or, in the case of the Galveston County GOP, speeches.
I was the after dinner speaker, but the chairman of the event called about a week ago to tell me that Alan Keyes had asked to speak and he would be speaking for five minutes before dinner.
I said Alan Keyes has never spoken for five minutes in his life. Keyes spends more than five minutes talking to the guy at a toll booth.
Sure enough, Keyes went into a full 20-minute exhortation as to why the audience should not support John McCain for President nor Mike Huckabee, nor Ron Paul (who was, uncomfortably, sitting at a table in the front row but was not asked to speak).
Alan Keyes, as you may remember, participated in that dreadful debate in Iowa run by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Broadcasting. Other than that, he has not been as much a participant in this campaign as Duncan Hunter. Or Mike Gravel.
I didn't care that Alan Keyes spoke. What I did care about was that he spoke at a county Lincoln Day Dinner and, in effect, told Republicans to stay home rather than vote for John McCain.
This was not the Conservative Political Action Conference, where you can assume a significant portion of the audience were not registered Republicans.
This was a REPUBLICAN Lincoln Day Dinner.
So, naturally, when I got up to give my remarks I asked how many people had served in public office, run for public office or worked on the campaign of someone who was running.
As you might expect a huge percentage of the hands in the room went up because the people in the room are the Republicans who pay good money and give up their Friday night to make their county party stronger.
I told them the story of my having lost my first campaign for City Councilman in Marietta, Ohio 45750 by two votes.
I asked them to think about how many candidates across the country for everything from US Senate to School Board might lose by a handful of votes if they followed Alan Keyes' advice and stayed home because McCain doesn't meet his standards of perfection.
I reminded them that this is a 50-50 country and it was very likely that the Presidential election was going to come down to one or two states just has it has for the past two elections.
I bring this up because the Democrats, who in spite of if all, are not at all certain they can win the election for President in November, got the news that Ralph Nader was going to run for President again.
No one believes Nader is going to be President, but a lot of Democrats believe he can siphon off enough votes from either Hillary supporters if Barack becomes the nominee, or from Barack supporters if Hillary finds a way out of the delegate hole she's dug for herself.
Democrats used the environment as on of their central, unifying themes in the elections of 2006. Want to clean up the Earth? Vote Democrat.
The polls taken over the past two weeks show John McCain beating Hillary Clinton in the general election head-to-head matchup by an average (according to RealClearPolitics.com) of 4.5 percentage points.
Those same polls show Barack Obama beating John McCain by exactly the same margin - 4.5 percentage points.
In the election of 2000, Ralph Nader got 2.7% of the vote. And that was with Mr. Enviromentalism - Al Gore - on the ballot.
Nader may well prove to be the way the supporters of whichever Democratic candidate loses the nomination show their displeasure with the Democratic Party while still supporting the issue nearest and dearest - the environment.
This election is going to come down to whether the Republicans or the Democrats do a better job of keeping their supporters' eyes on the goal and avoid internecine distractions.
Here's my dream ticket: Ralph Nader and Alan Keyes. They'd never leave the toll booth.
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