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Landrieu, others may decide fate of presidential election

In a contest looking to end up so close, every delegate counts and thus the spotlight is thrust upon Louisiana Democrat “superdelegates” in the decisions whether the national party choose Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama. And, just as many argue in the Republican case, the ultimate distinguishing issue between the two may come down to electability.

This is why Sen. John McCain apparently will carry the day in obtaining the GOP nomination, as several speakers exhorted during the party’s convention this weekend in Baton Rouge, despite being the candidate that on the whole deviated the most from conservatism and the wishes of the party base. This strategy also directly contradicts the party’s successful strategy in 2004: running relentlessly conservative messages (even as the candidate wasn’t completely conservative) designed to activate conservative voters in the belief that conservatives outnumber liberals.

That was correct and it worked. The problem with a McCain candidacy is the electability argument is but a half-truth. There simply are too many conservative activists out there only tenuously connected to the Republican Party who will look at McCain’s policies and past, understand he will deliver too frequently for liberals rather than conservatives, and decide that even as a Democrat president’s policies will bring needless harm and suffering to Americans, to a somewhat lesser extent so would McCain’s. They will figure this would discredit the only vehicle they have to bring conservatism into government, the GOP, so it would be better to allow a Democrat to come into the White House and tar that party for a generation as did Pres. Jimmy Carter in the hopes a refreshed conservatism and conservatives candidates like Pres. Ronald Reagan will emerge to create future conservative victories.

There’s only one thing that will change their minds, and that is to scare them with Clinton. Her veniality, core liberalism, but occasional penchant to sell out her principles for personal and political gain and long history demonstrating these things will make many consistent conservatives swallow hard and vote for McCain just because the destruction she could visit on Americans is so potentially great. Thus, McCain can beat Clinton thanks to enough conservatives voting not for him but against her.

But the same dynamic doesn’t exist in regards to Obama. Not only does he have little history with which to scare people (he in fact is more liberal than Clinton but has had just four years in the national spotlight to demonstrate it) he capitalizes on this as a reverse to Reagan: while Reagan had a gift for taking the complex verities of naturally-abstract conservatism and communicating them into concrete and identifiable policy prescriptions understood and supported by the majority, Obama has a gift of transforming the intellectually bankrupt, simplistic and half-baked musing of liberalism into vague, meaningless gibberish that inspires those who do not understand the human condition and/or who don’t deeply think at all.

It makes Obama appear messianic, or at the least non-threatening and this will fool enough people to give him the edge on McCain. It will dupe enough of the less-abstract-thinking conservatives, those who have grasped that conservatism properly understands the human condition but can’t explain why in great detail – exactly those Reagan was able to activate – into deferring from voting out of antipathy to McCain and feeling that Obama is not the threat that Clinton is.

Thus, the smart move for Democrats is to go with Obama, as longtime Clinton supporter Sen. Mary Landrieu seems to suggest when she argues the superdelegates from the state – who have nothing binding their commitments – should collectively vote in a way to reflect the state’s primary won by Obama. (This may also play into Landrieu’s spotty reelection chances, potentially presaging her vote in favor of Obama so she can be identified with him as he is more popular in the state among Democrats than Clinton.) Whether that can happen is another matter.

Just as Clinton’s long history creates the disadvantage of her seeming much more of a threat, it gives her the advantage of having an awful lot of chits to call in to get the superdelegates to support her. This is why she still has the advantage. Unless there is a decisive turn against her in the polls over the next month, she will win the nomination. As long as she runs no worse than parity with Obama, she’ll still be convincing that she has enough clout to call in these markers ands they will be the difference.

When the state Democrats meet on May 3, the situation should be enough resolved that it will be clear whether Clinton retained control of the party. Committed apportionments of delegates will be made there and the superdelegates (politically, not legally) will have to start committing. Especially among Landrieu and her kind, these should prove very interesting times.

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