Of all the Democratic presidential candidates for 2008 now in the field, the one that Republican strategists most want is Hillary Clinton. That doesn’t mean that she is an easy win for them and doesn’t mean that she won’t clobber her challenger — but the Rove-minions want her.
But who do Dems want?
In my view, the most challenging Republican contender is Senator John McCain. McCain is a complicated person, but he’s no duplicate copy of George W. Bush and he appeals to many Democrats and Independents — as well as a broad cross-section of Republicans. I have admitted many times on this blog that there are many characteristics and positions of John McCain I admire.
But put my views aside for a moment. I think McCain is the toughest challenger Dems have before them.
A smart strategist would do all he could to maneuver McCain’s opponent(s) to a win in the Republican primary. While always tough to rig outcomes in either party, McCain’s biggest opponent for the time being is George Allen. I’d place Brownback next actually despite the euphoria among some moderate Republicans for Mitt Romney.
George Allen is getting pilloried in the press for referring in a crowd to a Jim Webb election worker as “Macaca,” which some have tried to argue is a racist and demeaning term. You can watch the video and learn more here.
I’m not that impressed by George Allen’s intellectual faculties and have a hard time believing that he would knowingly call someone a racial slur while he knew the camera was going.
But the bigger issue here is that Allen is divisive. He’s not all that smart. He allegedly hung a Confederate flag and noose in his old office to remind himself of his state’s history.
I don’t think he’s a flaming bigot, but he is the right guy for Dems to try and run against.
So, what to do?
Stop demonizing McCain, and start demonizing George Allen.
I have no idea whether Allen will win against Democratic Senate challenger James Webb or not — but odds usually favor incumbents and George Allen is hungry for the presidency.
The best thing bloggers and progressive journals of opinion could do right now is to give John McCain a big embrace, highlight the good stuff in his past (and I think there is a lot), give him a pre-endorsement if progressives and liberals were choosing a Republican candidate.
I’d love to see a split cover on both The Nation and The American Prospect on why they endorse John McCain for the Republican ticket and loathe and despise Senator George Allen.
Put George Allen on every magazine cover and blog with horns and a devil’s tail.
Dems should really, really, really want to run against George Allen.
But thus far, most Dems I encounter don’t have the Rovian gene and are doing little to maneuver whom they most want to run against and to undermine those who they should most fear.
— Steve Clemons
Update: One of my favorite Republican bloggers, Robert George, tackles George Allen too. Allen is bad — real bad. Dems just need him to win the Republican presidential primary.