- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2000

When John McCain becomes president in an overwhelming landslide victory this fall, the existing political order may be turned upside down.
That's not entirely a good thing.
First things first: The McCain campaign is a nascent juggernaut. With Democrats and independents voting in droves in the South Carolina primary on Feb. 19, the Arizona senator will easily finish within five points of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and perhaps win outright. Either way, the flocks of McCain lackeys in the national media will present his showing as a huge victory over expectations.
Meanwhile, Mr. McCain will increasingly find himself awash in campaign funds call it mammon from heaven from Republican donors wanting to hedge their bets in case their man Bush continues to falter. The added money and momentum will help Mr. McCain dominate in his home state of Arizona, where local pride will overcome old intraparty antagonisms, while his appeal to blue-collar workers will bring him surprisingly close to an outright win in Michigan.
With the Bush facade of invincibility then battered beyond recognition, Mr. McCain will embark on a long, hard but triumphant slog toward the Republican nomination. Mr. Bush will continue to pick up plenty of delegates, but Mr. McCain's fawning press will treat the close delegate count as yet another sign that the process is rigged in Mr. Bush's favor, rather than as evidence of Mr. Bush's continuing popularity.
By the time the convention rolls around, Mr. McCain will have won the coronation in the public's eye and even the hardiest Republican insider will be loathe to put up much of a fight. After all, if there's one thing the Republican establishment has been perfecting in the past three years, it's the art of capitulation.
Still more surprises await. As I wrote in an e-mail last Nov. 18 to a highly prominent friend who is an enthusiastic Bush supporter, this is far too early for it to be a final prediction, but the early-trend Quin picks are in. This is not what I want to happen (on several levels), but what I see happening: The GOP team of John McCain and Elizabeth Dole wins a landslide victory, with at least 400 of the 538 electoral votes, and Demo turnout is depressed enough to overcome all other trends and barely save a one-or two-vote GOP House majority, including a Dem-to-GOP party switch or two. (Missing quote marks??) I may have been wrong, however, about Elizabeth Dole. Because the biggest surprise of all if and only if Al Gore has the Democratic nomination wrapped up by the time of the Republican convention, which is far from a sure bet at this point is that John McCain may look beyond the Republican Party for a running mate.
Yep, the ticket of John McCain and Nebraska Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey, perhaps even endorsed by Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, might sweep every state of the union, losing only the three electoral votes of Washington D.C.
Don't laugh: Mr. Kerrey is now to the right of Mr. McCain on taxes and entitlements. And Mr. Kerrey's allergic reaction to the character deficit of the Clinton-Gore administration, combined with his friendship with Mr. McCain, would lead him to accept the offer.
Highly fanciful, you say? Well, less than a month after Bill Clinton handily defeated George Bush in 1992, I wrote that Republicans would probably retake the House of Representatives in 1994, and that Bob Livingston was likely to eventually supplant Newt Gingrich as the Republican leader. Two months before the government shutdown in 1995, I wrote that the Republican center wouldn't hold. And beginning two months before the 1998 elections, I wrote that Republicans were likely to lose ground in the House and three weeks out predicted, in the Mobile Register, the exact result of five lost seats.
Fact is, a well-delivered message and clever tactics will beat big money and policy substance far more often than not. A sense of the Zeitgeist and an extraordinary will to power shall defeat good intentions, even when the intentions are backed by apparently impressive public office. And intensity of support is at least as important as the raw numbers in snapshot polls. Finally, the preferences of the national media really do swing public opinion by a bundle of polling points.
On all these fronts, John McCain enjoys a huge advantage. Which is a shame. George W. Bush's major policy addresses have all been first-rate. Conservatives have always believed that personnel determines policy, and the Bush policy advisers (unlike his father's awful crew) are among the best in the business. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Bush would surround himself with people committed to following through on his pledges for tax cuts, a strong military, a Reaganesque foreign policy, and partnerships with faith-based institutions.
But I don't get to pick a president. I just read the tea leaves. And the tea leaves say John McCain will storm the nation's capital with a new, centrist, reformist, adventurous Americanism not seen since the days of Teddy Roosevelt.

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